Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Author Guest Post: Deborah Cooke

Writing YA Paranormal vs. Adult Paranormal
by Deborah Cooke ( and

I write both the Dragonfire novels, which are paranormal romances, and The Dragon Diaries, which is a trilogy of YA paranormal novels. The two series are loosely linked, mostly in the fact that they take place in the same world. In this world, there are dragon shape shifters among us. They are an ancient species who call themselves the Pyr (from Greek for "fire") who are the custodians of the earth and the guardians of the four elements. The adult series is set during the Dragon's Tail wars, the final battle between the good dragons (the true Pyr) and the bad dragons (the Slayers) The Pyr count humans among the treasures of the earth, while the Slayers believe that humans need to be eradicated in order to save the earth. 

The Dragon Diaries evolved out of the Dragonfire series. In this world, all of the dragon shifters are male - except that at any given time there is one female dragon shifter. She's called the Wyvern and has special powers. A teensy spoiler here: I killed the Wyvern off in KISS OF FATE, book #3 in this series, and the baby conceived in that book turned out to be a daughter instead of a son. Some of the Pyr think she's the Wyvern. Some aren't so sure. I thought it would be really interesting to become a Wyvern, especially as there would be nobody to tell Zoë how it's done. (The last Wyvern is dead and Wyverns are very mysterious to the Pyr.) The male dragon shifters come into their powers at puberty, so it made sense that Zoë would as well. It also made sense to write her coming-of-age as a YA paranormal. She's 15 when things start to happen for her.

Christie asked me to talk about differences between writing the two kinds of books. Some of the differences come out of story, and some are the result of them being marketed in different niches.

1/ Structure and Style
Each Dragonfire novel is a romance. It focuses on one of the dragon guys meeting his destined mate - in dragon physiology in this world, the meeting of a Pyr with the human woman who can bear his son is marked by the firestorm. Literally sparks fly between them. Because these are romances, they often have different perspectives about long term relationships, love, marriage, babies, and happily ever after. The dragon guy needs to seduce his mate, conceive an heir, work things out emotionally with her and usually defend her from Slayers - who would prefer that there not be more Pyr in the world. Because these stories are paranormal romances, they focus on two protagonists, they follow the course of a romantic relationship, and they include explicit sex. They are also written in third person POV, mostly alternating between the hero and heroine's perspectives.

In contrast, each of the Dragon Diaries books is a YA. These first three books feature Zoë coming into her powers as Wyvern, so they each star Zoë as the protagonist. They're written in first person POV because I wanted to go deeper into her thoughts and anxieties. The arc of each book's story is that of the next stage on Zoë's journey. There are romantic elements and other continuing characters, but no sex. There's a difference in tone, as well, between the two genres.

2/ Timeline 
Each Dragonfire novel is precisely located in time, and is roughly contemporary to the timing of its release. This is because firestorms are triggered by lunar eclipses, so they end up with precise spark dates. And the Dragon's Tail wars are occurring during the Dragon's Tail phase of the moon's node, which is happening now in our world too. So, Dragonfire is happening right now.

But the fallout of this is that Zoë was born in the Dragonfire world in 2008. That means that she'll be turning 16 n 2024. So, the Dragon Diaries are set in the future. I had to think about that a bit, before I decided that being a teenager isn't that different in this particular phase of the future. Teenagers just have higher powered gadgets to keep in touch with their friends. 

3/ Story
This falls out of the timeline question. If The Dragon Diaries are set in 2024, then the Dragon's Tail wars are over by that time - which means that either the Pyr or the Slayers will have won and the others won't exist anymore. I decided (big surprised) that the good guys would win the DT wars.

But this also meant that there would have to be different bad guys in Zoë's world. I had a lot of fun with this. I thought it would be quite reasonable if the older Pyr got a bit complacent after eradicating the Slayers, who had been their opponents for almost a thousand years, after all. So, I created a world in which there are other shifters, and a race of humans who prey upon shifters, called Mages. The older dragons have known about these guys for years, but they think they're not worth worrying about. Uh huh.

4/ Population
In Dragonfire, the Pyr have been dispersed. Their numbers are diminished and they're keeping themselves hidden from humans at the beginning of the series. So, most of them grew up alone - unless they had brothers. Individual Pyr might have had good relationships with their dads or uncles or a grandfather, but most of them have grown up pretty much solo and have become pals with other Pyr as adults.

This changes in the Dragon Diaries. The Pyr are becoming more united and live more openly. They also are having all these successful firestorms in Dragonfire. So, Zoë isn't the only Pyr teenager - there are lots of them, and their dads are all buddies. So, they hang out together on breaks and vacations, and Zoë has lots of dragon shifting guy friends. The boys train together when they come into their powers. This lead to the idea of boot camp, a training session and competition held each spring by the older Pyr for the teenage Pyr. To be invited is both Zoë's dream - a sign of acceptance by the guys - and her worst nightmare - all gym, all the time. So, of course, I had to include it in FLYING BLIND, the first book of the series.

5/ Perspective
The last difference for me would be perspective. Zoë is the only female dragon shifter, as well as a teenage girl. As Wyvern, she sees the world a little bit differently - or maybe she sees more dimensions of it - than the adult male Pyr featured in the Dragonfire books. As a teenage girl, her focus and interests and expectations are different from those of either adult protagonist in a Dragonfire book. I really enjoyed exploring that in her books.

Phew! How's that for a few differences? There are lots of similarities, too. We have lots of dragon fights in both series, and dragon eye candy.

Do you think I've missed anything? What differences do you think there are between paranormal romance and YA romance?



  1. Hi Deb, thanks for all the valuable info on the differences between the two series and the similarities too. Another difference of course is the depth of the romance in the two series, of course you can't have big time monkey sex in a YA series so that gives this series a more innocent feel too. And for more I like the continuity between the series seeing the kids as teens when they were just buns in the oven at the end of their dad's story, and I also like that they are closer knit than the original series, I always was sad that in the first part of the series at least they all felt so isolated.

  2. Deb --

    You are just determined to make me read these YA stories, aren't you?! LOL! How could I not, while knowing that the Pyr are involved!

    BTW -- any more DragonFire stories to come? Now that they'll have new enemies? Or will they stay in the YA books?

    Terri B

  3. Thanks Deb! It was fun to think about the next generation growing up, knowing a bunch of other dragon shifters. Of course, they're terribly competitive, but that's a nice difference from the adult series.

    Hi Terri! LOL on making you read YA. There are two more Dragonfire novels on the schedule, and I hope to do 13 in total. They'll be defeating Slayers for all of that series, although I guess there could be more after that. (!) There's a note about it on my FB page.