If you’re anything like me, your imagination goes into overdrive the moment you see a creepy old house or a crumbling castle. Picture this: You’re driving down an old two-lane country road. There are fields as far as the eye can see. Tall stalks of corn tower overhead, blowing gently in the breeze. The setting sun casts an eerie orange glow over an abandoned house set a few yards away from the road. The weather-beaten wood siding is gray with age; shutters hang loosely, the slats broken or missing; the windows boarded; the front porch steps are cracked and splintered, buckled in the middle; a broken screen door opens and closes, slapping the door jamb rhythmically. It’s easy to imagine a ghost moving slowly through the dusty inside, drifting over cobwebs, through walls, waiting out its eternity in a place doomed to be destroyed when the property is zoned for commercial development. It seems like it would be easy to to structure a horror screenplay or paranormal novel around such a desolate structure, doesn’t it?
Think about the venues for your favorite paranormal novels. Not every paranormal or dark fantasy novel is set against the backdrop of a haunted house, gothic castle or crumbling urban decay. Vampires have left their Transylvania castles in favor of penthouses, country estates, or small Washington high schools. Werewolves have fled the deep, dark woods and walk (and hunt) among the New York City elite. Witches have abandoned their cauldrons to pursue university degrees. Demons have set up shop in beachfront cottages. Ghosts still hang out in ancient monasteries and eighteenth century inns, but you can find them in brand new suburban homes too.
Paranormal settings aren’t limited to graveyards and haunted mansions. Paranormal characters can (and are) branching out and going mainstream. And, while I sometimes hear lovers of classic vampire lore complain about modern vamps and werewolves hanging out in high school, I think it’s great that we have such variety in paranormal literature. If I want to read classic vampire horror, I can grab a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Or, if I’m in the mood for a sexy, sophisticated vampire with expensive taste, I can read The Vampire Lestat. I don’t have to limit my reading choices and neither do you!
What kind of paranormal novels do you prefer? Gothic horror or urban fantasy? Classic vampire or paranormal romance? Those of you who write paranormal or dark fantasy, tell me about the settings you’ve used in your own work. What do you look for when you go paranormal property hunting?