Musings on Discovering/Implementing Theme in The Moonlight Mistress

Someone asked me fairly recently about how I use theme.

For me, I might think about theme ahead of time, but it doesn’t really start to manifest until I’ve written a certain amount of the manuscript. Then I start realizing what my subconscious is trying to tell me (or maybe my conscious mind gives it a name and a shape). Like, for The Moonlight Mistress I knew wolves were a symbol of the wild, but linking the shapechanging idea to the human characters sank into my my mind gradually, influenced by something a transgendered woman had once told me about feeling she was a real-life shapechanger.

I decided that acting outside of conventional gender roles was also, in a way, like shapechanging, and I had plenty of characters who did that, whether by dressing and acting as the opposite gender, or performing a job usually associated with the other gender, or simply by not having a heteronormative sex life.

After I realized all that is when I start adding descriptive details throughout the manuscript to emphasize this theme and to, hopefully, bring the idea to the reader’s attention. I examined all the characters and how I’d presented them, and thought about which ones were most like shapechangers, and how, and tried to emphasize that a little, indirectly. I also tried to do a little bit of mirroring, werewolves with humans.

I don’t know if that kind of detail actually works for the reader or not, but I make the attempt. Even if it doesn’t come through, it’s fun to do! I’m also not sure if it really counts as theme if you’re doing it on purpose. But I think it should count.

I’m still thinking about this myself, so I apologize if I sound a little vague. Your input is welcome!

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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