Ever wonder where paranormal romance authors get their inspiration? Surely we make it all up, right? Tales of strange creatures and humans with extraordinary powers can’t have a basis in reality. But the weirdest part of paranormal romance (and similar genres, like fantasy) is that we authors often take our inspiration from truth. Consider my Reborn series.
Anyone who knows me understands I nurse an addiction to anything ancient Egyptian. I own two pairs of Egypt-themed earrings, ankhs and scarabs. The ankh was the ancient Egyptian cross, a symbol of life, and scarabs are dung beetles, a powerful symbol of rebirth. Mummies often had scarab amulets hidden in their wrappings, and ankhs would appear on their coffins or tomb decorations. The heretic pharaoh Akhenaten had his name scratched off monuments after his death, because he dared to worship one god (or one aspect of the gods, if you prefer) instead of the entire pantheon known throughout Egypt’s ancient history. To the Egyptians, erasing a person’s name condemned his soul. They also believed the soul needed a mummy because it would walk the living world in the daytime, returning to its mummified remains at sunset, for the arduous nightly journey through the underworld.
These beliefs formed the basis of my Reborn stories. What happens if a condemned soul is reborn into the modern world? Can she eat, drink, sleep, and make love just like anyone else? Could you understand modern speech? The reborn soul in my stories is resurrected with no memory of her past life or her name, complicating her path to redemption.
In the Reborn series, scientific fact also plays into the storyline. A few years ago, I read an article that set me on a research journey culminating in the story Reborn to Die. The article talked about microscopic creatures called tardigrades, nicknamed water bears. These little guys can survive dehydration for decades—or longer. Those last two words are important. Scientists don’t know for sure how long water bears can survive in a kind of suspended animation, via dehydration, but they do know it runs to at least decades. At the first sign of water, they will rehydrate and spring back to life in a matter of hours.
That’s right. Water bears can be dehydrated and live again. And what is mummification?
The Egyptians removed liquid from the body by piling natron salt on top of it for seventy days. The internal organs were removed and mummified separately—except the brain, which was liquefied using a special tool they shoved up the nostril, smashing through bone to get to the brain. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Mummy (1999 version), then you heard Evy, played by Rachel Weisz, describe this process in a rather offhanded, but amusing, manner. She employed the phrase “scramble things about a bit.” In the Reborn series, I deal with the issue of internal organs and the brain, because hey, I don’t want my readers to experience a “gimme a break” moment when they realize my ex-mummy girl couldn’t be alive without a brain!
Facts often serve as springboards for exciting fiction. Mythology, while not really fact, provides a historical background for the beliefs and experiences of fictional characters. A writer’s job is to weave together seemingly disparate bits of information to construct a rich tapestry of story, character, and truth. So the next time you read a paranormal romance and think it must be completely made up, think again. The author may not have dreamed it all up out of nothing. Real life may have inspired parts of the story that seem like pure fantasy.
Enjoy this short excerpt from Reborn to Avenge:
She pulled further away, hugging herself. “Let’s go for a walk.”
“As long as we stay on the grounds, yes.”
She rose, offering him her hand. He clasped it firmly and stood, then trailed her out the door.
As he crossed the threshold, his gaze flicked back to the window. The sun shining in cast bar-like shadows on the backside of the curtains. Shadows cast by metal bars. This was a prison, and one way or another, he would break her out of it.
Dawn ushered him out of the house, via the back door, and across a lush lawn molded by irrigation and fertilizer. The green stretched out from the house, an expanse of several acres, a stark contrast to the reddish-tinged brown of the desert beyond. To the west, the skyscraper hotels and casinos of Las Vegas protruded from the horizon.
They halted under a tall palm tree. A wind swayed the fronds overhead, slashing shadows and light across them in equal measure. Dawn grasped both his hands, suspended between their bodies. Her lips were compressed, her eyes wide. The wind whipped her auburn hair over her face, but she made no move to brush it away.
He tried to shake on hand free of hers, to clear the stray locks from her eyes, but she held fast to him.
“Jake…” She trailed off, as if words no longer sufficed. Maybe they didn’t.
Jake threw a wary glance back at the house, its hulking form a blister on the verdant environ. “He’s probably still listening. Parabolic mics or something similar.”
“Yeah.” Her lovely mouth twitched into a faint smirk. “Parabolic mics? And you claim you’re not a spy.”
“I’m not.” If only he were, he’d whisk her away from here James Bond style. No such luck. He tugged her hands to draw her close, and bent to whisper in her ear. “I have an idea. Someone to talk to.”
“A possible ally?” Her hushed tone matched his.
“Yes.” With a painful effort, he resisted the urge to fold her in his arms. “But finding this person might take considerable time, and I’ll have to travel far from here.”
“Go. I told you, don’t let me hold you back.”
He pulled his head back to stare at her. “You never hold me back.”
She freed him, in body, mind, and soul. He’d never known—never imagined he could know—the kind of liberation she granted him.
“You know what I mean, Jake.” Her shoulders hunched, she scrutinized his neck. “Don’t stay here just to be with me. However long it takes, however far you have to go, find a way to end this.”
“I will.” His chest tightened, and a lead weight solidified in his gut. “I have to go now.”
She nodded, her eyes glistening.
He hauled her into his arms for a slow, sweet kiss, rife with longing and anguish. Her soft, yielding lips begged him for more, and he nearly caved in to the need to brand her, to cement this connection, but he peeled himself away from her, inch by heart-rending inch. Tears trickled down her face. He swiped them away with his thumbs, pecked her forehead, whirled away, and stalked back to his car.
Damn Vahl. Jake despised the man, yet he could not wish Vahl had never existed, because then Dawn might never have been resurrected, and his life would still be a bottomless, empty pit echoing with yearnings he couldn’t fathom. Dawn showed him the truth, with her sarcasm and suspicion that transmuted into an unwavering trust he struggled, but failed, to comprehend. His incandescent princess.
His soul mate, bound to him by a bond even time could not sever.
As he slammed the car door and cranked the key in the ignition, an epiphany struck, startling him with its intensity. He believed. The timeless connection, the passion that outlasted their physical bodies and endured in some ethereal plane where nothing touched it. When Dawn told him she remembered him from her first life, the one in ancient Egypt, he hadn’t really believed it. But now, faced with the agonizing prospect of losing her to whatever Vahl had planned, the reality of their bond crashed through him.
He believed in it. He lived it.
And whatever he must do, he would save her this time.
Anna Durand is an award-winning writer, a freelance librarian, and an audiobook addict. She specializes in sexy romances, both paranormal and contemporary, featuring spunky heroines and hunky heroes. In her previous life as a librarian, she haunted the stacks of public libraries but never met any hot vampires hunting for magical books.