Para-urban Rom-antasy By Anton Strout
If there’s something that the publishing industry loves to do, it’s to put authors neatly in their respective pigeonholes. In fact, they give us not only genres of books out there to catch up on, they create subgenres too.
I’m not knocking this approach. After all, people looking for the latest Laurell K, Hamilton and Jim Butcher can also discover my Simon Canderous paranormal detective novels or my newly releases Spellmason Chronicles on the shelves beside them at most bookstores. But wait.. isn’t the Dresden files all wizardy fantasy and Anita Blake kinda… well, fur and fangs smexy?
All these genres and subgenres can get a bit confusing, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is about what are the differences in these genres, and do these differences make a difference?
The answer is a simple yes… and no. Okay, forget simplicity.
In once sense, genres are there so publishers can figure out which titles should go to which buyers that control various sections a bookstore or for a whole chain of them. That’s just organizing a store for shopping’s sake That’s the business side of genre… but avid readers know the truth is that the genre a book is put in doesn’t matter all that much, thanks to crossover audiences within genre fiction, especially when it comes to urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Mind you, I’m about to speak in sweeping generalities here as we talk UF vs. PR. I can not stress enough how general these are generalities are, and along the way I’ll point out some of the exceptions to the very loose rules I’m about to lay down.
With paranormal romance, you usually see either a first and third person narrative perspective with a strong focus on the relationships between characters, much of it ending with a fair amount of Happily Ever After.
Because of that, urban fantasy, for me, has a personally greater appeal. Why? Not to knock romance, but when I look at the Romance section of a store, I don’t see tons of male authors on the shelves there… at least ones not using their real names, that is. I’m trying to think of a time I’ve sat in a meeting in my sixteen years at Penguin and heard one, but I’m drawing a blank. Obviously it’s not impossible to be a man and write romance, but for me I like the broader appeal of urban fantasy because with it I get to write romance, mystery and fantasy all in one big ball.
Now, there is absolutely romance in my work, but my urban fantasy tends to be driven more by the mystery plot and the fantastical elements over the building of the relationships themselves, but not to the exclusion of one of other. My friend Laurell K. Hamilton seems to have accomplished the hat trick as she’s crossed back and forth over the line from one to another. I recall the first eight or so of her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series being heavily plot and mystery driven, those early covers even reflecting a noir fantasy look. Then, as the relationships took over the focus, the cover look also changed, and she found a whole new audience in the Romance section and their readership. Her latest efforts in the series seem to be swinging back to the plot over sex of her earlier work, but given her sales record, fans in seems both sets of genre readers seem to want to stick around for the ride, be it a carnal one or no.
And one of my favorite things about writing urban fantasy is the last and great—but don’t forget general—trope of urban fantasy: the first person noir mystery style narrator.
And here’s where I break my own rule. While the Simon Canderous books were exactly that style of noir detective narrator (albeit in a Buffy and Angel kind of tone), Alchemystic of The Spellmason Chronicles and the just released book two, Stonecast, are told by dueling first person narratives—Alexandra, a twentysomething artist from modern Manhattan, the heir apparent to the power of Spellmasonry, and Stanis, a centuries old gargoyle set to watch over her family. I struggled with the idea of even attempting it at first, but I’ve come to love seeing both sides of the tale from two characters who think and process the world differently.
So the lines out there that people set, I ignore. What matters to me is telling a good tale—one filled with love, friendship, peril, loss, treachery and sacrifice.
Readers have come to my books as mystery readers, romance readers, fantasy readers, Joss Whedon watchers… hell, the fact that I have a twentysomething main female character dealing with her feelings for a gargoyle even has me on the radar of the New Adult readers.
I’m thrilled to have all of them coming to my work to check it out, even when they say, “I don’t usually read X genre, but…”
So if you already love urban fantasy, I do hope you’ll come check out Stonecast or my other books, and if you’re a fan of paranormal romance, I definitely think you’ll find a little something to love in The Spellmason Chronicles.
Thanks again for reading,