Why I write novellas and a review of Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh

Why I write novellas

Yes, I know my last book review was also for Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series, but I’ve been wanting to write a post about why I love writing novellas so much and since Singh’s new novella collection Wild Embrace is out today (Run and go get it! It’s really good. You can read this later.) I thought I’d combine the posts.

Why? Because Singh also writes novellas for her series and she does so excellently. In the author’s note for Wild Embrace, she writes:

“…the stories in Wild Embrace provide more depth and nuance to facets of the Psy-Changeling world. I wrote each one because I felt that even though these stories take place away from the main story line, they’re important to the world—the characters all contribute to the richness of the Psy-Changeling tapestry, even if we only glimpse them in passing in the full-length books.”

And I think that is one of the same reasons that I love writing novellas, particularly in the Elemental World. When you have a big fictional world that has stretched across many books and encompassed many stories, inevitably you have characters that you love who just don’t fit into the main storyline in a big way. They’re not small characters, but maybe they don’t have a big emotional journey to tell. Maybe they’re not part of the main conflict. Maybe their story is part of history when the “big story” is moving forward.

There are so many reasons why you might not be able to fit a character’s story into the main series storyline, but that doesn’t mean you love them any less. The first novella I wrote in the Elemental series was Waterlocked with Terry and Gemma. I loved them both! Terry with his swagger and Gemma with her prickly loyalty. Love love love.

BUT their story was a personal one. That couple falling in love wasn’t integral to the main plot arc of the series. So I could have wrangled a bigger story and somehow stuffed their love story into it sideways OR I could just write a novella about how they really fell in love. So that’s what I did. And I loved the result so much I decided to write other novellas, too. Tenzin’s history. Tom and Josie’s love story.

And there are other characters (coughOlegcough) who I might write a novella for because they’re not ready for a love story (yet!) but they play an important part in the “big story” in other ways. So that’s a possibility too.

A full novel happens (for me) when a love story and a plot collide in ways that change the world. That’s why my books so often walk that line between paranormal suspense and paranormal romance. The suspense/action/mystery part can’t happen without the romance. The romance can’t happen without the suspense. They have to go together to make a satisfying book for me. And if they don’t, sometimes I’m going to write the story anyway, but it’ll be in a novella form.

Some readers love them. Some hate them. But that’s the way I’ve built the world, so that’s what I’m sticking with. A good novella (for me) is fun to write and very fun to read.

OKAY, PROPER REVIEW TIME! (with Kermit gifs)

Wild Embrace is a great collection of novellas for several reasons, but the top three are:

  1. It’s very accessible to new readers. If you’re not sure about the series, three of the four of these stories could be short entry points for you to check it out. The fourth (Dorian) would probably be confusing for anyone who hadn’t read Dorian’s full book.
  2. It’s very satisfying for long-time readers. Who else has been wondering about Stefan since Judd and Brenna’s book? Anyone else besides me??? Because seriously, so many hints and yet no Stefan scenes. NOT EVEN ONE. Just rumors and mentions and I had questions. SO MANY QUESTIONS. And then finally we have Echo of Silence and ahhhhhhhh. Finally.
  3. They’re really, really good! And all new. Not a single one of these has been previously published. They’re four brand new delicious stories that I promise you’ll be very happy to sink your teeth into.

Echo of Silence

The greatly anticipated Stefan story!!! Because I was so intrigued by the character, I was a little worried that the heroine might be overshadowed, but I should know better. Tazia more than holds her own. One of the things I like most about Singh’s writing is how well she writes quiet characters. Stefan and Tazia are both quiet, which must have presented some unique challenges, but their love story is handled with so much grace that I felt warm down to my toes. It’s a delicate, but very powerful, love story and I know readers (especially Arrow fans) will love it. I really hope we get to see them again at some point, because this story takes place pretty early in the series and I’d love an update on where they are as a couple. (Pretty please, Ms. Singh?)

Dorian

Dorian is the one story in this collection that I think really needs to be read after his book, Hostage to Pleasure. (Since it’s one of my favorite in the series, I’d recommend it anyway.) To be honest, I thought this might be the novella in the collection that I’d enjoy the least (because it was going back over sort of familiar territory) but I was wrong. It’s not a romance, per se, but it is a love story. It’s a love story about family and pack (Dorian is a leopard changeling) and how bonds of family and friendship can hold you and challenge you at the same time. It really fleshes out the layers of the pack relationships in DarkRiver.

Partners in Persuasion

From a powerful telepath to a shy submissive changeling, every single one of Nalini Singh’s characters exhibits influence in a unique way. In a genre that’s often defined by power dynamics, Singh exhibits a greater range than most. It’s one the things I love about her writing. She turns conventional perceptions of power on their head and makes you examine your own preconceived notions of who holds the reins. Is it the one who roars or the one who nurtures? Can it be both?

I think Partners in Persuasion is the first time we’ve seen a pairing between a dominant female and a submissive male in the series. (For readers unfamiliar with the series, we’re talking about pack hierarchy, not... other things.) We’ve had plenty of dominant females (Mercy, Indigo, Sienna) but they tend to pair with heroes who are also high on the dominance scale. Seeing a very dominant heroine (Desiree) with a submissive hero (oh man, did I love Felix) showed how beautifully Singh can write characters who might be overlooked or undervalued in less-skilled hands. Again, it’s a delicate dance, but one that really pays off in this story. It’s sweet and hot and perfect. Very, very satisfying and again, another one of those stories that fleshes out subtle layers in the series.

Flirtation of Fate

Kenji and Garnet (Jem!) are two more of those recurring characters who show up, steal a scene, then pop back out of sight again. Kenji with his constantly changing hair had to be a favorite for me, and I loved seeing Garnet in her element. I didn’t have a really good sense of their roles in the pack before this, to be honest, but you really get the scope of SnowDancer in this story. It’s a tightly woven mystery with great suspense and a very satisfying resolution.

While Kenji and Garnet do have a “just talk about it already!” love story, it makes sense when you understand the context. And for those readers who say that romantic conflict like this is manufactured… It’s not. People really do hide things and refuse to talk about things, sometimes for YEARS. And if it happens in life, it’ll happen in fiction.

This is an excellent love story (HOT! The tension between them is so delicious!) and a very satisfying mystery, all done in a very small space. On a pure writing level, this novella got the highest marks from me, though I loved every single one of these stories for different reasons.

Wild Embrace is an exceptional collection. Every story is different. It covers a range of romantic and personal dynamics while fleshing out an extraordinarily well-drawn universe in the Psy-Changeling series as a whole. Highly recommended for fans of the series and those who might have been dancing around diving into the Psy-Changling world. Give this a look. It’ll give you a great introduction to the depth and diversity in the series.

Posted in Writing.

7 Comments

  1. I love the way you combine suspense and romance in such a complementary fashion.
    And I love Kermit.
    What else could anyone ask for?

  2. I enjoy your novellas for the same reason you write them. There are characters that I want to know more about and the novellas give me that background and/or side story. Thank you.

  3. I love your novellas, it’s like a way to keep in touch with a world I love. You know… I always thought there could be a novella about Gavin and Deidre (I just re-read A Fall of Water for the 4th time and their interaction just makes me want more) anyway… hint hint… nudge nudge… wink wink ….

  4. Sorry, I really hate novellas. Actually the stories are great. I resent being asked to pay for a book and then finding out it is a short story. This happens more and more often in the world of “e-literature”. If you want to write short stories about characters, why not put them all together and sell them as a complete book? That is what renowned author Mercedes Lackey did. I loved her collections of short stories. In addition, some of those were edited by her-yes, she wrote some too-and drew in other authors. Many of them are now well established in the science fiction and fantasy worlds. I still want to say, thank you for the Elemental series. I love them from first to last (although the first series remains my favorite). And please understand that putting your work into a comparison with Lackey’s is a huge compliment!

    • Well, since all of my novellas are labeled as such and priced lower than my novels, I don’t quite understand the complaint, Patti. If there are authors out there advertising novellas as novels I’d be angry too. I haven’t run into that personally. (And if you look on the sales page, the approximate page count is on there based on file size, which is something I always check, too.) You’re certainly not required to like novellas! Lots of people don’t. But I do think it’s unfair to complain about price on them if they’re edited and have original cover art. Much of the cost of production goes into editing and cover art, and the cover for a novella costs as much as the cover for a novel.

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