Twilight Times Feature

FF&P Market and Vampires

Astrid Cooper co-ordinates the Australian Network for FF&P romance writers and publishes the group's bi-monthly newsletter. Over the last few years she's been horrified to see the shrinking of the FF&P lists.

"You think you have problems buying these titles in your bookshops in the U.S.? Come down under and 'find' them! I have to order titles through a bookshop, from reviews etc. that I see in Romantic Times, etc. I get a lot from remainder bins, too! The bookshop owner that I deal with tells me she can't keep up with reader demand, and a SF/fantasy bookshop in Sydney (a huge shop!) tells me when I last visited that the books are snapped up as they hit the shelves. This is a mainstream SF/fantasy shop, not a romance stocklist.

Similarly, in my home city the two SF bookshops I've contacted tell me the same thing. Readers besiege them for these titles. So, obviously there is reader demand -- why are the publishers shrinking/closing their lists? Not everyone wants to read historicals or contemporaries -- there's nothing wrong with these genres, and I do read them, but my love is SF and fantasy with a strong romance, not romance with a whiff of SF or fantasy (when I can find them), otherwise I read my old favourites.

My publisher in Australia [JB Books] has taken up the challenge and has created a fantasy/SF romance line that will be in the States in September (fingers, arms, toes and eyes crossed!) Some readers in the U.S. have imported copies of my books from mail order ...

For those of you interested in vampires, am I able to 'shamelessly plug' my book Shadow's Embrace that will be in the States next month? (My publisher is printing the book and launching the line with my book - a vampire/darkfantasy/soft horror/romance).

I enjoyed reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, but some of the books got a bit depressing. I have tried to find the [Tanya] Huff titles, but no one I've spoken to knows anything about them.

Several years ago, I ran a writing FF&P workshop at RWAustralia's national conference. There was standing room only in my two sessions -- despite the organiser's insistence that people pre-book to attend any workshops at the conference, double the number of participants turned up on each day, so we were jammed into a room that should have only help half the number of people it did. Again, an example of FF&P popularity.

So why, I ask again is it that FF&P gets such short shrift? One of my favourite authors - Guy Gavriel Kay has written a huge fantasy novel that to my eyes, at least, is almost a romance -- THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN. Ok, it's not formulaic, but the story is seen mainly through the eyes of a woman and other male characters, but it is always she who has the dominant POV. One of the Aussie fantasy writers - Sara Douglass who wrote THRESHOLD (among many others books!) has a very strong romance at the core of her story -- it is much darker than a 'true' romance, but nevertheless if the romance was removed from the story there would be not much story.

Yes, people (editors) believe that SF is read mainly by men, but we know better. If a man (or young man) was asked if he likes reading SF or fantasy with romance would he own up to it? Most people when they hear the word romance (at least in Australia) immediately think of Harlequin Mills & Boon. It wasn't until I joined the local group of RWAustralia members that I saw my first futuristic romance brought in by one of the other writers. (Four years ago -- it was Warrior's Woman).

My involvement in SF/fantasy fandom for nearly 20 years has proven to me that women read SF and fantasy as much as the guys. The involvement of women in 'Star Trek' fandom is a classic example and 'Star Trek' is not fantasy, but firmly based in science nuts and bolts. What makes 'Star Trek' so different? My own thought is that the characters were the stories, that's why it was (still is), so popular. Maybe what should be said is that women who read science fiction are more likely to read SF that has characters and strong characterisation instead of the nuts and bolts SF. Anyway, what is a story without characters? Whatever the genre.

At a recent writing seminar I listened to Jack Dann speak. He acts as the Tor agent in Australia. He said he wants strong characters -- if the story and characters 'don't cut the juice' on the first page he rejects the submission.

My first book, Crystal Dreams (coming to the U.S. too) was SF romance and read by men and women. Many of the readers had never read a romance, and all were surprised how well romance and SF could be combined. A couple of the readers were young men who came up and told me at a Star Trek gathering how much they enjoyed the book and these guys read nuts and bolts stuff, too. I wonder what 'the powers that be' would make of this?"

Note from Publisher: I'm always on the look-out for a good article and found the above gem posted on the RF email list.


Author Bio

Ever since Astrid Cooper could hold a pencil she has written science fiction, fantasy, historical and romance stories. Active in SF and fantasy fandom since 1978, she has edited and published over 100 fanzines.

She is published in novellas, short stories, non-fiction and writes for science fiction, fantasy, romance and historical magazines.

Astrid has organised six science fiction/fantasy conventions and has written plays and has acted in several theatrical presentations. In her 'spare time' she is a free-lance editor.

She presents workshops at national Romance Writers conferences and is a reader for national competitions. She is facilitating a series of 'Writing Commercial Fiction'; workshops and has just completed a highly successful workshop in rural South Australia.

Astrid is co-ordinator of the Australian Network of Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Writers and editor of 'Realms Beyond' the bi-monthly newsletter of the network. She has given numerous television and radio interviews in relation to science fiction/fantasy and her writing activities.

Her hobbies include: her cats, gardening, ceramics, historical needlework and costuming, reading, publishing fanzines and collecting 'anything' Egyptian.

Publishing credits:
June, 1997: "Birthday Surprise"(contemporary erotica - anthology: Love Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me.
August, 1997: "Star-Crossed" (SF erotica) and "Dream Lover"(paranormal erotica) anthology: BedTime Stories Volume III. publisher: AMS Ironbark, Queensland, Australia.
December, 1997: Crystal Dreams a fantasy romance novel which hit the #6 spot on the best-seller list in Adelaide for week ending 27/12/97 (publisher: JB BOOKS, Australia).
January, 1998: "Night's Kiss" (vampire erotica) anthology: Sugar and Spice (Publisher: Virgin Publishing Ltd., UK).
September, 1998: "Shadow's Embrace" dark fantasy romance novel. publisher: JB BOOKS, Australia.

Both books -- Crystal Dreams and Shadow's Embrace will be available in the US in September, 1998 and can be ordered direct from the publisher - the books won't be in bookshops. JB BOOKS is setting up a US based office.
For more information view the publisher's web site: JB BOOKS.



This article Copyright © 1998. Astrid Cooper. All rights reserved.
This page last updated 10-9-98.
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