We are delighted to welcome Charlaine Harris back to the Gollancz Blog to tell us all about her new series set in Midnight, Texas. The Midnight series blends Fantasy and Mystery in Charlaine’s trademark way. But you don’t need to take our word for it, here’s Charlaine to tell you more about the series and the art of blending Fantasy and Mystery.
There are several different ways to approach blending any two genres, but in the case of blending fantasy and mystery I think the best tactic is full frontal fantasy. Don’t over-explain, don’t apologize, don’t backtrack. Go for it! If you have to blend in some background (“Ghouls had been known to eat the dead, but mostly they preferred the living”), fine and good; but never sound tentative. If you treat the supernatural as natural, so will the reader.
I think it’s also a good idea to make sure the reader knows that being a supernatural creature of any sort does not mean you can live a life without problems. There are always bills to pay of one sort or another, groceries to shop for (even if you shop in a bar or cemetery), and taxes to pay. Yes, always taxes. You can’t swan around in a velvet cape looking mysterious and swoony. The electric bill must be covered, and the telephone bill, too.
On the other hand, your human characters have to appeal to the reader, who is much more likely to identify with a human than a three thousand year old lamia or banshee. At least one of your human characters has to be likeable, a gee-whiz kind of person who gets sucked into the paranormal world and must cope with its rules.
It’s true that almost everyone likes a mystery, and while it’s very interesting to discover who stole Lady Hortense’s pearls, people are really more engaged in the mystery if it’s one of life and death. Readers will sit up and take notice if you cut Lady Hortense’s throat, especially if you leave clues that suggest a werewolf did it.
Including elements of the paranormal does not mean that you can cheat when it comes to solving the mystery. You can’t just let a fairy fly up to you and tell you who killed Lady Hortense. (Well, you can, but you’d have to stage it very well.) The reader wants to discover the killer by means of detection rather than supernatural revelation. So that’s the way your detective must proceed. Believe me, after years of writing novels containing a mystery to be solved by a telepathic sleuth, I know all about the pitfalls.
Most of all, I think if you’re going to blend genres, you need to have a genuine admiration for both of them. I love mysteries, my original genre. I love fantasy, my adopted home. It’s more fun than I can say to come up with plots combining elements of both. And I hope it always remains so.
You can find out more aboud Charlaine Harris by visiting her website or following her on Twitter. Midnight Crossroad is out now in paperback, eBook and audio download. Day Shift will be out in bookshops and online on the 7th may. You can pre-order your copy here.
Enter the world of Midnight, Texas in the exciting extract below.