Guest - Deborah Cooke

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Guest - Deborah Cooke

Good morning all! Today's guest is Deborah Cooke whose books are among my very favorites.

Deborah Cooke has always been fascinated with dragons, although she has never understood why they have to be the bad guys. She has an honours degree in history, with a focus on medieval studies. She is an avid reader of medieval vernacular literature, fairy tales and fantasy novels, and has written over forty romance novels and novellas. She has also been published under the names Claire Cross and Claire Delacroix.


Making the Unreal Real
By Deborah Cooke

One of the challenges of writing paranormal romance is ensuring that the reader suspends disbelief and can not only enjoy the story but engage with the characters. There are people who believe that angels and shapeshifters and vampires exist, but most of us recognize that these are fantasy elements. How do we as writers make the unreal seem not just possible but plausible – or even real?

My books, for example, feature heroes who are dragon shapeshifters. Not only do these guys need to seem real, but my Dragonfire books are romances – that means that the reader (as well as the heroine) needs to fall in love with a dragon shape shifter hero. That’s not necessarily a gimme, so here are some ideas for making the unreal real.

1/ Tangible Details.
The most obvious way to make a fantasy element seem real is to describe it in very tangible terms. My dragon aren’t just big and powerful – the heroine will feel the wind generated by the beating of their wings. The villain will feel himself be scorched by the dragonfire they breathe. When they fight, the ground vibrates beneath the heroine’s feet and she feels the impact of them body-slamming each other into walls and buildings. The experience of being in the company of dragons is described in concrete terms. That makes it seem more real.

The dragons themselves are also described in vivid and tangible detail. Early on, I began by describing the dragons as if they were made of precious gems and metals. So, their scales might appear to be made of lapis lazuli, edged in silver, or carved out of garnets and tipped with gold. These colourful descriptions linked to actual stones and metals convey a sense the dragons being real and solid – as well as beautiful.

2/ Emotional Truth
Another way to make a fantasy creature seem more real – or more human – is to give him very human conflicts and concerns. My shape shifting dragon heroes are caught up in a battle against the evil shape shifting dragons for the control of the earth. They are concerned with right and wrong on a large scale, but they also have concerns and conflicts that come out of their personalities. Rafferty, the hero of my current Dragonfire release, DARKFIRE KISS, is a great romantic. He yearns to find the woman who is destined to be his mate and partner, and is determined to win the heart of that woman when he finds her. He is also very loyal to his fellow dragons, so when Melissa appears to be both his destined mate and the woman who may lead to the destruction of his kind, he has to choose between his romantic notion of the future and his loyalty to his own. That’s a very human conflict – to play for yourself or for the team – and it makes him more real to us as readers. Even though he can become a dragon at will.

3/ Identify the Fantasy
The last big part of making a fantasy character seem real or plausible as a hero in a romance novel is identifying exactly what it is that makes this kind of creature appealing. When it comes to dragons, readers seem to identify most strongly with the protective element of a dragon’s nature, as well as his ability to fight. The one element that might be unexpected is the appeal of being able to fly. Many many readers connect with this, perhaps because of a notion of freedom. So, it’s important to incorporate the key fantasy elements of the particular kind of character in order to ensure that he or she is most appealing to readers.

4/ Characterization
The dragon shifters are also all different from each other. Rafferty, for example, is the first romantic of the bunch. The others have been less interested in making a permanent relationship with their mate (striving for that HEA) or have simply thought that it wasn’t in the cards. Some are loners. Some would give everything for the team. Some are impulsive and others are more thoughtful. That they are all distinct from each other, not just in terms of colouring or appearance but also in terms of their nature, makes them seem more like a group of human guys.

5/ Relationships
Being dragons, my dragon shifters tend to be a bit volatile and vehement in expressing their opinions. So, there is often dissent within the group as to how to proceed, especially when they’re faced with a challenge (and they’re faced with at least one in every book). This is contrasted with their loyalty to each other and the way they come to each other’s aid. That they interact like this makes them seem more real.

They’re also more real because they have relationships even beyond those with each other. We’re now up to book #6 in this series, which means that five romances have concluded in HEA’s – and in the world of Dragonfire – with the conception of children. So we have five dragon shifters who have partners and babies, and this complicates both their ability to drop everything for a fight, and the management of the various details of their lives. I think their desire to defend their immediate family while still help their extended group of dragons and keep everything in balance is a conflict faced by many humans with young children. Again, it makes their situation more familiar to us, and thus more real.

My spin-off YA series that launches in June with FLYING BLIND actually derives from the question of these kids. In the world of Dragonfire, there is only one female dragon shifter at a time, called the Wyvern, and she has special powers. The current Wyvern died in KISS OF FATE (Dragonfire #3) and the child conceived in that book was a girl. The Dragon Diaries is a trilogy about Zoë coming into her powers as the Wyvern and learning to control them – while surviving high school, challenges with friends, and the mystery of boys.

For one woman, he will risk more than his life…
Rafferty Powell has exchanged challenge coins with his arch-nemesis Magnus Montmorency, and their next battle will be their last. But Rafferty never expected to meet a woman whose desire for Magnus’ downfall matches his own—and whose presence sparks Rafferty’s long-awaited firestorm.
Since facing her own mortality, investigative reporter Melissa Smith has resolved to live without fear. She’s determined to make the seemingly untouchable Magnus pay for his role in ending her friend’s life – no matter the price to herself.
When her quest entwines with Rafferty’s, Melissa finds herself risking more than she ever thought possible. Because the heat between them unleashes the darkfire—an awesome force of Pyr legend, one that won’t be sated until everything they know has been tested and remade.

MAY 3, 2011
from NAL Eclipse
ISBN # 978-0-451-23349-3

Zoë is the Wyvern of the Pyr – the one female dragon shape shifter with special powers.  But Zoë is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr, and her powers are AWOL. Worse, there’s no reference book to consult, and the last Wyvern is dead….
Everything changes when Zoë’s best friend is bullied and Zoë reacts. Before she can blink twice, her inner dragon is loose, and she’s suspended from school and headed to a shape shifter boot camp with guys she’s known all her life. But soon she’s doubting her powers – and even some of her friendships.
Zoë quickly realizes she has to master her powers yesterday – there’s danger ahead and boot camp is a trap. A secretive group, the Mages, want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line – unless Zoë and her friends can solve the riddle and work together to save their own kind…

June 7, 2011
NAL Trade
ISBN: 978-0-451-23388-2
Cover and excerpt at


-- Lynda Again,

I hope you all enjoyed Deborah's visit. If so, or if you've read and enjoyed her books, feel free to say hi!

Have a Blessed Day!

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11 Responses to "Guest - Deborah Cooke"

peasshell8 said...

This series is one of the best in paranormal that I have read, and I've read a few, but to see the characters evolve and come together for the greater good, and how they go about doing it, is simply amazing, and even more so, Deborah doesn't miss a detail. Nothing leaves you hanging wondering, 'what was that about? it was mentioned, but that was it?'. I've seen that a lot in books, but she nails them right on the head! Boo-yah for Deborah! :D

Deborah Cooke said...

Well, thanks, peasshell8!

I can't take all the credit though - my editor is AWESOME!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Making fantasy/paranormal characters seem real isn't an easy task. You've given an excellent discussion of how writers can accomplish this. Obviously, you understand the genre. I strongly agree with you that imagery, using sensory description, is very important in making fantasy characters real.

debbie h said...

Hi Deb and very nice article as always. And you do more than inform writers you educate readers too as I'm learning more about the writing process and imagination authors need to be able to not only write but to do it well. And as you know as far as I'm concerned you do it better than most in all your genres from historical romance to paranormal, urban fantasy and now a new genre for you YA.
So any of you out there looking for one super author look no further.
And Hi to jacqueline Seewald one of my favorite mystery authors who's visiting this week at the mystery board at B&N. wow


Pauline B Jones said...

What a great article! Many thanks for coming by. Your advice works for any genre actually because in the end, all fiction is fantasy of a sort, isn't it? Both books sound wonderful.

Deborah Cooke said...

Jacqueline and Pauline - no matter what genre authors write, the core task is the same: we need to get readers into the skin of our protagonist and push them into the world that we've created. The tools are the same for all kinds of fiction - I think you just have to push a little more with FF&P. It's easier for most readers to make a connection with protagonist who lives in a big city, works a dead end job and feels trapped - for example - than a 1200 year old dragon shape shifter who deals in antiques on the side and yearns for true love!

Thanks Deb, as always, for stopping by and for making such supportive comments. You are a gem!


Linda Andrews said...

Wow, I'm definitely going to have to add your books to my TBR pile. I love dragons and never thought the poor, misunderstood dears were bad'uns. Still I can't image being a dragon shape-shifter and a teenager in HS. Sheesh, although there are some uppity kids that might have benefited from a little tail scorching:-).
So, are the next books in the series YA or are you continuing the romances as well?

Deborah Cooke said...

Hi Linda -

Well, I do have fun with my dragon shifters. I hope you enjoy them, as well, if you give them a try. (And LOL - Zoë has an Incinerate Now list. Oh, I would have loved to have had one of those lists when I was in high school!)

The YA series (the Dragon Diaries) is a new spinoff. It's a trilogy at this point (June 2011, December 2011 and June 2012). The adult paranormal romance series is continuing, too - DARKFIRE KISS is #6 and FLASHFIRE (#7) will be out in January 2012 followed by #8 (which has no title yet) in October 2012. I'm hoping to take that series to 13 books, but just the 8 are contracted at this point.


Lynda K. Scott said...

A few weeks ago, I was browsing Amazon when I noticed Darkfire Kiss available. It's been patiently sitting in my TBR pile while I finished some contest entries I've been judging and some books I've been reading for review. I just ran across it this afternoon and did a happy dance because I'd forgotten that I bought it, lol.

Dear readers, if any of you haven't read this series, I highly recommend it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Deborah Cooke said...

LOL Lynda - I'm happy to hear that someone else has a TBR pile so scary=big that she forgets what's in it!

Hope you enjoy Rafferty's book!


Lynda K. Scott said...

Deborah, my TBR pile is kind of scary, lol. My hubby gets pale whenever he walks into my office and sees it. Even Wookie, my cat, gives it a wide berth and she's fearless (except for ceiling fans and thunderstorms, lol)

But I wouldn't have it any other way. I write and I read and if I couldn't do either, it would be a terrible day.