Note: In a previous post I reviewed the author’s book The Glass Guardian. (See my review here.)
Today, the author explains to us how she came to write a romance featuring a ghost.
Here is the scoop from Linda Gillard:
I never meant to write a paranormal romance.
When I was dropped by my publisher a few years ago, my agent set about trying to find me a new one and sent out two of my homeless manuscripts to editors. For two years we got a lot of what’s known in the trade as “rave rejections”, which said basically, “We love your story/characters/setting/style, but we don’t see how we could market this.” (I should explain that my novels belong to no clear genre, or rather several. Readers don’t have a problem with this. Publishers & retailers do.)
A radical re-think was called for. TWILIGHT frenzy was at its height. All editors seemed to be looking for was paranormal romance, so I decided I’d write one. This was both courageous and stupid. I neither read nor liked paranormal romance. Worse, I’d satirised the genre in an earlier novel, STAR GAZING, which featured a dizzy, middle-aged author of Gothic vampire romance set in Edinburgh. With what now seems uncanny foresight, my author character had said,
“I began my writing career writing Regency romances but they didn’t sell and I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then it occurred to me that everyone was fed up to the back teeth with political correctness. The last thing women wanted to read about was men behaving like something out of Jane Austen. I realised what we actually wanted was bad boys. But not real bad boys. Vampires… Being supernatural, my vampires have extraordinary powers and physical attributes, plus an uncanny facility for shedding their clothes at key dramatic moments. To be honest, this last is a bit difficult to make convincing because, as any Scot will tell you, it’s extremely cold and damp in Auld Reekie, but my thesis (this actually came to me when I had my first hot flush) is that vampires are hot-blooded creatures, immune to cold, hunger, thirst and pain. But not, of course, sexual frustration.”
Even if I’d been able to take vampires seriously, they weren’t an option for me. They turn my stomach. (I was a vegetarian for many years and still have issues with blood.) Werewolves were also out of the question. (I’m not a fan of big dogs.) That left ghosts. Ghosts seemed to offer more scope, less gore. Perhaps a ghost love story might turn my career around?
I don’t plan my novels to any great extent and tend to let the characters dictate the story (which in this case gave a new meaning to the phrase “ghost-written”.) So I’d written 25,000 words before I realised I had a big problem… Spectre sex.
As everyone now knows, male vampires are good looking, muscular and very fit. Ghosts? Well, ghosts aren’t. How could I give my insubstantial ghost lover a physical presence, let alone some sort of erotic power? Could something traditionally thought of as cold, ever be hot? I hit upon the idea of water. Everyone loves a wet hero, drippping from the shower or ocean.
Water can be sensuous and sexy; cold, but invigorating, so maybe my ghost’s element could be water?…
“He grabbed my hand, pressed the palm to his cold face and closed his eyes. His flesh yielded, but my hand didn’t penetrate his form. There was an uncanny resistance. Had he felt more solid, I suppose I might have thought of a corpse, but Hector was no more corporeal than a waterfall, or a river in spate. I could sense that energy, that force in him.”
This worked for me in a weird sort of way, so I developed a “fire and ice” theme, giving my red-haired ghost icy blue eyes, incendiary powers and a semi-fluid form…
“I took his chill, long-fingered hand and slid it inside my dress so that his palm lay on the curve of my breast. The sensation was one of cold, silky water trickling over my body, then he pulled me toward him and pressed his mouth on mine. For a second I panicked. Inundated by the cool liquidity of Hector’s form, I felt as if I was drowning, until I realised I didn’t need to hold my breath or prevent him from entering my mouth. I was quite safe…”
I was able to ring the changes on a Rhett Butler moment…
He laughed, bent down and lifted me. It was as if I’d been knocked off my feet by a powerful wave and was now being carried out to sea. I felt powerless, but the sensation was far from unpleasant.”
And that tricky post-coital scene was certainly different…
“For one alarming moment, he seemed to fade and I was aware I could see the bedroom through him. Then as he sank down on top of me, it was as if gentle waves had begun to lap around and over me. I clutched at what was left of his body. ‘Hector, please! Don’t leave me! Not yet. Stay!’ The liquid that seemed to flow over me began to solidify and Hector’s form took shape again in my arms.”
I had no idea if this would work for readers. I could see it might not work for editors reared on a fictional diet of grumpy-but-gorgeous, blood-sucking alpha males. But by this time I’d successfully indy-published my two rejected novels as Kindle ebooks. One of them (HOUSE OF SILENCE) had become an unexpected bestseller. What editors thought of my deliquescent hero was now of only passing interest. I’d become a successful indy author with a guaranteed market for my quirky paranormal.
As my draft of THE GLASS GUARDIAN progressed, water in all its forms became a theme throughout the book. A snow-bound Isle of Skye furnishes a wintry setting. The climactic dramatic event takes place in a glacial world where ice can be a killer. The ghost melts the grief-stricken heroine’s frozen heart.
If you like your love scenes aquatic rather than athletic, Hector the spectre might melt your heart too.