Tuesday, December 14, 2010
So excited to have Nancy Holzner with us today. I'm nearly finished with Deadtown and it's awesome!
Nancy Holzner is the author of the Deadtown urban fantasy series. Hellforged, the second book in the series, releases Decmber 28.
When a mysterious plague hit Boston, turning two thousand of its residents into sentient zombies, the quarantine zone became Deadtown, home (by law) to Boston's paranormals. It's also home to Victory Vaughn, a shapeshifter who kills other people's personal demons for a living. In Deadtown, Vicky does battle with the Hellion who killed her father. In Hellforged, Vicky struggles to protect her friends and prevent a long-lost relative from unleashing an ancient power more terrifying—and deadly—than anything she's encountered before.
You can read the first chapter of Deadtown here and the first chapter of Hellforged here.
What Is Urban Fantasy, Anyway?
Back in 2006, when I began the novel that would become Deadtown, I thought I had a clear idea of what urban fantasy was. If anyone had asked me, I would've said that an urban fantasy is a gritty action/adventure story set in a recognizable contemporary (or near-future) city, incorporating paranormal elements such as vampires, werewolves, and magic. Simple enough.
Except “simple enough” often leads to oversimplification. The first urban fantasy novels I encountered—Laurell K. Hamilton's early Anita Blake novels, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, and Kim Harrison's Hollows series—all fit that definition well enough. But as I expanded my reading in the genre, I found great books that didn't quite fit my simple definition. Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels are set in a small town, not a big city. MaryJanice Davidson's Queen Betsy series has a strong chick-lit feel. Jeaniene Frost, Anya Bast, Yasmine Galenorn, and other authors bring in a strong romance element.
The more I read, the more I came to see urban fantasy as a dynamic genre that's always pushing its own envelope. Because it's so diverse, it appeals to readers of many other genres: fans of mystery, thrillers, romance, chick lit, and horror can all find something they'll like in urban fantasy. And because the genre keeps evolving, it doesn't get stale.
Recently, the genres of horror and romance have had a strong effect on urban fantasy. The influence of horror has led to some edgier, darker-tinged urban fantasy novels, including such series as Signs of the Zodiac (Vicki Pettersson), Downside Ghosts (Stacia Kane), and Twenty Palaces (Harry Connelly). Some readers say that urban fantasy and paranormal romance have become the same thing, but I still draw a line between these two genres. The way I see it, urban fantasy's primary focus is on fighting the bad guys or averting disaster, while paranormal romance gives equal or greater weight to the protagonist's love life. But even when romance isn't the primary focus, urban fantasy often has a touch of romance—as it should, since relationships are part of a well-rounded character's life.
Having a sense of the different genres and subgenres is helpful when you walk into a bookstore looking for something new to try. If you know you like romance or mystery, for example, you know which section you want to browse. But genre is a guide, not a straitjacket. These days, when I open an urban fantasy novel I want paranormal elements and a fast-moving plot with high stakes. The other genre elements that an author brings to the mix is what keeps urban fantasy fresh.
How do you define urban fantasy? Has your definition of the genre changed over time?