Fangs, Fiction, and the Four-Minute Mile

by J. W. Ashley, author of Into the WoodsInto the Woods

Can you imagine a love so complete, a couple so connected that they can communicate without words?

With my debut novel Into the Woods, I wanted to try.

What I found was Libby Conall, the only child of a pack Alpha, and Caleb Ulster, son of the Vampire King. What I found was the world of the paranormal.

What draws a writer or reader to fantasy stories and paranormal tales? Is it the werewolf überalpha, the vampire aristocrat, the magical warlock? Or is it, as some critics claim, a general dissatisfaction with the normal, a too-high standard that leaves one unhappy with the ordinary everyday? What’s up with this whole genre, anyway?

To answer this, let’s take a look at the phenomenon of the four-minute mile. In the entire history of man, running a mile in under four minutes seemed impossible, a barrier that simply could not be crossed. Until, finally, one day, coming in just under the four-minute record, Roger Bannister crumbled the wall between possible and impossible, between normal and paranormal. Incredibly, once the wall came down, more and more runners were able to cross this barrier. Two months after Bannister managed it, he was joined by another runner and then yet another and another. And now, a four-minute mile is the standard for all professional male middle distance runners. Yet, until Bannister showed the world a four-minute mile was possible, it simply wasn’t.

Though fantastic and para are often used and combined in ways that mean “remote from reality” or “amiss” and “irregular,” their origins reveal the secrets of the sub-genre. The Latin and Greek words phantastikos and phantazein mean “to make visible.” Similarly, the Greek word para means beside. Fantastic paranormal stories, then, explore a world beside our own, a parallel universe that truly exists but is, as yet, invisible. In other words, paranormal romance writers are the Bannisters of the literary world, helping our readers dream and love bigger than before.

Paranormal Romance imagines a love beyond vows, beyond the limits of human promises. It envisions a blood-binding, a soul-matching, a fate that makes us forever connected. With vampires, angels, and other immortals, paranormal romance promises that, somehow, love can bloom forever, that it can be unmoored from the the limits of “till death do us part.” With werewolves and shape-shifters, imprinting and bonding, paranormal romance envisions the uncompromising safety of warm love and loyalty, something beyond a promise to “love, honor, and obey.”

These fantastic tales about love aren’t impossible; the only trouble is that, for now, some of the only words we have for them are vampire, werewolf, mate.

So, can we imagine a love so complete, a couple so connected that they can communicate without words?

Libby and Caleb certainly can.

Though Libby grew up hearing stories of the vampire menace and Caleb cannot remember a word said in defense of wolves, their connection teaches them an important lesson: Sometimes you live the stories you’re told. Sometimes you write your own. Though each first sees the other as an enemy, they can both imagine a world beyond the borders that are drawn. The paranormal magic they experience in love, gives them someone who can see right through them. It gives them total communion with the person they love.

Can you imagine such a thing?

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  1. Pingback: Why do Romances Go Bump in the Night: Or, What’s Up with Paranormals? | bookswithbenefits