Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Author Spotlight: Christopher Barzak

“Paranormal Romance” takes a refreshing look at what a supernatural dating landscape might look like. Was this written in response to the current state of the subgenre?

I wrote it for a couple of reasons, but yes, it’s my own tongue-in-cheek response to the current state of the paranormal romance subgenre. I want to love paranormal romances, but I feel like that subgenre takes itself overly seriously, and by doing so has limited the types of paranormal romances that it could explore. So many paranormal romance stories are utterly serious, very Twilight-esque, and the romance at the heart of them needs to be saved and preserved as if it were the heartbeat of life itself. I, on the other, am reading those books and thinking, I want my Sex in the City paranormal romances. I want a nice romantic comedy, preferably one where the protagonist does not have to engage in saving the world while attempting to negotiate the waters of a turbulent love at the same time. Despite some of the humorous moments in my “Paranormal Romance,” I wanted to read a story where people can be badly mismatched, and love (or something like it) comes in off of the side of the stage, so to speak, unexpectedly.

Sheila changed her stance on how she feels about witchcraft and ultimately only uses it as a source of income. If magic was real, do you think those with the gift would treat it the same way?

I think even if magic isn’t real the way it is in this story, people are already using it for income. This is if you include those who give psychic readings, lay out spreads of tarot and interpret, conduct gemstone healings, concoct herbal remedies, create prayer or spell candles, etc. There’s already a market for witches and paranormals out there. So if magic became as real as the sort I depict in the story, I think all of that would become even more marketable than the type of hedge wizardry we already see in yellow pages and in certain corners of the internet.

You literally left the door open at the end of the story. Do you have any plans to revisit this world?

I would very much like to revisit this world. I already know, for instance, the story about the gay neighbors downstairs from Sheila. One of them has a dead ex-boyfriend whose ghost shows up once a year for dinner with them. This causes frustration between the boys, mainly because the one can’t get over his ex completely, and feels somewhat guilty for his ex’s death. I haven’t written this story, but it would be similar in tone to “Paranormal Romance”—somewhat ironic humor with some sad, authentic moments amid the winking. I’d like to do a whole book of stories linked by character and place like this. But right now I’m waist-deep in two other projects I have to bring to completion first. Then, I really do want to go back to writing more stories about Sheila and the people she interacts with and encounters in “Paranormal Romance.”

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m working to complete my next novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, about a young man who is piecing together the mystery of his family’s secret history. And I’m also engaged right now with writing retellings of what I think of as classic genre literature. Some of these retellings have already appeared in magazines or anthologies. The first one was “Invisible Men” (after Wells) which came out in 2012 from Eclipse Online and was reprinted in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction. A new one will appear this summer in the Lethe Press anthology called Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Poe, which is a retelling of the Poe story “William Wilson.” I’ve got another one releasing this October in the Paula Guran edited anthology, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales, called “Eat me, Drink Me, Love Me,” which is a retelling of the Christina Rossetti poem “Goblin Market.” I’ve written about six of these types of stories so far and have another four or five planned, and would like to create a collection entirely of retellings as well. Then maybe I can return to the world of “Paranormal Romance” (if I haven’t been sidetracked by some other shiny new idea).

And lastly, in 2014, a movie based on my first novel, One for Sorrow, will be released. The title is different, though. It’s being called “Jamie Marks is Dead” and stars Liv Tyler, Judy Greer, Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, and Morgan Saylor. Needless to say, I’m terribly excited to see it!

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Earnie Sotirokos

Earnie SotirokosEarnie Sotirokos grew up in a household where “Star Trek: The Next Generation” marathons were only interrupted for baseball and football games. When he’s not writing copy for radio, playing video games, or reading slush, he enjoys penning fiction based on those influences.  His work can be found by searching for “Sotirokos” wherever ebooks are sold. Follow him on Twitter @sotirokos.