The winner of Sarah's book is: Tracey D! Congrats, Tracey D. I will send your email address to Sarah. Thanks to everyone who participated.
She loved it, my first critique partner did, when I sent her the first draft of Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply. She loved it, but she gave me a perspective on it that floored me. All I could say was, "No, I didn't."
"You did, Sarah. You totally wrote a paranormal romance."
"But Jane is so cynical and profane!" I protested. "And the romance plot arc isn't even about her."
"Okay, it's the paranormal romance Kevin Smith might have come up with if he'd wanted to set a movie just up the Jersey Shore from Clerks, but it's still a paranormal romance."
And my critique partner was right . . . sort of. If you took a classic, indisputable paranormal romance and retold it from the point of view of the main character's best friend, the one who has misgivings about the new boyfriend, and who has major issues of her own to work out, it might looks something like Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply.
Jane has fled a disastrous marriage and moved in with her coven-sister Sophie. Sophie's a latter-day hippie chick with a trust fund, and Jane's a hard-nosed accountant. They connect with their coven, and with Witchcraft, in totally different ways, but Rugosa Coven is a laid-back, open-minded little circle, with plenty of room for differences of opinion. The two women are making their odd-couple roommate dynamic work out okay in Sophie's beach cottage, until the day the coven finds a guy with gills washed up on the sand. Is he from Atlantis? Is he a Greek sailor who's just into extreme body modification? And is it strictly necessary for Sophie to fall in love with him at first sight? Because living in close quarters with improbable true love, when the guy is an impossible Atlantis refugee, is really cramping Jane's style.
The oddest thing about having written an accidental paranormal romance, one that really speaks to readers who are immersed in the romance tradition, is that the story idea first came to me as an experiment in psychological horror. What, I asked myself, would be the most horrifying thing to a postmodern Wiccan, one who did not want to be mistaken for a New Ager. None of that white light, fluffy-bunny, crystal dowsing stuff for Jane! Just nature-centered feminist goddess consciousness. I've known her type. I've been her type. I've carried that baggage. What would disturb her sense of reality more than anything else would be to find out that the New Agers were right about something. Anything, really. Atlantis would do.
And once I was forcing Jane to accept a reality she didn't want to believe in, I discovered what else she couldn't believe in anymore: true love. That was the moment when the story stopped being an attempt at psychological horror and became a comedy. Having Jane come to believe in love by falling in it would be too easy, for me and for her. No, she was going to have to contend with true love from the outside, to be an indispensable help to the lovers whose relationship she didn't want to see unfolding in the first place. Wacky hijinks, of course, ensued. Once Sophie's relationship with her Atlantean started to change not just the two of them, but all the characters in Rugosa Coven, and Jane most of all, the story became a romance.
Or so my romance readers keep telling me.
Sarah Avery is an escaped academic who returned to her first love, fantasy fiction. She is an initiated Wiccan priestess, a globetrotting ex-army-brat, a freelance SAT tutor, a longtime wife to her high school sweetheart, and a mother of a glorious toddler. She moved to New Jersey to get her Ph.D. and accidentally built a life there. New Jersey makes a better muse than you might guess. Sarah's urban fantasy stories have appeared in Jim Baen's Universe and Membra Disjecta, and she has sword and sorcery stories slated to appear next year in Black Gate. Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply and Closing Arguments, the first two novellas in her Rugosa Coven series, are available in electronic edition from Drollerie Press (http://drolleriepress.com) and from all major e-book retailers. A print collection of Rugosa Coven novellas is scheduled for late 2010, as are the Trafficking in Magic and Magicking in Traffic anthologies, which Sarah is coediting with David Sklar. You can find an excerpt from Atlantis Cranks here (http://drolleriepress.com/authors-and-excerpts/a-through-l/sarah-avery/excerpt-atlantis-cranks-need-not-apply/), and you can check out her blog, Ask Dr. Pretentious, here (http://dr_pretentious.livejournal.com).
Sarah will be sending one commenter a copy of Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply in the electronic format of your choice. Sarah's winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won.