|Susan Krinard: Who Let the Wolves Out?|
What do you get when you combine werewolves and romance? Sue Krinard's dark, tortured -- and furry -- werewolf heroes, of course. Krinard's werewolves, an amazing blend of beautifully drawn human emotions and meticulously detailed animal instincts, spring from the page alive, kicking and growling. These beastly heroes easily hold their own with the vampire masters of paranormal romance.
But Krinard doesn't confine herself to just one kind of hero. Krinard also explores the romantic side of tasty time travelers, virile vampires and studly spirits. She even traveled into outer space to thrill her readers with tales of to-die-for telepathic pilots and cute Kalians out for revenge -- not to mention used her popularity and considerable Web savvy to promote the subgenres of paranormal and fantasy romance. Crescent Blues talked to Krinard about these aspects of her writing life and more shortly before publication of Krinard's latest werewolf romance, Secret of the Wolf.
Crescent Blues: In Secret of the Wolf, your heroine, Dr. Johanna Schell, uses hypnotism in the treatment of her patients. Have you ever been hypnotized and did you use that experience when writing this book?
Susan Krinard: Yes, I have been hypnotized. That is to say, hypnotism was attempted. I'm afraid I'm not easily hypnotized at all. As vivid as my imagination is, my grip on reality and sensitivity to outside sounds and distractions is very powerful. It's very hard for me to relax enough to go beyond a very light trance state. However, hypnotism, like all treatments for mental health, has always fascinated me.
Crescent Blues: Johanna also doesn't fit the typical stereotype of a romance heroine. Why did you choose a heroine of Amazon build and extremely educated mind rather than the usual petite young beauty in distress?
Kinard: Because I find the stereotypes extremely tiresome. I've used them but try now to avoid them. Women come in all shapes and sizes and personalities, and so many of these haven't been explored. I wanted to show a "real" woman...and I hope I will continue to do so. Johanna was somewhat different for me in that she has very few "problems" to overcome in her personal life or in the area of her confidence; she knows pretty much who she is and what she wants. Her only "weakness" is in the area of romance.
Crescent Blues: Werewolves and the Napa Valley seem an unusual mix. What prompted you to use this particular area of California for your book?
Susan Krinard: I lived
in California until a year ago, and Napa Valley was only an hour's drive
(or more, depending on traffic) from our house in Concord. We went there
many times, and it's truly a lovely area, though the crowds are getting
worse. I liked to envision it as it was when it was still very rural and
Crescent Blues: You've written several books featuring werewolves. What first attracted you to wolves and those characters that can transform into wolves?
Susan Krinard: I've always loved wolves, and resisted the notion that they are "killers" by nature wherever I could. Wolves are among the most magnificent creatures on the earth, with strong "family values" and grace and beauty, as well as being related to my favorite domestic animals, dogs. It seemed natural for me to combine romance with fantasy, and shapeshifters are one of my favorite fantasy subjects.
Those stereotypes again...I was tired of the old saw about evil werewolves who attack people at the full moon. This seemed just another slam against wolves! So I set out to create "natural" werewolves who were no more "evil" than people or wolves, but a combination of the most interesting qualities of both.
Crescent Blues: You've also written about ghosts and vampires, sent your heroines back in time and into outer space. You actively promote paranormal, futuristic and fantasy themes in romances. When did you first realize you wanted to write these kind of romances and why?
Susan Krinard: I'd been reading science fiction and fantasy since the age of ten. I didn't expect to become a writer, let alone write romance; I'd read very little romance prior to beginning my first romance novel, Prince of Wolves. But there was never any question in my mind that I would include SF elements in any romance I wrote.
Crescent Blues: What do you see as the biggest hurdles for the success of cross-genre romances?
Susan Krinard: I think the biggest hurdles are in the unfamiliarity of editors and readers with certain elements in the books. Romance readers may not be familiar with fantasy and science fiction elements, or may feel intimidated by them. Science fiction readers have very deep prejudices against romance. So far, very little of what I call true cross-genre (or crossover) romantic SF has been written within the romance genre. Most of it has come from the SF direction. I am hoping, however, that that situation will gradually change.
For me, true crossover would include very strong, well-developed world-building but have a romance at the center of the story. The trick is to make both romance readers and fantasy readers happy without turning them off or condescending to those unfamiliar with the genre.
Crescent Blues: Do the same rules for writing a romance apply when writing a cross-genre romance?
Susan Krinard: To a large extent, yes. I would never write anything but a happy or, at least, very hopeful ending, even if I were writing straight SF. However, I think that true crossover should have a lot more leeway in breaking some other rules. As I mentioned before, I'd like to see a lot more world-building, well-developed alien or fantasy societies, a broader canvas, no fear of technology. If characters are strong enough, they will not be overwhelmed by fantasy or SF detail.
Crescent Blues: On your Web site you say you want to continue to "stretch the boundaries" when writing cross-genre fiction. What boundaries do you mean and where do you want to take them?
Susan Krinard: Everything I've said about crossover fantasy/SF romance applies. I want to get closer to the true crossover that blends SF with romance. I hope to do it within the romance genre, but I may also be writing SF/fantasy in the future.
Crescent Blues: Do you think that cross-genre romances are harder to sell to an editor or agent?
Susan Krinard: Yes, I do. I have heard rumors that paranormal is coming back, and editors are looking for it, but it is still less popular than straight romance. The solution is to publish only the best books in this genre, to win over the readers who say they'll never read a paranormal or fantasy romance. It's the job of writers to do this! In some ways, I think we must be extra careful to keep the quality high when a subgenre is still in its relative infancy.
Crescent Blues: Do you feel that electronic publishers have been more accepting of cross-genre romances?
Susan Krinard: Yes, definitely. The fact is that the more publishers have to invest in an author, the more cautious they are. Lower or no advances and more moderate production expenses mean less of a risk, so it's easier to try new and perhaps risky things. Many e-publishers are relatively new and don't have a bottom line to uphold at this point -- they are wide-open in terms of making a reputation and creating an image for themselves.
Established print publishers have more to lose, in a way, and the current publishing climate is very risk-averse. Immediate bestsellers are the goal. It's a lot harder to establish a new author who may write the more unusual type of story. Of course there are always exceptions, and a supportive and creative editor can make a big difference.
Crescent Blues: What advice would you give to novice cross-genre writers?
Susan Krinard: Ultimately, you may have to decide between money -- making a living -- and following your heart. The day may come when there may be no conflict (let's hope!) but if you're writing an "out there" type of story that traditional, advance-paying publishers aren't buying, you may not be earning a great deal of money for some time. Or you may have to compromise your dream with commercial demands. So much of the publishing industry is about hard decisions or compromise. No one ever said being a writer was easy!
I also feel that cross-genre writers should be well grounded in all the genres they're combining -- they should be reading SF and fantasy as well as romance. They should understand world-building principles and not rely on cliches from television shows. A truly good crossover book is just as difficult, and in some ways more difficult, than a traditional romance, because you're working to establish both the romance and the fantasy elements.
Crescent Blues: You've written several short stories for anthologies. What's the hardest thing about writing short stories versus novels -- and the easiest?
Susan Krinard: The hardest thing is that I write long. Writing short is difficult for me, and my novellas are usually the longest in any collection I'm in. I'm not a spare writer! On the other hand, I've had fun writing all three novellas, especially "Kinsman" in Out of this World, which is a true "futuristic."
Crescent Blues: Most of what you write is set in another time or, as in the case of your SF romance novel, another world. What appeals to you most about writing about the past or places that never were?
Susan Krinard: Because I've always craved escape from the real world, ever since I was very young and a voracious reader. Books were my solace when I was growing up. And that's continued in my writing. The more I can get away from reality, the better I enjoy it!
Crescent Blues: Do you have any writing rituals? What gets you "in the mood?"
Susan Krinard: What gets me in the mood? My contract and my deadlines! This is a job as well as a creative outlet. I, like many writers, don't have the leisure to write only when I feel like or feel "inspired." There are some days when I really don't feel like working, but I sit down and do it anyway, even if it's just a few pages. That's the difference, really, between a professional and an amateur. However, I can take real inspiration from reading books outside the genre, watching old movies, or just talking about ideas with my husband or fellow writers.
Crescent Blues: You graduated from college with a degree in Illustration. How did an artist wind up as a writer?
Susan Krinard: I always wanted to be an artist, pretty much from the time I was a child. I attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, Calif., after taking some courses at the local community college. I hoped to become a science fiction and fantasy cover artist. However, I really didn't learn anything practical at art school, let alone how to find a job as an illustrator. I made up an entire portfolio of mock science fiction and fantasy book cover illustrations and took it to New York. I rode the subway around and dropped my portfolio off with art directors. Not one of them was interested. I never got a single call. (I now know that it's even harder to break into cover illustration than it is in writing!)
So I had various secretarial and clerical jobs (most of which I hated), lived in Canada for three years, and then returned to the U.S., where I actually was hired to illustrate a book. Then that fell through, and I was unemployed. At this point I'd been involved in the "fandom" of the TV show Beauty and the Beast, and had written my one and only novella for a fanzine I helped to edit. A friend, who had a multi-published sister, read the story, and suggested I write a romance novel. The rest, as they say, is history! Up to that point I'd read a lot of Regencies and Georgette Heyer, but not much regular romance. Most of my reading had been science fiction and fantasy, but I always look for strong relationships in those books -- as in Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley.
So, I sat down and began to write Prince of Wolves. I had no idea that such a book might be too "weird." I found that I understood how to write a romantic relationship. It just flowed out of my fingertips! Two years later I sold the book as part of a three-book contract to Bantam, without an agent.
Crescent Blues: Do you still draw, and have you ever thought of doing your own covers?
Susan Krinard: Unfortunately, I have no time to draw or paint, though I do often miss it. Romance cover artists have very elaborate set-ups, including photographic equipment and large studios in which to paint. It's a full-time job and large investment, so I can't see myself doing any of my own covers.
Crescent Blues: Who do you feel influenced your writing the most?
Susan Krinard: My favorite science fiction writers, such as Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh and the ones I read as a child -- Bradley and McCaffrey and Andre Norton. The romance writers who have most inspired me are Mary Balogh and Laura Kinsale, but I began to read them only just before I started writing romance. The old-fashioned, adventure/historical authors such as [Rafael] Sabatini and [Samuel] Shellebarger also had a strong influence on me. I think I tell a pretty old-fashioned kind of story.
Crescent Blues: If you couldn't be a writer, what would you do?
Susan Krinard: That's a tough one. I feel as if I've finally found my true calling, so to speak. I'm much happier doing this than I would have been as an artist. I think I'd have to be doing something creative, since I have a fairly typical artist's personality!
Crescent Blues: Who was Sue Krinard in her past lives?
Susan Krinard: You mean literal past lives, as in reincarnation? Oddly enough, I've had very vivid dreams on this subject. In one, I was a rather pimply-faced, blond-haired army recruit on the Western frontier just after the Civil War. (I deserted because I couldn't kill Indians). In another, I was another very young (late teens) Russian soldier on the Russian front during World War II and had just captured an equally young German soldier who was as scared as I was. I couldn't kill him, either. So if there's anything to these dreams, I'd have to say I have been a male at least twice, and a soldier as well. Under light hypnosis, I "remembered" a past life in which I lived in what is now Israel, as a woman who was having an illicit affair with someone against the rules of my society. I was almost stoned to death but escaped. Interesting, isn't it? Who's to say if these things are true?
Crescent Blues: You list correspondence as one of your interests -- would you like to elaborate on this hobby?
Susan Krinard: Well, I'd say that I have little time for correspondence now, but in the past it had a significant impact on my life. Before the Internet, I carried on correspondences with friends long-distance, and in fact my best friends were nearly all first met through the mail. This is also how I met my husband of fifteen years! In a way, I miss those days, because email just doesn't encourage the kind of depth and intimacy that letters do. The volume of email I receive makes it difficult for me to write at length.
Crescent Blues: What does the future hold?
Susan Krinard: I plan to continue my werewolf series into the future, and I've also begun what may be a new series, starting with next year's book, The Forest Lord. It's a Regency-set fantasy historical, and the hero is one of the last of the "Fane" -- the high Faerie. I also am looking at writing a futuristic that will follow up on my story "Kinsman" from Out of This World. With luck, I'll be writing three books over two years instead of only one a year. I also eventually hope to write SF and fantasy. Wish me luck!
Crescent Blues: Is there anything else -- a question we haven't asked you'd like to answer or something you'd tell your fans? White space and soapbox free of charge.
Susan Krinard: Thanks for asking such interesting questions! I just want to thank every reader who has bought my books or written to me about them -- without your support, I wouldn't be a writer at all. Though I can be a bit slow to answer, I welcome letters and email. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or snail-mail at P.O. Box 51924, Albuquerque, NM 87181. My Web page is at http://members.aol.com/skrinard/, and I've just put up a new edition of my quarterly newsletter.
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