Ghost Stories & Romance: Why the Combination is So Compelling

While conversing with a saleswoman in my local Apple store recently, I shared the information that I wrote novels.

“What kind of novels?” she asked.

“They’re basically romances, but they are all set in haunted places,” I replied.

Her eyes grew wide. “With ghosts, you mean?”

“Yes. There’s always a ghost story intertwined with the romance.”

“Have you contacted someone to make them into movies? I’ll bet they would sell like crazy.”

ghost story, spooky, paranormal books, novels

*Sigh.* If only it were that easy to get the word out to the movie industry about my ghost story + romance novels. Unfortunately, the path to silver screen stardom remains as obscure to me as the yellow brick road was to Dorothy—before Glinda arrived.

Her remark got me to thinking, though, about whether or not what she said might be true: does the combination of a ghost story with a romance really have a wide audience appeal? We all know that ghost hunting programs have gained a cult following all their own on cable channels. Zombie and apocalypse themes have developed numerous very successful series. But throw in the word “romance,” and something changes. It seems the audiences hooked on this type of entertainment want to be spooked, not swooned.

Now take the average romance reader: The Romance Writers of America lists romantic suspense at the top of the list of popular subgenres (most of these are crime/murder mysteries), with erotica and historical following close behind. Paranormal romance, it claims, appeals more to younger readers.

Where does my flavor of romance fit? When one hears paranormal, they normally think vampires, shapeshifters, and werewolves. But what about ghosts? Is there a readership to whom my books will appeal? And how can being spooked by ghosts relate (even remotely) to a blossoming romantic relationship?

My research took me to this very recent article in The New Yorker magazine about Lafcadia Hearn, an author who was born in Greece in 1850. During the tumultuous life of this “mixed race” man (his mother was Ionian, his father Irish), Hearn wrote 29 books in a vast variety of genres. His specialty, it seemed, was ghost stories.

Hearn traveled the world, wandering from one country to the next when his life situations crumbled around him, ending up in Japan. Here he became fascinated with the Japanese ghost-story folktales known as kaidan. His collection of spooky and sometimes dismally purple (his Dismal Man writings contain scenes no less graphic than an episode of The Walking Dead) are still included in the curriculum of many schools in Japan.

So where does romance fit into all of this? Tragically, Hearn’s personal life is littered with abandonments and failed relationships scarring him with psychological wounds that resound clearly in his work. No happy endings here, for certain.

In the New Yorker article by Jonathan Dee, the author explores our fascination with ghost stories:

Our primal fear when it comes to ghosts, Hearn wrote, is not of seeing or hearing them but of being touched by them; the kaidan both exploit that revulsion and offer the heroic spectacle of characters whose passions enable them to overcome it.”

Passions. There is clearly passion at the root of many of Hearn’s kaidan tales: a mother whose passing from cholera does not prevent her from remaining to nurse her infant son for three years. A widower who, after vowing to never remarry after his wife’s death, reneges. His new, young bride is haunted to her death by the ghost of his first wife. Penguin classics has just released a Hearn collection, as well as another by Princeton University Press. The passion—the intense love represented in these haunting tales—apparently does have the potential for an avid audience.

Again, though, no HEA—no happy ever after. This is what I attempt to do by combining a romantic, passionate love story with a haunting ghost tale. In my Haunted Voices novels, I can promise you, romance fans of the HEA will not be disappointed. Those who want gooseflesh to rise and who go to bed leaving the light on after a thoroughly spooky experience—you will not be disappointed either.

In my paranormal romances, the heroes and heroines are very much alive. The ghosts haunting them are very much dead. I manage, though, to bring peace to even the tormented spirits in my stories.

“Supernatural romantic suspense” is a tag I feel fits my flavor of fiction much better than paranormal romance. You can find out more about my work at my website and peruse the list of my published titles on my Amazon Author page.

romance novels, love stories, romantic suspense

romance novels, love stories, romantic suspense

One thought on “Ghost Stories & Romance: Why the Combination is So Compelling

  1. I have the same problem with most of my writing. I always try to tag it “supernatural suspense” or “supernatural mystery.” All the books in my Hode’s Hill series and my Point Pleasant series contain romances, but I’m not writing vamps or shifters and that seems to be what most readers imagine when they hear “paranormal.” I love a good romantic story with a chills and goosebumps tossed in.

    I just purchased Electricity from Amazon. It’s on my TBR. 🙂

    Great post!


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