Molly Harper: Paranormal vs. Mainstream

Author Molly Harper has genre-jumped from paranormal to mainstream fiction. Harper discusses the experience of changing genres, offers a side-by-side comparison of her latest novels and shares an excerpt of And One Last Thing... as she petitions RT readers for "dual-genre citizenship".

After my three-book vampire librarian series, people were surprised that my fourth book would be published in July with nary a supernatural creature in sight. And One Last Thing ... is the story of Lacey Terwilliger, who uses her husband’s company mailing list to send a mass e-mail to everyone they know, detailing the special brand of “administrative support” Mike’s assistant provides. Faster than you can say, “instant Snopes article,” Lacey is exiled from her tiny hometown in the wake of her widely forwarded, anti-adultery missive.

Lacey takes shelter in a remote vacation cabin, which doesn’t thrill her grumpy, but oddly hot, neighbor, Monroe. Her magazine-perfect life in shambles, Lacey has to re-build from the ground up, including figuring out how to earn a living. When presented with the opportunity to write her woman-scorned divorce announcements for a living, will she follow a lucrative, but less than enlightened path? Will she ever figure out her relationship with Monroe, a man who tells her exactly what he’s thinking, instead of what she wants to hear? And will she ever resist saying one… last… thing?

I started working on the book while I was between sequels for my Jane Jameson series. I was getting ready to go on maternity leave with our son, Carter, in late 2008. I’d just finished the last many, MANY re-writes on Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men. (I love my editor. She is a brave woman who suffers my revisions in silence.) I don’t want to use the words “burnt out,” but I really missed writing about people who could eat solid food and go out during the day. So while I was on maternity leave, I fell into a really pleasant routine of writing while Carter was napping during the day. Instead of, you know, sleeping, like a normal person. It was probably the quickest book-writing period I’ve ever experienced – about three months.

I haven’t abandoned my roots. I’m applying for dual-genre citizenship. I love the paranormal romance genre and will always come back to it. But there’s something intriguing about not relying on magic or mystic energy to carry you through a plot. It’s more of a challenge to focus on the emotions and the everyday motivations of plain-old humans.

That said, I have two werewolf romances coming out in February and March 2011. How To Flirt With A Naked Werewolf is about a woman named Mo who flees from Mississippi to Alaska to get away from her intrusive, hovering hippie parents. She gets a job, starts to build a life. She’s accepted by the locals, except for Cooper, the surly hunting guide seems to disappear every time there’s a full moon. Bear-trap injuries, nudity, and wacky antics ensue.

The sequel, How To Fall For A Naked Werewolf, focuses on Cooper’s sister, Maggie, and her efforts not to fall in love with the paranormal investigator who is observing her pack. I know this will shock you, considering it’s a romance and all, but she fails miserably.

- Molly Harper

With all this talk of changing genres, what is really different between the author's paranormal and mainstream fiction? Molly Harper has done the work of figuring it out for you, and here is her side-by-side comparison:

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men 

Female Main Character: Jane Jameson – A children’s librarian whose unceremonious firing led her to being mistaken for a deer by the town drunk, shot and turned into a vampire. A reluctant badass and somewhat socially clumsy, Jane’s head is chockfull of trivia, which she tends to spout when she’s nervous.



And One Last Thing ... 

Female Main Character: Lacey Terwilliger - A stay-at-home support system to her accountant husband, Mike, Lacey’s life is perfect ... until she finds out her husband is cheating and she basically loses her mind. She says what she thinks for the first time in her life and not everyone around her is comfortable with her newfound spine.

     

Male Main Character: Gabriel Nightengale – The 150-year-old vampire who sired Jane. While he’s unabashedly fascinated by the twisted inner workings of Jane’s mind, he tends to be secretive and overprotective. This can lead to relationship problems, and the occasional incident in which someone is inadvertently Tased.



Male Main Character: Francis “Lefty” Monroe – Lacey’s grumpy crime writer neighbor, who’s resistant to the point of rudeness when Lacey moves in next door. When Lacey finds his secret weakness (banana bread and contrary sass), he becomes a great combination of best friend, motivator and guy you wouldn’t mind seeing naked on a regular basis.

     

Plot: Supernatural romance with a hint of mystery

Plot: Pure romantic comedy

   

Setting: Western Kentucky, which may or may not be based on my hometown if you removed all of the normal people.



Setting: More ambiguous areas of Kentucky, which are not based on my hometown. Most of my neighbors would find the e-mail thing pretty dang funny.

     

Friends And Supporting Cast: Jane relies on her best friend, the very human Zeb Lavelle, and his werewolf wife, Jolene for support. Then there’s blood surrogate Andrea Byrne, who eventually works with Jane at her occult bookstore. And last but not least, vampire Dick Cheney, the local connection for not-quite legal commerce. Dick is my favorite character in the series, which is why he gets most of the good lines.



Friends And Supporting Cast: After the e-mail fiasco, Lacey finds she doesn’t have that many real friends. Mike got them all in the impending divorce. Her brother, Emmett, does his best to comfort her with rainbow-colored alcohol and unsolicited haircuts. Her divorce lawyer, Samantha, helps her put the financial pieces of her life back together and reclaim a little dignity. Her potential business partner, Maya, isn’t a great influence, but fully supports Lacey’s quest to stand up for herself.

     

Voice Of Reason To The Main Character: Jane’s great-aunt, Jettie, who just happens to be recently deceased. Jettie’s ghost has been hanging around Jane’s house since her funeral, but Jane could only see her after she was turned into a vampire. Jettie has always offered Jane a shelter from the storm of her mother’s emotionally overwrought hissy fits, and is generally the person who tells Jane when to put her big girl vampire panties on and deal with her problems.



Voice Of Reason To The Main Character: While Lacey’s mama has wisdom to spare, it’s her lawyer, Samantha, who is able to get Lacey to see reason. When Lacey realizes the extent of her e-mail’s damage, it’s Samantha who offers ice cream and a patented “do not ever do that again” speech. It’s Samantha who helps Lacey find sanctuary at the lakeside cabin. It’s Samantha who informs Lacey that, no, it’s not a good idea to give your soon-to-be-ex-husband’s boat a fiery “Viking funeral.”

     

Sensuality Level: Mild to warm. The love scenes are what I like think of as “tastefully hot.” There’s an occasional curse word, nothing you wouldn’t hear on basic cable TV. I would be completely comfortable with high school students reading this (with their parents’ permission.)



Sensuality Level: Hot. Run, children, run away! Because Lacey is dealing with a more serious, adult situation, the language had to be a little more mature. As for the love scenes, I’ll put it this way: my Mom, who has been comfortable reading anything I’ve written, had to skip them because they were “too sexy.” I finally flunked the Mom Test!

     

Sample Text: Quote 1: "I think the very word stalking implies that you're not supposed to like it. Otherwise, it would be called 'fluffy harmless observation time,’” I said.

Quote 2: Not to be rude, but it was all pointless," I noted from across the room. Four eyes narrowed at me. "What? I said 'not to be rude'. That's like saying 'God bless them' right after you say bad things about someone. It means it doesn't count!"

Quote 3: "I have ways of making extra money when I need it,” Dick said, slightly offended. "When Gilbert needed money for graduate school, I sold a kidney on the black market for tuition." “(Vampires) can grow those back?" I asked. Dick shrugged. “It wasn't my kidney."

 



Sample Text: Quote 1: Emmett shrank back at the sight of my horrific bedhead and pillow creases. “Gah! Quick, take the ice cream before your eyes turn me to stone.”

Quote 2: “Once you scrape past that potty-mouthed, perversely perky exterior, you’re not nearly as annoying as one might think,” Monroe said.

“Wow, thank you. Really. I’m blushing,” I muttered, swatting at his shoulder

Quote 3: “I don’t hate my ex,” I protested. “I just want him alone, broke, bald, impotent, toothless, fat, wailing and twitching in a twisted tiny ball of spastic misery.”

Monroe shuddered. “Wow, that was… visual.”

You can also read the EXCERPT of Molly Harper's latest novel, And One Last Thing ...  If you still need more information before you make your decision, Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men and And One Last Thing ... are in stores now!



So what do you think, does Molly Harper deserve the "dual-genre citizenship" she has petitioned for?