A bite of vampire romance


Lyda Morehouse leads a double life.

By day, she’s a hardworking stay-at-home mom who cares for her 4-year-old son, Mason.

After a long day wrangling preschooler energy, Morehouse turns to her other job: By night, Lyda Morehouse is Tate Hallaway, author of the best-selling Garnet Lacey paranormal romance series.

Garnet is a witch who battles Vatican witch hunters, FBI agents, frat-boy zombies and her own jealousy. She’s also in love with a vampire. The series is thus far three books: “Tall, Dark, & Dead”; “Dead Sexy”; and “Romancing the Dead,” which came out this May. Morehouse is currently finishing up a fourth book in the series.

Before the Garnet series, Morehouse wrote critically acclaimed, award-winning science-fiction novels. However, it was time for a change-and the kind of change was something of a business decision. “My sales numbers weren’t that great,” she said. “I was doing really OK for a midlist author, but they weren’t breakout numbers.” Morehouse wanted to be a best-selling author. And in speaking with friends in the field, she found that vampire romances were the way to do it.

Morehouse was already interested in vampires, but unfamiliar with romances. As she read them, Morehouse realized that the romance genre had come a long way: Today, the heroines take more active roles in their own lives (and sexual exploits), and most important, they can be funny. “If there’s a place for funny in the romance genre,” Morehouse said to herself, “I can totally do this.”

And the series is funny-Garnet is a wisecracking, sometimes-awkward toughie whose wry observations and hilarious pratfalls fill the books with laughs. But Morehouse takes the writing very seriously.

She has carefully researched original Romanian, Hungarian and Slovak vampire folklore and read old fictional depictions of vampires, such as “Dracula.” Morehouse feels that over time, vampires have become very different from what they used to be. “Nobody talks anymore about the fact that vampires are murderers-or at least parasites,” Morehouse said, “and I wanted to look at how it affects their morality.”

“I guess I’m fascinated by the darker side of people,” Morehouse said. “I really wanted a character like Garnet who chose to call a dark goddess to defend her coven, and she wound up-with some complicity at least-engaging in murder. I wanted to pair her up with a parasite of humanity. I wanted her to have some darkness to go with his darkness.”

Another aspect to paranormal romance that interests Morehouse is the way long-term relationships are depicted. Or rather, how they aren’t depicted. “One of my personal goals with these books is to make them about long-term relationships and their various hurdles,” Morehouse said. “So many romances focus on first blush and then there is some hand waving about the happily ever after. I’ve been with my partner for 22 years, and I don’t see relationships like mine depicted. There aren’t a lot of romance books about years and years later. The real happily ever after.”

It may seem odd for an ordinary mom in love with an ordinary woman to write stories featuring a witch engaged to a vampire. But in fact, Morehouse has much in common with Garnet. Like Garnet, she is a wiccan. Like Garnet, she is funny. Like Garnet, she is an amateur astrologer.

Unlike Garnet, she is a lesbian. That difference can make for some amusing mistakes. “The very first time I wrote a sex scene, everybody in my writing group was like: ‘Um, yeah, Lyda, it’s really hot but, um, there’s no sex.’ I said: ‘What are you talking about? This part goes here and that part goes there!’ And they said: ‘Um, Lyda, there was no penis.’ ‘Oh no,’ I said. ‘I forgot the penis!”

Lyda laughs. “The whole straight sex thing … yeah. Every time I write a sex scene now I have to tell myself: Don’t forget the penis. Remember, she’s interested in it!”

Morehouse somehow does all of this by writing every evening, plus extra time on the weekend when she is facing a deadline. “It’s gotten a lot better now that Mason’s in pre-school,” Morehouse said. “It’s not as exhausting as you think.” Even so, many nights she falls asleep after just after Mason does and Morehouse’s partner wakes her to start her nighttime writing shift, which lasts until midnight.

Then, she gets up at 6:30 a.m.-a mommy again.

If You Go:
Lyda Morehouse is featured as one of the finest GLBT writers in the Twin Cities. Wed., June 25, 2008, 7 p.m., Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. Free.