Good morning, everyone! Today we have the talented and prolific author, Jane Toombs visiting us with an article about writing historical paranormal. Enjoy!
“The past is a foreign country to which no one living has ever traveled,” is a famous quote. To that I’ll add I’ll add that no one has ever met the inhabitants of that foreign country of the past, either. This gives those of us who write about historical times considerable leeway. We not only can introduce our own fictitious characters into any past period, but also creatures who may or may not ever have existed, then or now.
Another plus is that many people living in olden times truly did believe in not only witches, vampires and werewolves, but also fairies, leprechauns, trolls, gnomes. Those living by the sea believed in mermaids, kelpies and sea monsters. That dragons existed was also a common belief--not only in China, but Europe as well. As for ghosts--every castle and great house had at least one.
Many fantasy and science-fiction readers can quickly spot inaccuracies of flora, fauna, climate, and so on in a made-up world. But if writers get the dates right and avoid anachronisms, the past of our world doesn’t require the scientific knowledge needed for accurate world creation.
So have I used the past when writing fantasies? You betcha, as Sarah Palin would say. My Moonrunner Trilogy actually is an historical paranormal suspense with romantic elements. Since it never does come up to the present day. The first book, Under The Shadow, begins in gold rush California. Why? Because this was a era of great upheaval in the USA as men rushed from almost every state to search for gold.. And, since my hero. Sergei had washed up naked onto a beach in Southern California with no idea of how he got there or who he was, he therefore had no notion of what he was either. And in this sparsely settled countryside he able to pass as an ordinary human until the first full moon when he shifted into a beast. Even then he was able to go on posing as a normal human after he discovered the truth of what he was.
But if you do this, you’ll wind up researching far more than if you set your story in modern times. I quickly learned this when I found myself having to research Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula in the 1840’s--because this is where Sergei originally came from. Hey, you can’t write about what you don’t know.
As the book goes on, Sergei had to flee California. Eventually, a still young man, he winds up in Lower Michigan because he has to meet George Armstrong Custer as a boy called Autie. Why? Because, you guessed it, he’s going to fight with him in the Civil War.
This meant I had to research Custer. And Gettysburg. Would you believe the final battle took place, finishing up on the night of a full moon? Lucky for the book I was writing.
You just can’t write about the past off the top of your head.
This is not the article I planned to write, but that’s because the paranormal book I was expecting to discuss hasn’t even been edited yet. In other words, the egg I was counting on to have hatched, hasn’t even been laid by the chicken yet.
The second book in my Moonrunner Trilogy, Gathering Darkness, comes after Sergei discovers who he is in the first book and makes a drip back to Russia where he now knows he came from. So now I had to research not only Russia in that period, but the native Kamchadal tribe that lived on the Kamchatka Peninsula, because, though Sergei is in the second book, the hero is actually his grandson, Wolf, who he rescues over there. Wolf can’t shift, but he carries the trait, so his children can. This is the time John Muir roamed the Sierras. More research.
Then the third book, Dark Sunrise, brings us up to Dillinger’s gangster era in Chicago and, yes, one of Sergei’s descendants is in that famous battle in the North Woods between Dillinger’s gang and the G-Men. This was the hardest of the three books to write because I had to reach a satisfying conclusion for the reader.
Since then, because of the immense amount of research I did for that trilogy, I’ve used it in at least ten other books. One of the latest, a novella called Midnight’s Door, just released from DiskUs,
So be warned--a paranormal historical can take a load of research. On the other hand--once you’ve done it, the research can be reused a number of times.
A few words about Midnight’s Door. This is a modern paranormal suspense with romantic elements. The setting is in the ruins of the old house from the Moonrunner Series in California’s San Joaquin Valley. And, it seems, all of Sergei’s descendants are not yet dead…
Dara Castaneda returns to the ruins of Volek House , not knowing she’sactually a descendant of that line. She’s with a group whose leader plans to create a occult ceremony that will open Midnight’s Door. Because of this he’s picked up a red-haired biker to make them thirteen, the number they need for the ceremony. But Nick, the biker, has his own reasons for coming along, reasons that may prove fatal to Dara…
Dara Castaneda stared through the windshield down the twisting curves of the Grapevine where the Golden State Freeway dropped into the San Joaquin Valley. The pavement undulated, not a road at all but a giant snake, she could feel the gray SUV being lifted in its coils, in a moment they'd be crushed
She screamed, clutching at Jo-Jo.
The SUV swerved; he cursed. "Damn near hit a truck. Get her out of the front."
Dara struggled with a red-bearded man, a stranger, who reached from the back and hauled her over the seat. "Take it easy," he drawled. "Nothing's after you."
His voice calmed her a little and she let him put her down next to Cindy. He sat on her other side. "Eric the Red," she said. "Who are you?"
"My name's Nick Owens. Been with you since Castaic."
"Yeah," Cindy put in. "Don't you remember saying we needed thirteen? That's when Jo-Jo spotted this biker at the gas stop. His hog's on the trailer back there."
Dara didn't remember.
"Jo-Jo said redheads were the devil's own and he'd bring us luck," Cindy added.
Dara took a deep breath. She'd forgotten. On purpose. Because of where they were going. Her fault. She never should have mentioned Wolf House to Jo-Jo, who was into Satanism and who knew what else. The ruins were too bloody close to where she'd grown up. Now the twelve of them—no, thirteen with Nick—were crammed into this SUV and there was no way in hell she'd be able to convince Jo-Jo to change his mind about camping out in the ruins of Wolf house and doing his thing. Ritual, he called it. All too soon they'd be passing Vida's grave. Dara shuddered.
Take another upper? She started to reach for her jacket, on the floor in a pile with other clothes. Cindy's black cat, Dido, sleeping atop the pile, opened green eyes and gave her an enigmatic look.
A yes or a no look? Dara caught sight of herself in the long narrow mirror affixed to the side of the vehicle. Dark-circled hazel eyes, long, tangled dark hair, high cheek bones. She looked wasted, reminding herself of Vida and grimaced. Her dead twin was the last thing in the world she wanted to think about, but her thoughts clustered around Vida like blow flies. Her twin, identical except for her twisted body and mind, had died at thirteen. Dara wondered if that's why she'd told Jo-Jo they needed to be thirteen.
Those thirteen years had been long and horrible. Vida had destroyed her family as surely as the 1954 earthquake had leveled Wolf House, something her grandmother remembered and often recounted.
"That's when they all left, the Voleks, those that weren't killed, and good riddance 'twas. We always suspected they were tainted. Specially their twins."
Tainted could mean anything. Like Vida. Dara had left this area when she was eighteen. Because in her dreams her twin mind-called her from the grave. While alive, Vida had never learned to speak, but dead she whispered to Dara at night. After Dara woke up one night and found herself in the cemetery with no idea how she'd gotten there, she packed up and left. For good. So what was she doing back here only two years later?
BIO: Jane Toombs, the Viking from her past and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula wilderness. They enjoy refreshing springs, beautiful summers gorgeous falls and tolerate the ghastly winters. Jane's working her way up to ninety published books and already has over twenty-five novellas to her credit. Though she writes in many genres, her favorite to read and write is paranormal.