I’m so happy and excited to have Jennifer Estep back at Smexy to talk about how she balances violence and romance in her Elemental Assassin series. Yesterday, I reviewed Web of Lies, and I just think this is a great series.
Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to thank Mandi for having me back here at Smexy Books. Thanks so much, Mandi!
As some of you know, I’m the author of the Bigtime superhero paranormal romance series – Karma Girl (2007), Hot Mama (2007), and Jinx (2008). Back in February, my new Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series launched with the release of Spider’s Bite. The second book in the series, Web of Lies, came out on May 25, and the third book, Venom, will debut on Sept. 28.
So I’ve been asked today to talk a little bit about the balancing act that goes on in urban fantasy between violence and romance. I don’t know about you guys, but I like books that have a little bit of everything in them – action, danger, drama, romance, and yes, even violence. Is there anything more fun than reading about a strong, kick-butt heroine defeating her enemies, finding love, and looking good while she does it? I don’t think so, which is one of the reasons that I love urban fantasy so much. The genre really lets me write the kind of action-packed stories that I love reading.
The main character in Web of Lies and my other Elemental Assassin books is Gin Blanco, a renowned assassin who used to be known as the Spider before she retired. Now, you can’t really write books about an assassin without having her, you know, actually kill people. That’s where the violence in my books comes in. Gin lives in Ashland, a dirty, gritty, corrupt city where folks would just as soon shoot as look at you. There are lots of bad guys in a city like Ashland, and a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do – especially if she wants to make it through another day.
But there’s also a fair amount of romance in the Elemental Assassin series. In Spider’s Bite, Gin hooked up with Detective Donovan Caine, an honest cop who had a tough time reconciling his attraction to an assassin like Gin. Donovan is back in Web of Lies, and I also introduce a new love interest for Gin – sexy, mysterious businessman Owen Grayson.
But it can be tough to find the right balance between violence and romance, especially in a genre like urban fantasy that has such wide, crossover appeal with so many different kinds of readers. You don’t want to make your story too bloody and violent, or you’ll turn off romance readers who also enjoy urban fantasy. But you can’t make your story too romantic either, or you risk losing folks who really enjoy the action and magic aspects of urban fantasy.
So how do I do it? For me, it’s all about the characters. Whenever I start writing a book, I always sit down and think about what I want to do with my characters. In the Elemental Assassin series, it’s all about Gin. How do I want her to grow as a person? How can I add new layers to her magic? How can I advance the overall story arc with Gin and her nemesis? What do I want Gin to learn about herself in this book? And then, I go from there, adding in all the romantic complications and violent confrontations that Gin can handle.
I usually shoot for at least three fight scenes per book, with one of those being the big, blowout confrontation with the villain at the end. I also try to include at least one really steamy, romantic scene, along with loads of sexual tension along the way to build up to it. In between all this, I also try to show readers more of Gin’s world – places like the Pork Pit barbecue restaurant and Jo-Jo’s beauty salon.
Hopefully, readers will think that I’ve struck a good balance between the fight scenes, the romance, and everything else, and that it all adds up to a well-rounded, entertaining story. After all, even assassins need some down time to relax in between assignments. What better way to do that than with a fun book? ;-)
What about you guys? How much violence is too much in urban fantasy? How much romance do you like in the genre? What are some of your favorite urban fantasy series and characters? Share in the comments.
Jennifer is offering a copy of Web of Lies to one lucky commenter. As a bonus, I am going to offer a copy of Spider’s Bite, the first book in the series. To enter, answer one of Jennifer’s questions above AND tell us which book you would prefer to win.
Open to US/Canada only. Please include your email address if not in your profile. Contest will be open through Saturday, May 29th.