Why Urban Fantasy?
It’s impossible to ignore the shift that has occurred in Romance Book blogland. It started off subtle. A book here and a book there. A few Romance book readers took note, but not many. Then suddenly, there was an explosion and all you saw on almost all the Romance Blogs was Urban Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Urban Fantasy. There was excitement! There was *squee-ing*. And there was even some accusations of being a dumbass if you had yet to pick up some of these titles! (I have no idea who would do something like that *bats eyelashes innocently*) I can’t say who was responsible for the initial shift, but all I have to say to that person and that blog is THANK YOU!
Since discovering the genre last year, I am really enjoying the Urban Fantasy titles I have picked up. No, I have not abandoned my love for Romance. The Urban Fantasy titles I choose have to have a romantic element to them. They either have to have some sort of romantic entanglement or at least some pretty heavy duty romantic tension. But the raw nature of the genre and the world building that takes place has kept me coming back for more.
Of course – because this is me we are talking about – as I’m reading these fantastic titles I’m thinking. And thinking leads to wondering. And wondering leads to questions. And I am always full of questions! The thing I wonder about the most is, out off all of the genres that are available out there to write, why do these über talented writers choose to pen Urban Fantasy books? Instead of just making up my own answers, which included “Because we like to torture our readers” and “Because I didn’t feel like writing about a man with pecs/boobs that were bigger than mine”, I decided to go straight to the source. I asked quite a few authors who are known for writing kick ass Urban Fantasy tales the same question and they gave me their answers (which may be a little better than mine ;))
The question I asked is:
Why did you decide to write UF over any other genre? Why not Romance or Science Fiction or…?
Deciding on an idea for a book is a like deciding to commit to a long love affair. It will last months, maybe a year or two, so I’d better be into it! So, for me, I’m like, okay, am I willing to spend month after month with this idea, and these characters? Do I want to write about them, and also think about them while exercising, driving, laying awake in bed? I need to be sure that the project will interest me on a passion level AND on the level of ideas. Are there fun scenes to look forward to? Possibilities to discover?
The other part is about fitting the idea into the right genre, which means, finding a place for it where the stuff I love about the idea will be strongest.
When I first got a notion about a psychological hit squad full of neurotic loser characters whose weaknesses become strengths, it could have been a paranormal romance, Sci Fi, futuristic, fantasy, lit fic, but Urban Fantasy felt like the best place for it.
Partly that was because urban fantasy, to me, is about an intersection—that of the fantastical intersecting with everyday life. Sometimes the two things combine smooth as buttah, and sometimes they grind and clash. And with this idea, the intersection seemed to have fun promise to write. Main character Justine is this horrible hypochondriac, and she stumbles on a fantastical (and unfortunately Faustian) solution that both helps and harms her. So, that’s a kind of intersection. And the whole disillusionists thing is an intersection—a fantastical solution for crime dropped into a world we know. And, Packard has these powers and Justine doesn’t, so it created this power imbalance you wouldn’t see in everyday life. And crumbling rust-belt Midcity intersected with people who have awesome powers.
I guess this is a really really long way of saying, Urban Fantasy was the best genre for this story idea to flourish and grow in a way that seemed fun and cool. Not all the stories I plan are urban fantasy. It all depends on what the idea needs to be its best.
Of course, I love urban fantasy, though, and I love reading it – I’m sure that’s part of it. It’s so amazingly elastic, and you can mix in so many elements: thriller, gumshoe detective tales, noir, romance, sci fi, sword and sorcery, folklore. Every book has a different combination. I think it is a vortex of creativity and possibility. A vortex, dude!
We didn’t decide to write UF. We just wrote a story we wanted to write. It happened to be UF. That’s it.
Allie’s story just seemed to fit best in an urban fantasy setting. The collision of magic and power against the modern world of technology and crime is so much fun to explore. Urban fantasy lets us hold onto the reality of our normal world while bringing to life the strange, frightening, and beautiful things that go bump in the night.
The reason I chose UF is both convoluted and pretty simple. Prior to writing THREE DAYS TO DEAD, I’d written several other novels that weren’t exactly UF, but they also weren’t really mainstream. One featured people with telepathic/telekinetic abilities, but it was more of a suspense novel than what is traditionally thought of as UF. Another was the superhero series coming out next year with Pocket. I’d queried both to agents with little success, and I had been devouring UF and paranormal romance novels during the query process.
I was trying to decide what I wanted to write next, and it occurred to me that I should try my hand at a more traditional UF story. I wanted it to be a melting pot of monsters, with a human heroine. Once Evy introduced herself and I put pen to paper (so to speak), it was easy to write, and thus THREE DAYS TO DEAD was born. Urban Fantasy is amazing, because it takes the best parts of other genres–romance, humor, horror, suspense, adventure, mystery, you name it–and combines them with fantastical elements. I hope to branch out a bit from UF in the future, but I will never lose my love for the genre.
I write urban fantasy because it’s what I like to read. It’s that simple. 😉
Let me see, why I chose UF…
I chose urban fantasy because it’s the genre I’m most interested in, and it allows me to write in the narrative I prefer — first person. I know many readers dislike a first person narrative, but as a writer I feels it allows me to experience things exactly as my character does. Oftentimes I fly by the seat of my pants when writing, so when the unexpected curve balls come, they are as much of a shock to me as they are to the character. This creates an experience that, for me, makes writing all the more fun.
To be honest, I didn’t set out to write UF–I didn’t even know it existed–I just wanted to write a detective novel with ghosts and monsters.
I like books with a little bit of everything in them — action, danger, drama, romance, and magic. Those are the kind of books that I like to read, and those are the kind of books that I like to write.
I think urban fantasy is one genre where you can have all of those elements and more, and you can play around with them any way that you want to. So when I started writing my Elemental Assassin series, I decided to make the book an urban fantasy so I could feature all those elements. Also, I knew that I wanted to write a really strong heroine and put her in a really dark, gritty world, and urban fantasy seemed like the perfect genre for me to do that and the other things that what I wanted to with the story. So urban fantasy it was.
I didn’t decide to write it. It chose me. I didn’t even know what SCENT was when I started it. I was just having fun following this mouthy female protag on her journey – a mystery? Horror? Adventure? – when a homeless guy popped up in the third chapter and declared he was a superhero. That sent my little series spinning on its head, but again, I was having so much fun that I didn’t dictate the direction of the story, I just followed the ‘What if’s’ and that’s how I ended up in Urban Fantasy.
I loved the endless possibilities of urban fantasy, really. I’ve always loved reading it; it was my favorite genre before it really had a name and I knew what it was. It just seemed like something I could really play with, really sink my teeth into and challenge myself with. I liked that I could go as far as I wanted to, as far as I could, that I didn’t feel as duty-bound to provide certain elements or stay within certain tropes or idealizations.
I used to write romance and enjoyed it a lot, too, but whatever it takes to be truly successful at genre romance just isn’t something I have; my voice and the stories I wanted to tell just never really lent themselves to one-book HEA endings and so many of the other things readers seem to like and expect from genre romance. Which is totally their right; it’s their ballgame, really. I realized that what I loved about the romances I’d been writing wasn’t the romance, it was the fights and world building and adventure, all of that. At the same time, as far as writing straight fantasy or Science Fiction or something, the thought of writing a book with no romantic spark at all, no will-they-won’t-they sort of thing, didn’t really appeal to me either. So UF let me focus on the stuff I truly felt connected to, where I can have so much fun, where I can really dig deep and feel like I’m expressing myself, and still add romantic subplots so I get to have fun with those, too.
UF felt, and still feels, like a new frontier a bit to me, where anything can happen, where we’re still defining the genre and we can still make it whatever we want it to be. That’s so exciting. Writing UF is totally the best of both worlds for me.
I want to say a super huge THANK YOU to all of the authors who took the time to answer my question. And now that is one question I no longer have to wonder about. 🙂