Today it’s my turn on the book blog tour for Erica Hayes new novel Scarred, which is the hotly anticipated sequel to Scorched. For my stop Erica has written a guest post about why readers enjoy urban fantasy.
I’m an Aussie living in northern England, where at least the hospitality and the beer are warm. I write in coffee shops, feed my enormous cat, and watch TV or read until far too late at night. If it’s got serial killers, superheroes, monsters or spaceships – preferably all four – I’m there.
On the big issues: Captain Picard is cooler than Captain Kirk, Batman would beat up Superman, and vampires are hotter than werewolves any day. See, I knew we’d get along.
One of the reasons we love urban fantasy – as if you needed more! – is that it’s set in a cooler version of our own world. We feel at home in the dark alleys, nightclubs and shopping malls of urban fantasy because that’s where we live – only with added scary awesomeness. It’s our world with vampires. Our world, but dead people become zombies. Our world ruled by sentient cannibal cacti.
Or, in the case of my Sapphire City series – it’s our world, plus super powers.
But ‘real world plus’ presents its own challenges. You can’t just stick magical stuff onto the real world with gaffer tape and expect it to work. Verily, that way lieth the Slough of Plot Holes, bordered by the treacherous Swamp of Cliché. Avoid, weary traveller, avoid.
Imagine, say, a world where some people are eight feet tall with three arms. This has an endless range of implications and story fodder. How do they fit into cars? Are doorways bigger? Where do they get their clothes? Can you get surgery to have an extra arm fitted? Is there a black market in arm parts? Are they allowed be professional boxers and basketball players, or is it considered cheating? Are there three-armed sports and video games? What does the offspring of a three-armer and a two-armer look like? How much food does an eight-foot person need to eat? Are there shortages? Ghettos? Special schools? Jealousy? Segregation? Do the big people beat up on the little people? Are the little people afraid of them? Who’s the minority? Who are the persecuted, and who the overlords?
Because, of course, every fantasy situation must involve inherent conflict. Otherwise, you don’t have a story. The entire point of having a fantasy world is inherent conflict. And no matter how fantastic, the conflict has to be grounded in human nature. How would real people – people like us – behave in this situation? What would they be afraid of? How would they react? To what would they run for comfort?
Which, I suppose, is why there are often two dominant ideas in stories about super powers: “good guys vs. villains” and “normal people vs. supes”. It’s human nature. People fear what they don’t understand – that’s the theme at the heart of superhero stories, and an author ignores it at her peril.
But that doesn’t mean audiences want the same old story. No, you have to take that theme, add your own version of super-ness and put a fresh spin on well-worn tales. That’s the hard bit.
And that’s what I’ve tried to do with my Sapphire City series. SCARRED is a tale of eight-foot-tall, three-armed crimefighters… ha ha! Just kidding. It’s a tale of conspiracy, secrets and dark romance, against a near-future backdrop of destructive villain shenanigans and hard-headed humor. Verity Fortune is from a clan of supes where fighting crime has always been the family business – until now. She’s defeated, humiliated by her nemesis and mistrusted by her own family. Now the city faces a new threat: does she have what it takes to be a hero again? Or is it too late?
Crimefighters, secret identities, heroes vs. villains: check. Add one tough and capable heroine with shady past and ongoing crisis of conscience. Stir in some serious sibling rivalry. Beat until bruised and alone. Mix with one mysterious sidekick with painful secrets but a heart of gold (or does he?) and top the mixture with a megalomaniac firebug arch-enemy with zero scruples and less mercy. Cook until done. Serve hot, with cream and lashings of conspiracy and romance. Enjoy!
Scarred was published on the 14th of January and is available to purchase from Amazon
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