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Alexandra Ivy and Pat Esden on What Makes Paranormal Romance Magical

The writers open up about their favorite characters, finding inspiration, and why they love writing paranormal romance.


Throughout February, A Love So True is joining forces with Kensington Publishing to bring you original content from your favorite Kensington authors! Today, we're thrilled to present this conversation between acclaimed paranormal romance writers Alexandra Ivy and Pat Esden.

Ivy is the New York Times bestselling author of the Guardians of Eternity series, the 13th book of which, Darkness Returns, hits shelves this April. Esden writes contemporary romance that's full of passion and paranormal intrigue. His Dark Magic, the must-read first book in her new Northern Circle Coven series, is out now. Read their bewitching conversation below!  

Alexandra Ivy (AI): Hi, Pat! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me. I know that your Northern Circle Coven series is filled with magic and mystery. What lured you into writing paranormal?  

Pat Esden (PE): I’m not sure if I should blame it on an overactive imagination or the fact that I grew up in a rambling old house filled with books and strange artifacts, but I’ve always been both fascinated and terrified by the paranormal. I suppose I started writing stories with paranormal elements because it gave me the opportunity to explore what life would be like if these things from nightmares, fairytales, and myths really did exist in our everyday world. Would you like to live in the world you created for the Guardians of Eternity series? What made you return to writing in this world?

AI: Hmm...I would love to spend time with Styx and Viper and the rest of the sexy vampires, but the Guardian world is usually filled with epic dangers I'm not sure I would have the nerve to face.  

I actually stopped writing the Guardians after book 12 to pursue other genres. I loved the series, but I promised myself I would never write a book that became stale, or a repeat of the other stories. But even when I wasn't writing them, they stayed in my mind. Then, when I found myself naming my new puppy after my snarky little gargoyle, Levet, I knew it was time to go back! And I'm so, so happy to be writing them again. I remember exactly why I fell in love with paranormal.

Do you have a character in your book that has a special place in your heart?

PE: You’ve totally distracted me by mentioning your new puppy. I’m a huge dog lover. In fact, when it comes to guys, there’s nothing more enticing to me than a smart, hot guy who treats animals with kindness. This is probably one reason why the Northern Circle’s high priest, Devlin, is one of my favorite characters. 

Devlin went through a wild stage when he was younger, but he got himself under control with the help of his older sister. Not only has he become a high priest while still in his mid-twenties, he’s also used his affinity for the elements of earth and water to become a preeminent landscape architect. Devlin is brilliant, charismatic, and a powerful witch. Unfortunately, he’s so driven and intent on making up for his past that he doesn’t put time into having a personal life—with one exception, his rather demanding golden retriever, Henry. 

PE: I’m not sure if Chiron is one of your favorite characters. But after reading the blurb for Darkness Returns, I’m dying to know more about him. He sounds like a vampire who’s used to getting his own way.

AI: Aww, I adore Golden Retrievers and I especially adore men who are suckers for puppies and babies. My Guardians are alpha creatures who can kick ass when necessary, but are always nurturers at heart. And Chiron is no exception. He’s a member of the Rebels who broke away when the previous King of Vampires imprisoned their clan chief. Now he has the opportunity to locate his master and free him after five hundred years of captivity. Nothing is going to stop him…except for a beautiful, mysterious female named Lilah who is proving to be a distraction he can’t ignore.

AI: I have a unique style of writing since I started from a background in theater. I write all my books as if they’re a play, with nothing but dialogue and then I fill in the movements, and then the third layer is motivation and emotion. Do you have any distinctive writing habits?

PE: The difference between authors’ writing styles fascinates me. Mine is almost the opposite of yours and perhaps it comes from my background as a florist and antique dealer. I visualize scenes first—the lighting, the colors, sounds and smells, the characters’ postures and what they are doing. This gives me the tone, emotions and actions, then I think about the motivations. After I’m done with a first draft, I go back and expand the dialogue. As far as habits go, I burn a different scented candle for each novel. When I switch from working on one project to another, I also switch candle scents. It helps me get back into the zone faster. Currently, I’m working on book 3 in the Northern Circle Coven series and burning a wild honey nectar candle. 

PE: Speaking of focusing on the job at hand, you mentioned that a certain mysterious female was a dangerous distraction for Chiron. It makes me wonder, after helping so many characters find love, do you tend to think love is a matter of choices and timing, or destiny? 

AI: Oh, I love the idea of using scent to ground you into a scene. I’ve heard of writers who create a playlist they listen to, or certain pens they use, but a candle is inspiring. I’ll have to give that a try. 

In my books destiny plays a big role in love. My vampires are compelled to claim their mate once they find them and I have a lot of fun torturing each of them by ensuring they have to earn the love and respect of their partners. And I make matters even more difficult for Chiron, who will have to choose between loyalty to his master and the female who has stolen his heart. 

Of course, in each of my books, love and destiny wins the day. I like having each story complete with a happily ever after for my couple, although there’s a thread of a storyline that ties the series together. Do you have a theme or ongoing back story in your Northern Circle Coven series?

PE: Actually, there’s both. The series centers around a disreputable coven and the stories of three strong women who are determined to save it and themselves from past mistakes. Their backstories and romances are very different from each other’s. But the growing bond of friendship between the coven members is what makes them able to face what seems like insurmountable odds to find their individual happily ever afters and turn the coven into a force to be reckoned with. 

So are there any secrets you can share about Darkness Returns? Something juicy. Maybe about one of the secondary characters?

AI: Ah, I’m so glad you asked! My naughty miniature gargoyle, Levet, has spent the entire series badgering the males, and charming the females. He’s an honorary KISA (Knight In Shining Armor) and he’s saved the day more than once. In these books, however, he’s met his match in a new character. A female ogre named Inga. I’ve had the best time writing scenes where they butt heads…quite literally.

AI: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers if you could sit down and chat with them? 

PE: I’d love to tell readers to pay special attention to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. My novels have major twists and are interconnected in unexpected ways. The quotes offer clues about these things and expand on the characters’ pasts. I guess what I really want to tell readers is to expect the unexpected. After all, at its heart, magic and romance is what the Northern Circle Coven series is about.  

AI: Yes! That’s what makes paranormal so special. Love and magic… And also the wonderful readers who allow us to share our stories. They’re the true magic. A huge thanks to each and every one of you!