Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things That Go Bump in the Stacks: Whole Collection Advisory for Paranormal Fiction

Sunday at the American Library Association was my day to attend programs on subjects about which I knew little. I started with Things That Go Bump in the Stacks: Whole Collection Advisory for Paranormal Fiction, introduced and moderated by Neil Hollands of the Williamsburg Regional Library. Neil presented a brief history of these books with their vampires and other dark creatures. They differ from fantasy in that they bring magic into the everyday world. They spring from horror and often include appeal factors from romance and mystery. Some are even literary. Their rise has been spotlighted by the success of the Twilight novels by Stephanie Meyer.

With Neil were three authors. Marjorie Liu has spent much of her life in foreign countries and draws on her travel and diplomatic experience in crafting settings. She began her writing career in 2005 with Tiger Eye, a paranormal romance paperback. Liu says that she includes many forms of creatures in her novels, including her Dirk & Steele and Hunter Kiss series. she already has over a dozen books.

Charlie Huston is a classic rags to riches author, having been everything from a struggling actor to a bartender before becoming a successful author. His books are violent and often reflect life in the underside of society. Since his debut with Caught Stealing in 2004, he is known for the Hank Thompson trilogy and the Joe Pitt series. He jokes that he writes for maladjusted young men. "Splatter" is his favorite word.

Charlaine Harris is the most known of the panelists. She began her career writing Southern mysteries and segwayed into paranormal in 2001 with Dead Until Dark. Her latest book Dead and Gone, the ninth title featuring Sookie Stackhouse, debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List.

Harris sympathized with librarians asked to recommend paranormal novels to readers. She said they range from cute and sweet books to titles filled with violence. She urged us to discover the differences before we put the books out. Huston agreed, admitting that his books are not for every reader, especially the young.

Neil listed appeals for paranormal fiction:

  • magic
  • blending of genres
  • paranormal characters
  • strong women
  • real world issues beneath the story

What I found most interesting during the session was the discussion about how one writes fiction. None of the panelists were like J.K. Rowling, having planned out the story for a whole series of books. Each book is a revelation to them. Harris also said she sometimes finds herself writing in parts that she does not particularly like. She said that she really like Sookie's grandmother, but she had to kill her off for the sake of the story.

Many titles were mentioned throughout the program. You can find many of them on the paranormal cheat sheet at the Readers Advisory website. With the cheat sheet are lists of TV, film, and music links for paranormal fans. Most importantly, there are paranormal titles suitable for younger readers.

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