A Few Minutes With Susan Krinard - Paranormal Romance Author
interviewed by Martina Bexte (Alberta, Canada)
Susan Krinard debuted on the romance scene in 1994 with her memorable paranormal romance, Prince of Wolves, which garnered glowing reviews. Over the next seven years she's released eight more romance novels, all with a strong paranormal theme. She's also had her work included in three anthologies, the most recent of which is Kinsman, one of the stories in Out of This World, a four-author collection that spent a few weeks on the New York Times best seller list. All her works continue to receive glowing reviews and a loyal and growing readership, because of her strong and compelling characters and fabulously inventive stories. Ms. Krinard graciously agreed to an e-interview, so let's spend a few minutes with her.
Q: You've written in various romance categories: futuristic, time travel and historical. All your novels carry strong elements of the paranormal - why incorporate this ingredient into your books rather than writing a more ordinary contemporary or historical romance?
A: That's an easy one ... my first "love" is science fiction and fantasy, though I've always looked for romance in my reading. Since the age of 10, I've been devouring fantasy and science fiction novels, though I certainly never expected to become a writer. I'd read very little romance prior to beginning my first novel, Prince of Wolves, but the romantic elements came very naturally to me in spite of that. I was never into "hardware" SF; I sought relationship stories, and that's what I enjoy writing about.
What I like about SF and paranormal is that it gives me far more latitude to explore the themes and characters I enjoy. And, above all, I want to "escape" reality. "Regular" romance, particularly contemporary, doesn't give me that ... I live in the real world! I either want to disappear into a previous era, or travel to another world, or get into the mind of someone who isn't quite human. My imagination is just too wild to be satisfied with less.
Q: No less than five of your books, including your Werewolf Trilogy, deal with wolves, or werewolves. Can you explain your fascination with the wolf - and the werewolf?
A: I've always loved wolves, and resisted the notion that they are "killers" by nature wherever I could. Wolves are among the most magnificent creatures on the earth, with strong "family values" and grace and beauty, as well as being related to my favorite domestic animals, dogs. I was tired of the old saw about evil werewolves who attack people at the full moon. So I set out to create "natural" werewolves who were no more "evil" than people or wolves, but a combination of the most interesting qualities of both. I find shape shifters quite sexy and fascinating.
Q: Do you believe that werewolves, vampires and ghosts exist, and that time travel is, or could in the future, be entirely possible, just waiting for us to discover its secrets?
A: I don't believe in werewolves or vampires and have serious doubts about ghosts, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy imagining such things and trying to make them as real as possible! As for time travel, who knows? I'm inclined to doubt it, but there are so many "impossibilities" of the past that have become real in this century alone, it seems foolish to say "never."
Q: In your latest release, book three of your werewolf trilogy, Secret of the Wolf, Quentin Forster must deal with not only being a werewolf, but with childhood trauma perpetuated by his grandfather, horrible memories Quentin's chosen to fog with alcohol. The heroine Johanna, an early psychiatrist, uses hypnosis to try and help Quentin confront his fears. Abusive family relationships and suppressed memories; both heavy and challenging subjects. Indeed, your writing shows you enjoy challenging yourself - this book in particular, where you've balanced the werewolf and human story beautifully. How did you manage that?
A: Well, you're absolutely right that I seem to want to constantly challenge myself, either with difficult subjects or complex characters. I'm glad you felt that I balanced those aspects well; I certainly worked very hard to achieve that. As for HOW I do it ... your guess is as good as mine! I have never really analyzed how I come up with things; I have a definite process I go through to research and plot and develop characters, and I always work from a detailed synopsis. But though I've occasionally used guides such as The Writer's Journey (and most recently Dramatica Pro software), it's hard for me to pin down the specifics of how a book comes to life. I take great pains to try to tie everything together and keep characters consistent. It's not always easy to keep track of many elements at once. Above all, though, I concentrate on emotion. That's what binds everything together.
Q: You introduced various "werewolf clans" in your Forster Trilogy that beg to be explored. Are you planning any sequels? If so, care to let readers in on what they might be about and when they might see them on the bookshelves?
A: I do plan to continue the werewolf series, probably in every other book. IN theory, I could go on for years doing this, spinning of secondary characters from the five books I've written so far. I can say that my 2003 book (which I'm beginning now) will be Morgan Holt's story - he is the "lost" brother of Cassidy Holt from Touch of the Wolf, and the direct ancestor of Kieran Holt from Prince of Shadows. I have future stories in mind for Sim Kavanagh and Weylin MacLean from Once A Wolf, and Mikhail Forster from Touch of the Wolf. I'm aiming to write three books over two years this time, so I anticipate werewolf books in 2003 and 2005.
Q: All of your novels are character driven - in fact, you create marvelously strong and believable ones, whether they're the main or secondary characters. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about and fleshing out your characters before you begin writing a book? Do you allow them to lead the story, or are you the boss?
A: I have a reasonably good idea of the characters before I start my book, but in many ways they're like real people; I get to know them as I continue through the book, and sometimes they surprise me. Since I plot in advance, I have to know enough about the characters so that they are the center of the story, but many of the details develop as I write. That's why I'm always ready to change the plot as the characters dictate, at need. So I'd say it's a compromise between me and the characters! Sometimes the secondary characters come to me after I've already begun writing - this happened in my recently completed book, The Forest Lord (October 2002).
Q: What about your plots? Have editors ever shown a negative response to any of your ideas? Would you ever give up writing paranormal romance in favour of Science Fiction or Fantasy so that you could present new plots the way you envision them?
A: Oh, yes, I've had a few proposals turned down by my editor, and though the reason was never given directly, I know it's because they were a little on the "weird" side. I have often felt as if I'm "hitting a wall" in terms of writing the kind of true crossover I'd like to do. But my current editor is really very open-minded, and I'm going to continue to try to "push the envelope" as much as possible.
As for giving up romance to write SF, it's my hope that I can continue to combine the two. What I'd like to do, ideally, is write both. I am hoping to write a full-length novel spin-off to my novella Kinsman as part of my next contract (it would probably appear in early spring 2004), and it will contain science fiction elements. I also have an idea for a large-scale alternate history fantasy novel, but the challenge lies in finding the time to sneak that in as well. I know that eventually I will be writing SF in one form or another.
Q: Your next novel is called The Forest Lord. Can you tell us a bit about it and which paranormal element you've chosen to explore? When can readers can rush out to get their copy?
A: The Forest Lord is another fantasy historical, set in Regency England. It was fun to set a story during the Regency, which is a period that has always interested me. In fact, my first romances as a reader were Regencies, beginning with Georgette Heyer. But it has been a real challenge to try to get the details right!
Though it's not a werewolf romance, it has animals, shape shifting, and the same "otherworldly" elements of my werewolf stories. The hero is one of the "Fane" - the Faerie, or Fair Folk, an ancient race who were on earth before Mankind. He has been guardian of an ancient forest in Westmorland for hundreds of years, and can't return to the land of the Faerie unless he comes with a child of half-human blood. The woman he chooses to bear this child is the daughter of the earl who owns the land. Their first meeting ends in bitterness and tragedy, but five years later they are reunited - at once drawn to each other and driven apart by deception, memories, and the fate of their five-year-old son.
The Forest Lord should be on store shelves in October of 2002.
Q: You mentioned that during your three years in Toronto you worked at a "Science Fiction Library." It sounds like a dream job for anyone interested in Science Fiction. Care to elaborate? Did working there whet your appetite for the paranormal or have you always had an interest in it?
A: The library at the time was called "The Spaced Out Library," which was changed to the Judith Merril Special Collection shortly after I left Toronto. I actually applied for the job because of my love for science fiction. The job itself was rather dull, consisting (in those pre-computer days) of typing up file cards and such, but it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many books!
Q: The publishing world changes all the time - indeed, the mainstream market for paranormal or "otherworldly" romances is shrinking. Why do you think that paranormal romance has gone from being a small, but relatively healthy sub-genre a few years ago to one that has few offerings these days? What attribute do you think a new author will need the most to succeed and survive in this market?
A: I have actually heard that interest in the subgenre may be increasing. Certainly, Berkley is adding a new dark paranormal line, and word is out that some editors are seeking paranormal. However, it's no time to rest on our laurels, even if there is a resurgence. I think one reason that paranormal hit a snag was because the quality was not consistently high, and some writers regarded it as a "trend," a bandwagon to jump on, rather than really loving the genre. I think you have to love it to write it. And you have to take it very seriously. In some ways, writing a good futuristic or paranormal is even harder than writing a straight historical or contemporary. You have to do all the usual character development and plotting, but you also have to come up with a set of rules, perform "worldbuilding," and convince skeptical readers that what you're presenting is worthy of the suspension of disbelief. It can take a great deal of thought to keep all that going at the same time.
As a paranormal writer, you have to be persistent and prepared for rejection, perhaps even more than the average romance writer. You have to be well-read and have diverse interests, since ideas come from so many sources. I feel that cross-genre writers should be well grounded in all the genres they're combining - you should be reading SF and fantasy as well as romance. You should understand world building principles and not rely on clichis from television shows. And like all writers, you must constantly hone your craft.
Ultimately, you may have to decide between money - making a living - and following your heart. If you're writing an "out there" type of story that traditional, advance-paying publishers aren't buying, you may not be earning a great deal of money for some time. Or you may have to compromise your "dream" with commercial demands. So much of the publishing industry is about hard decisions or compromise. No one ever said being a writer was easy!
Q: Do you think the current Harry Potter craze and the soon-to-be released Lord of the Rings will re-vitalize interest in the paranormal romance? Do you believe that publishers should push, or "ride on the coat tails" of current trends - or support more books that simply tell a good story?
A: I would like to think that these books and movies will help the paranormal market, but I absolutely do not think that publishers should jump on the bandwagon or follow trends. The emphasis should be on good books, good storytelling, regardless of genre. It's too easy to publish the lowest common denominator when all you're interested in is the latest trend, and ultimately that's damaging.
Q: What do you do in your "spare time" when you're not writing? Of course you're probably thinking ... "what spare time??!!"
A: Exactly! I love old movies, reading, gardening, walking or hiking in the countryside, and baking (especially chocolate!) But I really wish I had more spare time for these things. It seems I have less and less all the time. It's especially hard to take time off when you work at home - some project or other is always calling your name!
Q: Your husband's a Canadian, a Quebec native. Care to tell us how you met? Do you still have strong ties to Canada, other than your husband's family?
A: Serge and I actually met "through the mail," in the pre-internet days - we were both part of a fan club for the author C. J. Cherryh, and were introduced by a mutual friend, the founder of the group. We first exchanged letters regarding my art work and French movie magazines, and gradually got to know each other. After a year, our letters were many pages long, every week. We first met at a science fiction convention in San Francisco, when Serge came to stay with my family. We started flying back and forth to see each other, every 6-8 weeks. As you can imagine, my minimal savings and Serge's considerably larger one were rapidly depleted, so we decided to marry. I had never lived anywhere but California, so I was willing to try Canada. We spent the first few months in Quebec (in midwinter!) and then moved to Toronto, where I worked variously as a secretary and then in the library. We returned to the U.S. twelve years ago, first to California and most recently to New Mexico. We've now been married fifteen years.
Unfortunately, I've lost contact with many of our Toronto friends, though I occasionally meet some of them at conventions. Since Serge's family doesn't really speak English, I never got to know them really well. But I enjoyed my introduction to Quebecois culture, and when I returned to Toronto two years ago for the Romantic Times convention, I really enjoyed seeing the city again. The subway there is the greatest! Living in Canada really helped me learn about the country, and I can assure Americans that Canada and the U.S. are NOT the same! But we are good friends and neighbors, as Canada's support of the U.S. after September 11 has recently proven again.
Q: You're a true animal lover. How is the puppy doing that you recently rescued after she and her litter mates had been left to die in the desert?
A: She's been doing very well. Nahla is virtually fearless, loves to wrestle with our young dog Freya, and is full of spunk and energy. The only problem now is housebreaking! But she's a very smart little girl with loads of personality. It's amazing how resilient animals can be.
Q: Anything more you'd like to share with your Canadian fans?
A: Thanks so much for reading my books - I know, from experience, that each book bought is a real investment in Canada! I am grateful that we in the U.S. have such fine neighbors to the North, and I hope to be able to see more of your beautiful country in the future. I also enjoy hearing from readers: they may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write me at P.O. Box 51924, Albuquerque, NM 87181. Susan Krinard lives and writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Find out more about the author by visiting her Website.
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