Thursday, January 22, 2015
Author: Pauline M. Ross
Genre: Epic Fantasy Adventure / Romance
Kyra has always been drawn to the magic of spellpages. She is determined to leave her small village far behind and become a scribe, wielding the power of magic through her pen. Halfway through her training, she has a mage as patron and her ambitions are within her grasp. But a simple favour for her sister goes disastrously awry, destroying Kyra’s dreams in an instant.
Devastated, she accepts an offer from a stranger to help her find out what went wrong. The young man sees growing power within Kyra, potentially stronger than spellpages or any living mage. The answers to unlocking that power may lie within the glowing walls of the Imperial City, but its magic is strong and the unwary vanish without trace on its streets. Thirsty for knowledge and desperate to avoid another accident, she feels compelled to risk it.
While she focuses on controlling her abilities, a storm of greed and ambition boils up around her. Kyra is a pawn in the struggle for dominance between unscrupulous factions vying for rule of her country. Trusting the wrong side could get her killed–or worse, the potent magic she barely understands could be put to unthinkable evil.
Pauline lives in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland with her husband, her grown up daughter and a mad cat. She likes chocolate, whisky, her Kindle, massed pipe bands, long leisurely lunches, watching TV with her daughter, chocolate, going places in her campervan, eating pizza in Italy, summer nights that never get dark, wood fires in winter, chocolate, the view from the study window looking out over the Moray Firth and the Black Isle to the mountains beyond. And chocolate. She dislikes driving on motorways, cooking, shopping, hospitals. ‘The Fire Mages’ is her second published work. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ was published in September 2014.
Oh no! There’s romance in my fantasy!
Or should it be: there’s fantasy in my romance? Fantasy romance (or romantic fantasy) is a difficult genre. I can’t even decide what to call it, so that’s not a great start.
I used to get flummoxed when people asked what genre my books are. “Well, it’s sort of fantasy,” I’d say, floundering a bit. “Swords and magic and stuff. And then there’s romance…” And then I’d get asked about werewolves and vampires and such like. But fantasy romance is much broader than that. The urban setting with non-humans and the feisty young woman is just one aspect. There are more and more authors now writing stories that are very much in the tradition of epic fantasy, with kingdoms and wars and quests for the magic McGuffin, but which also have a romantic subplot more developed than the princess produced in the final chapter for the new king to marry.
I love reading epic fantasy stories that also have romance in them, but for me, they need to have three things to work well:
1. Deep, thorough world-building. That means all the details of the background world need to be properly worked out, and need to be consistent. I find it much harder to get into a story if there are moments that have me going: but wait, why are there dragons here, but nothing else? What do they live on when there are no questing humans passing through? And why is this world entirely forest or desert, right up to the city walls? Where are all the farms to feed the population?
2. The characters have to be fully fleshed out and feel like real people, with believable motivations and reactions to events. And sometimes this clashes with the romance aspect. I’ve read books where the tension ramps up and up, and war (or some other major catastrophe) is imminent, and what do the characters do? They put on their party frocks and have a ball, that’s what. Erm, really? Wouldn’t they be sharpening their swords, perhaps? Checking they have enough arrows and boiling oil? I realise that authors love to have the big romantic moment, but please, be a bit creative. Place that romantic moment while our doughty couple is sheltering from a hail of arrows on the battlements or hiding from the bad guy.
3. The romance needs to be more than a perfunctory insta-lurve. As in real life, love at first sight is a bit rare, and it’s not always the best foundation for a lifetime of happiness, so I find it more believable if the couple are also friends, or at least have something in common. The prince marrying the peasant girl? The farm-boy marrying the princess? Not going to work. Or at least, it will take more than eyes meeting across a crowded room to convince me.
My own books are fantasy through and through. There’s a world still recovering from a magical catastrophe, there are numerous different countries, all with their own social customs, there are border disputes and tensions and the occasional outbreak of war. But at the heart of it are people, with all their emotional hangups and dreams and insecurities and fears and needs. It’s inevitable that they fall in and out of love, but they tend to do it slowly, gradually getting to know each other.
The romances I write are of the three steps forward, two back variety, and it may even be the very last chapter before the heroine realizes that this man is truly for her. And although I love a happy-ever-after as much as the next romance fan, I also like it if my characters decide for themselves just how that’s going to work out. Don’t want to get married? No problem? Don’t want to choose between two men? Still no problem. Don’t want to give up the career or the man? Absolutely fine.
Just so long as it all works out well in the end. Because that’s what romance is all about, even when there are sword-wielding guards outside the doors, images in the basement and dragons in the sky.