Back in the Day…
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, “Paranormal romance” was not a term anyone had ever heard or used. There wasn't a genre and authors couldn't sell a paranormal book to a legitimate book publisher even if they tried. I know, because I was trying. It was a difficult time for those of us whose brains were not wired strictly to hot cowboys, secret babies, and marriages of convenience. (All tropes I've used quite happily.)
Granted, there were a few intrepid writers trying their hand at self-publishing through what we called “vanity presses,” but the only people buying their books were their relatives. It was expensive and all but impossible to get into bookstores. Maybe you could cajole your local indie shop to carry it for you, but that was about it. Ebooks were not a thing yet. The first Kindle would not launch for another seventeen years. (November 17th, 2007.)
During that period, I was writing Twilight Phantasies, a romantic vampire story whose title was based on a line from the poem Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelly. I Intended it to be a short story, but wound up blowing it up into a book. I had no idea what I would do with it but it was what I wanted to write. I was never one to write what was trendy, but always, to this day, seem to want to break new ground. So I wrote it.
Early in the process, Lori Herter released a vampire romance titled Obsession through Berkley Publishing. I devoured that book, and its sequel Confession came out as I had begun sending my book around to publishers.
By then we writers were starting to talk about this new sub-genre and the term Paranormal Romance was born.
A line of its own…
Silhouette Books launched a new line called SHADOWS that was just for this soon-to-be hot new genre. Shadows was the brainchild of then senior editor Leslie Wainger, a legendary romance editor with a penchant for the woo-woo stuff. Heather Graham's title The Lost Cavalier the very first title launched in this series in March 1993, and she was followed quickly by others who were, like her, already-known names in romance. Anne Stuart. Rachel Lee. Lindsey McKenna. Jane Toombs. (Raise a glass!) Goddesses, all.
Shadows, however, was ahead of its time. The rather comic-book like covers didn't catch on, (although I love them to the moon and back!) and in the end its vast potential was not fulfilled. But maybe its purpose was. Its final release was Forest of the Night by the masterful Evelyn Vaughn in July of 1996. Silhouette Shadows released a total of 66 books over 40 months.
Of those 66, I wrote 4. Twilight Phantasies was Book 18 and released from Shadows in October 1993, the first year of the Shadows line. I went on to write Book 30, Twilight Memories, Book 38, Kiss of the Shadow Man, and Book 47, Twilight Illusions.
Jane Toombs was the queen of the Shadows line. She published 6 books out of the 66. Evelyn Vaughn and I each wrote 4 titles for the line, and I also wrote a novella one of the line's anthologies. Carla Cassidy, Helen Myers, Marilyn Tracy and Rebecca Flanders wrote 3 apiece. Lee Karr, Rachel Lee, Barbara Faith, Amanda Stevens, Sandra Dark, Kimberly Raye, and Jeanne Rose each wrote 2.
These are the authors I consider the founders of the paranormal romance genre, which spawned the urban fantasy genre. I think every fan of the woo-woo stuff, and every author writing it today, would do themselves a huge favor by going back and reading this pioneering, genre-creating series.
26 other authors came in for one book each, including powerhouses Lindsay McKenna, groundbreaker Lori Herter, Diana Whitney, Vella Munn, and the divine Anne Stuart who also wrote novellas for two of the line's anthologies. Some just loved the genre and had a book in them dying to written that belonged in Shadows. Others might've been coaxed by their editors to give the line a needed boost. It just wasn't catching fire the way it deserved to do. But as I said, it was ahead of its time.
You can tell how beloved this genre is to its authors just by seeing how many of us went back to Shadows over and over again. Silhouette had lots of other lines, all of which were far more lucrative than Shadows, but this was what we loved. We played with the genre and honed our own voices within the relative security of the line like actors honing their craft while acting in the soaps. We could finally write what we loved best, and we were in our glory for those 40 precious months.
And then it was announced that the line was folding and we all cried on our keyboards.
Sparks from the hearth…
But sparks from our little experiment were already flying hither and yon. Authors love woo woo and as we offered a wider and wider range and pushed the boundaries ever further, the readers found they loved it too. Soon Silhoutte's sister Harlequin launched Nocturne, but more importantly, Christine Feehan started her Shadows-inspired career, and she skyrocketed. Charlaine Harris got a TV series and Stephanie Meyer got a movie, and a phenomenon unfurled.
I'm so glad!
This post isn't meant to cover every author or every publisher that has contributed to the growth of the genre. This is just how I remember things unfolding, cause I was there when it happened.
Check out the entire Silhouette Shadows line. Let me know what you think of this post!Visit the Shadows!
Oh, and if you want to read my original Wings In the Night Series, born at Silhouette Shadows or its ongoing Wings in the Night: Reborn, click below!Wings in the Night Wings: Reborn