I have three main things I like to write about when it comes to my novels: Witches, Fallen Angels and Mermaids. For a short time a couple of years ago I went back to university to study a Masters in Writing (I never finished the course due to health issues) and I chose to base my research around a sub-genre of Urban Fantasy that I refer to as Angel-lit. These books, for those of you not familiar with them, revolve around characters that are Angels, Demons or Nephilim and deal heavily with the mythology of a War in Heaven. There is a distinct pattern in this genre of the female protagonist falling for a Fallen Angel. Often these women are Human, Nephilim (half Angel-half Human) or they are an Angel with no memory of their origins. All the stories I have come across have been set in Western society, usually modern-day America or Australia, aka perceived Christian Societies. Angels – especially Fallen Angels – have quickly become one of the most popular supernatural beings of the Urban Fantasy genre.
I think that this emergence in literature is fascinating. The values of modern society differ so vastly from the traditional values of the religious lore these stories draw from and represent. Angels are primarily found in Christian, Judaic, and Islamic literature, and most of what we believe about Angels comes from these texts. It is also interesting considering that there is a re-emergence of pagan religions in mainstream society.
I’m addicted to these books and, like I said, fascinated by them. They’ve been steadily gaining popularity for the last ten or so years and are competing with Vampire-lit books for shelf space in stores. The following list is by no means exhaustive. There’s a lot of books I haven’t read yet and I’d bore you if I listed all the books I’ve read here; although I recommend Erin McCarthy’s The Coming Dark and Lynnie Purcell’s The Watchers (I’m yet to finish that series but looking forward to reading the next book; The Seekers). Some of the better-known titles include the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, the Meridian series by Amber Kizer, Rebecca Lim’s Mercy series (which has to be my favourite if I’m honest) and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I haven’t read The Mortal Instruments yet (it’s on my “to read” list) but I’ve watched some of the series on Netflix and rather enjoyed it.
I was doing a research Masters studying this genre basically because I wanted to write an Angel-lit novel and I wanted to have a Masters, so I thought “two birds, one stone”. My thesis would have been two parts; a novella in the genre and an exegesis discussing the novella and the genre at large. There were so many questions I had as I started to research the genre that I never got to satisfactorily answer; and probably never could. I have my own hypothesis to their answers but without becoming a trained psychologist I doubt I would be able to definitively give an answer either way.
My first question was “Why is Angel-lit so popular?”. It seems to me that these books are targeted to a predominately white, female, western audience. This audience is generally coming from a Judeo-Christian background yet the values that Christians hold now differ from the values that they held when these religions were formed; and these societies are more atheist than religious these days. Church values have less impact on society now. Couples can divorce now, and finally gay marriage has been legalised (YAY!). A decent amount of the population drink, get tattoos, don’t go to church, or “live in sin” with their partners etc. Yet these books deal deeply with scripture, sin and the supernatural. Why are we so drawn to religious myth? Further, why is this relevant to the current patriarchal values in a society undergoing social reform of religious values?” My conclusion is that these books are satisfying a deep psychological need that I can’t identify. As the Hero’s Journey in literature helps us deal with the obstacles in our own life, what is there in religion that satisfied a need in our ancestor’s psyche that we are now looking to literature to find?
I started my research for this topic in my under-graduate degree and noticed that most of these female protagonists can be viewed through the archetypal characters of Lilith and Eve. I’ll go into this in more detail in another post, but these two archetypal women are much maligned in the texts that they come from. So why are they so influential within the genre? This genre is predominately read by young adults, so what are young women learning, or being told, by reading these novels? I think that you can look at these two archetypes of Lilith and Eve as a representation of the suppression of women’s liberty through religion, and the suppression of Goddess Worship and Pagan religions. Are these stories an expression of the Collective Unconcious’ need for the Goddess to claw her way back into our psyche? Goddess Worship is slowly becoming mainstream once again which would indicate that society needs a strong feminine spiritual presence, not just a masculine one. Many pagan paths focus on the Goddess, if not on her own then in a balanced relationship with The God.
The next big question I had was, what values do these stories promote and how do these values affect women in our society in terms of the subliminal messaging these texts create? I found a lot of allegorical messages of our society’s history, as well as the conflict our society is currently undergoing due to the changing position of moral standards in western society. Lilith and Eve were, in their scriptures, the original women who took charge of their lives and explored the freedom they had. It makes sense therefore that these heroines, who are navigating their modern worlds through this dogmatic background, resemble so much these two archetypal matriarchs. When I read I always look at the subliminal messages. I want young men and women to learn to treat each other with respect, and to know that with hard work they can achieve their dreams. I hate that a lot of books romanticise toxic relationships with lovers and gloss over consequences for bad behaviours. I want my nieces, and one day children, to recognise when someone is mistreating them and not be fooled into thinking it is an expression of love.
In my own creative writing on Fallen Angels I explore the nature of the Goddess as an archetype and her place within the world. Throughout history religion, especially Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, have a reputation, and displayed agenda, to subjugate the Goddess and strong women who do not cow to their dogma. History has women burning at the stake as witches or heretics, and pagan Goddesses were translated into Demons or Saints depending on how the church viewed their characters. I’m currently drafting a novel in this genre whilst also working on Samhain Sorcery and my blog. I’ve almost finished the drafts of both novels and I’m really excited about putting them out for publication over the next twelvish months.