Aug 27 2013 10:00am

Author Kerrelyn Sparks on What Not to Were

The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrelyn SparksToday H&H is joined by author Kerrelyn Sparks, whose The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo has just been released. It's the fourteenth book in the Love at Stake series, and alternates humor with smoking hot men (and sex scenes!). Kerrelyn is here to talk about just what species should not be were-d:

Many of us romance readers love paranormal romance because of the supernatural heroes who leap off the pages and burrow their way straight into our hearts. These guys are powerful, strong, and sexy in an extreme way. The variety of paranormal heroes is also extreme. Vampires, wizards, elves, fae, angels, demons—we love them all. And then, there are the shifters. Werewolves have traditionally been the most popular, but romance authors actually have the entire animal kingdom to choose from. Does that mean any animal can become a romantic hero? Will a reader swoon in delight over a gorgeous man who shifts into a…baboon?

I think not. Some animals are simply better suited for heroic status. To decide what not to were, we should make a list of qualities we want our romantic hero to possess. Then we can match those qualities to an appropriate animal for the best fit.

Take a look at some romance book covers, and you’ll find your first clue for what our hero needs. He must be gorgeous (and have difficulty keeping on a shirt). That works perfectly for a shifter since he may need to strip before shifting. So with that gorgeous face in mind, we can automatically disqualify any animal with a huge nose, snout, or trunk (proboscis monkeys, anteaters, and elephants come to mind). And even though we all love a horny hero, I’m not keen on a hero rhinoceros.

A sexy mouth is also a requirement for our hero. No one wants to kiss a duck-billed platypus! He should have a sexy smile, too, which means good teeth. No llamas or beavers, please. And stay away from those were-camels! They spit!

Our hero must have a fantastic body. Long legs. Muscular chest. It’s simply hard to imagine a mouse pulling this off. And that baboon with his flaming-red rump? No thanks. In fact, any creature that gives us the creeps will not make good hero material. For me that eliminates snakes, spiders, and insects. My dream hero can whisper in my ear, but if he buzzes like a mosquito, I’m swatting him down!

Our hero should also have skin that we would love to touch, so no alligators, please. Nothing slimy, either, so forget those were-newts and salamanders!

Some experts say that romance begins with our noses, so our hero needs to smell good. Were-skunks need not apply. Romance also means being attentive in the bedroom. If he literally becomes a beached whale, then forget it!

Our strong, sexy hero should move in a way that’s smooth and graceful. No waddling like a duck, please. Or flopping about like a giant walrus. This requirement automatically puts the hunting animals at an advantage. They know how to stalk their prey (or their mate). They can be quiet and stealthy, slow and patient, but also quick and deadly. Perfect for our hero! No wonder wolves, tigers, lions, and panthers all make good examples of what to were.

A good hero should be powerful. In the animal kingdom that translates to being at the top of the food chain. Once again, the hunters have the advantage. Who wants a were-deer hero who scampers away at the mere flash of a car’s headlights? How could a scared little rabbit protect the heroine? We need a hero who is fierce and powerful enough to keep his loved ones safe. Wolves, lions, and bears will do nicely!

So no badgers?And then, there’s the personality of our shifter hero. He should be active and industrious, the type of guy who gets the job done. That leaves out were-sloths and slugs. He should have a personality that’s charming enough that the reader will fall in love with him. No cranky badgers, please!

We also want our hero to be smart. Intelligence is sexy! Animals who are easily trapped will not do. So once again we are left with the hunting animals. They know how to strategize and can even work as a team.

Lastly, our hero must have an honorable character. That leaves out any animal with a perceived negative image, like a rat or weasel. Hunting animals can be seen as ruthless, but their image is generally positive because or their ability to protect their young and provide food for them. According to psychologists, being able to provide for children is an important factor for how a woman is attracted to a male.

When you take in consideration all the qualities we want for our hero (handsome, graceful, powerful, protective, charming, intelligent, and honorable), the same group of animals comes out ahead. The top of the food chain, the hunters. So next time you ask yourself what to were, remember the Dorothy chant, “lions, tigers, and bears, oh my,” and you’ll be off to a great start!

Badger image courtesy of USFWS Mountain Prairie via Flickr.

A former tap dancer and high school French teacher, New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks has always searched for creative ways to express herself. A prolific reader since childhood, she discovered that writing her own stories provided the ideal way to combine her loves of comedy, language, and history. And what a relief that the voices in her head have led to a paycheck instead of a padded room! A native Texan, Kerrelyn lives with her husband in the Greater Houston area.

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Nikki H
2. Nikki H
The only one I could think of right off hand was a snake. It never occurred to me that an elephant, rhino, ... Ugh. Just, no.
Thanks for ruling out all those others.
Lege Artis
3. LegeArtis
Yes, there is one character in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changelling series who is a wererat. As much as he's interesting, I just don't see how can she can make hero material of him...I mean he lives in sewer..I keep imagening Splinter from TMNT.
The most unusual shifter hero I read was cockatrice (that's half dragon-half rooster mythical beast).
I love felines...It's all that purring. :)
4. wsl0612
Hey I love Pepe LePew! He's the most romantic hero of all time :-)

Also I think foxes are extremely cute and there should be more werefox heroes. After all this is fantasy, so why not?
5. Kareni
LegeArtis, Thea Harrison has shape shifting gryphons (lion-eagle blend) in her Elder Races novels.

I recall that Laurell K. Hamilton had were-rats and were-swans in some of her books.
Nikki H
6. Tammye
Evea Langlais' series FUC(Furry United Coalition) books have a were crocodile, a were bunny and were-swans. Very Funny and Sexy series.
Nikki H
7. Patricia Lynne
I've seen a few books that have had some odd weres. I'd like to see more were- foxes.
Nikki H
8. Fluser
I am pretty sure I read about a snake shifter and a crododile shifter. Baboon I can picture as well, as they are very vicious and dangerous animals (at least the ones in the wild). Someone mentioned an owl to me in connection to shifting. Sherrilyn Kenyon has one of her heros shift into a wild cat (not lion or tiger or any of the other big cats), just a tad bigger than the normal sized house cat and his love interest and future significant other is allergic to cats, lol.
Nikki H
9. robinsid
Shelley Laurenston's next shifter book has a character who is a honey badger shifter. I have to admit, I don't even know what a honey badger looks like, but I always look forward to her shifter books, so I'll probably look it up before I read it so I can understand the jokes she always adds to her characterizations. I love her lions, tigers and bears! (And wolves)
Nikki H
11. kri
Nalini Singh has both predator and prey animals as "weres", but the strong (and mostly moral) were predators look after the safety of the prey weres. And, the wererats in the Anita Blake series can be gorgeous in their human form. Don't forget the werehyenas in Shelley Laurenston's books. (Can't wait for the honey badger). I like the idea of other types of animals, not just the ones humans seem to be fond of, being worthy "weres".
Nikki H
12. SamK161
Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series, has rats, swans & snakes as weres. Both rats & swans have been bodyguards and/or sexual food for her & Jean-Claude
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