March 10th, 2011

Guest blog by Steven Harper on Writing the Paranormal Novel

So pleased to present a guest blog today from Steven Harper, whose latest work, WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL releases March 14th from Writers Digest Books.  So well done and let's hear it for him!
 


I had no idea when I started reading fantasy novels as a kid (the term "paranormal" hadn’t been invented yet) that one day I’d be writing a how-to book about them, but there I was, reading everything available with a vampire, dragon, unicorn, demon, or angel in it. All that stuff piled up inside my head, and when the chance came to do
WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL for Writer’s Digest Books, my inner librarian said, "We’re good to go. Sign the contract."

When I started putting together the list of books I wanted to refer to as examples of paranormal character development, paranormal plotting, paranormal dialogue, and so on, I was a little startled at how many books I’d snarfed down over the years, kind of like a frat boy who stumbles over a pile of beer bottles on the back porch on Sunday morning and says, "Dude! I drank all that?"

And when I started work on the manuscript, I naturally dragged out my private library. Dozens of books flew off my shelves and built a castle around my desk. They sat on the floor, loomed over the monitor, and buried the Ukrainian nesting dolls I snuck out of my son’s native country the day I adopted him. I couldn’t leave the books on the shelf--I needed all of them instantly at hand. How does Naomi Novik change her prose for the voice for Temeraire? Which novel did Terry Pratchett avoid using a prologue? Why is Edward Eager still enjoyed by adults? I couldn’t let any of these examples fall out of arm’s reach.

Of course, I had to have read all these novels in the first place. Every one of them led me to this book, like little stepping stones made of paper and ink.

But the path doesn’t end there, you see. Life doesn’t work that way. Just as those hundreds of books led me to PARANORMAL NOVEL, PARANORMAL NOVEL led me to write yet another book.

Remember those nesting dolls back in the third paragraph? See, I adopted my oldest son from Ukraine when he was twelve, and five years later, he still hadn’t had any contact with his birth family. He didn’t even know if they were aware he’d been adopted. I promised him that if I sold WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL, I would use the money to take him to Ukraine and visit his birth family. When the contract arrived, I kept my promise.

Once summer break came, he and I took a plane to Eastern Europe. The Old Country. Where vampires comes from. We found my son’s family and they enjoyed a long and emotional reunion.

But the path keeps on going. I was already writing a novel called THE DOOMSDAY VAULT, the first in a steampunk trilogy set in Victorian London. (It’s due out this November, in case you were wondering.) The second book, THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE, I had decided to set in Europe somewhere, but I wasn’t quite sure where.

Spending ten days in backwoods Ukraine settled the question. The people there still live in the nineteenth century, and while my son was visiting relatives, I was conducting quiet research for the next novel.

One book leads to another.