What is Urban Fantasy?
I remember reading my first vampire urban fantasy, Blood Price by Tanya Huff. The heroine homicide detective Vicky was interesting, but I was fascinated by the vampire, Henry Fitzroy. I'd always read and loved fantasy stories, but other than Dracula, this was my first vampire fiction. I was hooked.
As I continued to read in the genre and saw the variety of supernatural beings and storylines, it finally dawned on me that part of the lure of these books was the setting. The authors had superimposed their incredible characters on a universe I knew and understood. A urban city, where supernatural beings interact in a human world, is at the heart of urban fantasy, even although much of the action occurs in areas most of us rarely see, the back alleys, underground caverns, and cemeteries..
Is it that simple? Does any story with paranormal creatures—like werewolves or dragons or vampires—set in a city, qualify as an urban fantasy. Not necessarily. Beyond the required urban setting, the fantasy elements must dominant the other storylines (typically romance and mystery). The deciding criteria are (1) the extent of interaction with the human world, and (2) whether the paranormal is essential to the main plot. In other words, does the Otherworldliness impact the human environment for good or bad, and does it influence the story's outcome in a significant way? If not, it may be one of the popular related genres of paranormal romance, supernatural mystery or horror, but it isn't urban fantasy.
Below is my list of examples of true urban fantasy novels. They're also some of my favorite books and authors.
- Tanya Huff's Blood Books, with Vicky Nelson and Henry Fitzroy, set in Toronto;
- Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, set in St. Louis. The first one, Guilty Pleasures, IMHO is a classic;
- Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, set in Chicago;
- Kim Harrison's Hollows series with Rachel Morgan, set in Cincinnati;
- Patricia Briggs' Mercy series, set in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State.
- Clare Cassandra's Mortal Instruments series, set in New York City.
There is also a wonderful subset of light-hearted urban fantasies represented by writers like Mary Janice Davidson and HP Mallory.
Now, it's your turn. Who are your favorite urban fantasy authors? Did I miss someone? Are there newcomers I should be reading?
Revised and reprinted from an Ally Shields 2014 copyright.
Happy Wednesday, booklovers!
We're joined for book talk today by Paty Jager, who writes the Shandra Higheagle mystery series. This is Paty's second visit. If you missed the first, you can still read it here.
Welcome, Paty! What may I get you to drink?
PATY: I love the smell of coffee but have never acquired a taste for it. My pick-me-up first thing in the morning is hot chocolate. That is followed by either hot or cold green tea the rest of the day.
Ally: Since it's still early, I'll get that hot chocolate for you while you tell readers something about yourself.
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist for the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist for the RONE Award in the mystery category. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”
All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
Something she doen't usually include in her bio: "I have been thrown or fallen off a horse five times in my life, suffered a dislocated collar bone and rib and a broken finger, but I still can’t wait to climb into a saddle and ride."
blog / website / Facebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter
Ally: When you decided to use a Native American protagonist, what kind of research did you have to do to make her personality real?
PATY: I made Shandra Higheagle, my Native American protagonist, half Native American so I could have her growing up in a white culture as a white to make it easier for me to write her and discover more about her heritage right along with her. I also interviewed people who were half Native American to discover their feelings and how they were treated in a modern society. It was and wasn’t shocking to discover that these people felt they didn’t belong to either heritage because of the way they were treated. Shandra was kept from her Nez Perce family by her mother and step-father. She is just getting to know them and discover more about her roots and the “visions” her grandmother has passed down to her as the series begins. I also have a writer, who lives on the reservation where I’ve set Shandra’s family, who helps me get the secondary characters thoughts, emotions, and actions realistic.
Ally: Under what conditions do you do your best writing? Do you require absolute quiet? Night? Day?
PATY: I prefer to write during the day, preferably first thing in the morning for 3-4 hours. I’m too tired at night. When I’m writing my first draft, I like music. For the Shandra Higheagle books I listen to Native American music and jazz. No lyrics, or at least not ones I understand. ;)
Ally: What is your least favorite part of writing? How do you get yourself through it?
PATY: There was a time I despised revisions. But I’ve learned it makes a better book and that makes me look forward to perfecting the story. Now, my least favorite part of writing is the promotion. I try to do things that I like. One of those is blogging. The other is Facebook parties.
Ally: Tell us about your next writing project.
My next writing project is the 6th Shandra Higheagle book. It’s titled, Reservation Revenge and takes place on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State. My writer friend took me on a tour of the reservation, filled me in on things, and I took off with a story line about Shandra’s cousin being accused of murdering another young man who accosted the young woman Shandra’s cousin likes. It will be filled with family, misdirection, and revenge.
Ally: Ready for a few quick answer questions?
a. top on your TBR pile: Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles
b. current favorite song: Something’s Got a Hold on Me by Hannah Huston
c. favorite childhood book: Lois Lenski’s Strawberry Girl
d. a vegetable you love: carrots
e. do you have brothers or sisters? Two brothers
Ally: It's been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your writing. I hope you'll let us know when the next one is released! In the meantime, let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, they need to read Killer Descent...
Thanks for stopping! Have a great week.
Good Morning, Booklovers!
Welcome to this week's Coffee Chat. Thriller writer Marilynn Larew is visiting today with her book, The Spider Catchers.
Thanks for joining us, Marilynn. What may I get you to drink?
MARILYNN: Unfortunately, caffeine makes me dizzy, so I drink decaffeinated diet Pepsi, but not when I’m writing.
Ally: Not a problem. While I grab your soda from the fridge, please introduce yourself to readers.
Marilynn Larew is a thriller writer who is trained as a historian and uses that training to shape her writing. She wrote her dissertation on the Cincinnati bank that caused the panic of 1819 and retains a strong interest in the way money behaves. Her love of architecture comes from a stint at the Historic Site Survey in the Interior Department, and her interest in terrorism during the days of the Red Brigades led her to teach a course in the history of terrorism. In her Lee Carruthers series, Lee is a CIA specialist in money-laundering who gets involved in cases about terrorist funding in Morocco and the illegal arms trade in Dubai. Marilynn watches the headlines for new plot lines and new places to take her heroine.
Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "My most unusual nonfiction publication was an article about Vietnamese military history in 300 BC."
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/marilynn.larew
Newsletter signup: http://marilynnlarew.com/newsletter/
Ally: Let's set the scene for our chat by reminding readers of your genre and giving the heat rating of any romantic scenes.
MARILYNN: I write thrillers, and my romantic scenes are very mild. I find it difficult to write about sex, so I don’t.
Ally: What is the basic theme(s) of your stories? Why did you choose to write about it?
MARILYNN: I’ve always been interested in how money works, and I became interested in terrorists during the days of the Red Brigades, so I taught a course in the history of terrorism. I like to take my plots from the headlines and locate them in foreign places. I made Lee Carruthers a specialist in money-laundering and terrorist funding. In The Spider Catchers, I added human trafficking to the mix. I located the book in Morocco, because there was a rapidly growing Al Qaeda franchise there. Dead in Dubai is about the illegal arms trade. Many of the dealers hang out there. All of these topics are frequently in the headlines and most are ones I once taught, combined, of course, with some deep research. The Internet is such a marvelous invention. In the old days, I never could have done the kind of research I’ve done for my books without renting a room in a library. Now I can do that work in the comfort of my own office.
Ally: What inspired you to write fiction, especially for publication?
MARILYNN: I’ve always loved to read, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to decide to write. I’ve written all my fiction with a view to publication. I wrote my first short story when my first child was a baby and my first novel when I finished my PhD. During my teaching career, I had very little time for fiction writing. It was only after I retired that I began the serious work of learning how to write a novel. That first novel, The Spider Catchers, went through a great many versions before I settled on the one I finally published.
Ally: What are the easiest and hardest parts of the writing process?
MARILYNN: For me the easiest part of writing is imagining the beginning and the end. The whole story is there. The hardest part is that middle. They call it a “sagging middle,” and for me the middle often does sag. Does it want a new character, a red herring, a new plot line? All of the above? Sometimes I have to take my mind off that middle and look at another project for a while before I can go back to the middle with a fresh mind and fresh eye, and then I can usually find a solution.
Ally: What's your next writing project?
MARILYNN: Charlie Magee is about a Baltimore PI working two cases that involve problems left over from the Vietnamese war.
Ally: Try your hand at these short answer questions:
- a. a favorite author: Barbara Cleverley and her Joe Sandilands series
- b. do you sing in the shower? no
- c. last movie that made you laugh out loud: sorry, I’m not a movie fan.
- d. your favorite pet's breed and name: My cat, Hun, was a brindle - I guess an American short hair. His name reflected his youthful desire to slice and dice the house.
- e. someplace you'd love to visit: I’d love to go back to Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Istanbul. I’ve never seen everything I want to in any of those places. A new place? Singapore. If I could only stand the climate.
Ally: A pleasure to chat with you, Marilynn. Before you get back to that work in progress, I'd love to hear more about The Spider Catchers.
Thanks for spending time with us. Come back soon!
Happy Wednesday, Booklovers!
This week's guest on the Coffee Chat is PJ MacLayne with her Free Wolves series.
Welcome, PJ. What can I get you to drink?
PJ: I don’t drink coffee. I even gave up drinking soda on a regular basis a few years back. I drink orange juice in the morning, and water the rest of the day. I prefer my water to be ice-cold.
Ally: While I pour your iced water and my hot coffee, please introduce yourself.
Author Bio: Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she's not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Free Wolves’ stories, she is also the author of the Oak Grove series.
Something I don’t normally include in my bio: I’m one of nine children. My parents had five boys and four girls spread out over eighteen years. No twins. But two of my brothers share the same birthday—thirteen years apart!
P.J. MacLayne can be reached on:
Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/+PJMacLayne/posts
Ally: What is your genre, your romance rating, and the reason you chose this genre?
PJ: I write in two different genres, but Wolves’ Knight is urban fantasy/paranormal romance. (My other series is mysteries.) Heat level is a three— definitely not sweet, but not blazing hot either.
I didn’t choose this genre- it chose me. Seriously, I didn’t plan to write paranormal. But I had a dream that led to the first book of the series, and I planned to stop there. But Tasha, one of the minor characters from Wolves’ Pawn demanded I write her story, and Wolves’ Knight is the result.
Ally: How did you go about creating your main character? Did she appear full blow or only as a name? How did you choose her personality? Did that change as you went along?
PJ: So I knew some basic stuff about her before I started. But Tasha had grown in the space of time between the end of Wolves’ Pawn and the beginning of Wolves’ Knight, so I had some catching up to do in exploring her personality. And frankly, she surprised me, which is a good thing. She’s a lot stronger and more outspoken than I realized when I started writing her story.
Ally: What's the best marketing advice you've been given?
PJ: Marketing is hard. I still don’t have a handle on it. The best advice I’ve been given? Keep at it. And darn it, write the next book.
Ally: What's your next writing project?
PJ: I’m currently writing the third book in the Oak Grove Mysteries. (That’s my other series.) Frankly it’s giving me a hard time. Harmony, my main character, is having a tough time personally, and it’s difficult putting that on paper. But we’re getting through it, and I’m hopeful that I’ll get the first draft done soon.
Ally: Let's try your hand at a few quick answer questions:
Ally: It's been a pleasure chatting with you. Before we let you go, please tell us a little more about Wolves' Knight...
- Favorite dessert: A rich chocolate cake with mounds of chocolate icing.
- Favorite movie: I’m not a big movie fan, but I really enjoyed the original Star Wars movie as well as the most recent release in the Star Wars franchise
- A book I’ve read more than once: The White Dragon by Ann McCaffrey. Actually, I’ve read most of the books in the Pern series more than once.
- Any pets? I don’t claim the cat that lives with us as my pet. It’s my husband’s. The cat just tolerates me.
- An item on your bucket list: I actually don’t have a bucket list, and refuse to make one. But something I’ve always wanted to do is have a guide take me to a wilderness area of the Rocky Mountains that you reach by horseback, and camp for a week or so. Think how much writing I could get done with nothing to distract me but birds and other assorted bits of nature.
Thanks for spending some time with us! Come back soon.
Have a wonderful 4th of July!