Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The No Holds Barred Nancy Holzner

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 fo
und 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?


J.R. Turner said...

Two years ago I started checking out Urban Fantasy. At the library I got blank stares, at the book store, they took me to sword and sorcery fantasy. Today, everyone knows exactly what I mean :) Which is way cool.

I can't wait to get Hellforged, Nancy. Deadtown is truly an awesome read!!

Thanks tons for stopping by today!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for inviting me, Jenny. I love the fact that urban fantasy is a living, evolving genre. It's always been fun to read, and the genre's growth ensures it will keep being fun to read.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Urban fantasy was fantasy set in contemp cityscapes. Emma Bull had one long ago that was very good
(I think the book has been rereleased). It's just past few years I've seen vamps, ghosts and werewolves added to it--I assume the publishers trying to take away the word, horror, and make it urban fantasy or dark fantasy.

J.R. Turner said...

Hi Pam! Yes, my bookstore here carries a lot of urban fantasy alongside the horror genre. That cross-over factor, I think, is one of the great geniuses of this genre. There's appeal there for just about every book lover!

Anonymous said...

Great article.
Urban fantasy has changed over the last two or three years, and now there are sub-genres such as paranormal and even elements of sterampunk.

Anonymous said...

@Pamela: That's a good point, and the horror element may be quite strong (as with dark urban fantasy) or almost nonexistent (as with the chick-lit flavored stuff).

@eeleenlee: Steampunk is an interesting cross of genres: historical, fantasy, and science fiction. I always think of it as an updating of the kinds of stories that Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thanks again to Jenny for inviting me. I've been reading through the blog and really enjoying other posts. I'm in great company here. Thanks, Jenny!

J.R. Turner said...

Nancy--it was a true thrill to have you here! :)

Thanks bunches for making us a part of your journey. I'll be looking forward to reading Hellforged!!


Christy said...

Well, I know I am late to the party here but I just now got a chance to read both excerpts and I find I am left wanting to read more of Victory Vaughn's adventures. I enjoy reading all different types of stories, and frankly I have no idea what urban fantasy is and I just learned what steampunk was three days ago, but it doesn't matter, I like a good story with interesting characters regardless of the genre. Just like the Mabigonian tales of Ceridwen which is evident in the excerpt. How cool is that? What's my point? My point is I think I might have a bit of a girl-crush on Victory Vaughn I say that because it took me less than two sentences to grow a big goofy grin on my face while reading about her. The words made me smile and I wanted to keep reading more about Vicky, Tina, and Aunt Mab (short for Mabigonian?) Anyway, I feel like I just got teased! I have got to read these books!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Christy, thanks for your comment. I got a big, goofy grin of my own reading it. :D

Urban fantasy is a really fun genre, and I hope you'll have fun exploring it. Of course, I also hope that you'll enjoy Vicky's adventures in Deadtown! Thanks for taking the time to post. You made my day.