This week’s guest writer is Faith Hunter. Some of her previous work includes the Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock as the protagonist.
A long time ago (if not far, far away) I started my career writing police procedurals with a co-writer, a former undercover cop named Gary Leveille. The novels were published under the pen name “Gary Hunter”, by Warner Books, and were set in the District of Columbia. They were bang-bang-shoot-em-up novels, full of foul language and macho action, and they were a hoot to write! Added to all the action was a mystery that our hero, Garrick Travis, had to solve.
Death Sentence and Death Warrant were followed by a number of thrillers of a different kind: paranormal thrillers, WomJeps (Woman in Jeopardy thrillers), a four book medical thriller series, and mainstream mystery/thrillers, all written solo, and all under the name Gwen Hunter.
But the mystery market changed. Over a period of ten years, most major publishing houses cut mystery/thriller lines, and dumped mystery writers, leaving them to sink. Note that I didn’t say sink or swim. Few swam. Most disappeared forever beneath the dull, still waters of Loch Publishing, which is located somewhere south of Canada, and whose chill waters are the death of many and the success of few.
However, long before that happened, I was being drawn to a new market, one called “urban fantasy”, a sub-genre of the sci-fi/fantasy market. Before the fall and death of the mystery/thriller industry, I was committed to writing urban fantasy, currently the Jane Yellowrock series, under the name Faith Hunter. Because Jane is a bounty hunter of sorts, tracking down bad guys of a paranormal nature, I do a lot of thinking about mysteries and thrillers, about solving puzzles, creating intensity, and writing action. Just as I did when I wrote traditional mysteries, thrillers, and police procedurals. Yes, it’s pretty much the same except for a little magic.
Jane Yellowrock, my hero, hunts down rogue-vampires (the ones who go whacko-violent-psycho and drain and kill humans, not the sparkly kind) and other non-human bad guys when they break the law – both the human laws and paranormal laws. Think supernatural serial killers being chased by a Cherokee skinwalker who is able to use post-Newtonian physics, quantum mechanics, genetics, and sometimes geology (read: rocks) to change shape into similarly-massed, mostly-female, usually-mammalian predators. It’s a mouthful, I know.
Jane makes a good living chasing bad guys. And yes, that skinwalker part means that Jane herself isn’t human. Yet, even though I am writing in an alternate, paranormal reality, with non-human characters, I draw from that long-ago bank of knowledge gained from writing the police procedurals in my early career.
There are still mysteries to be solved, bad guys to catch, and love interests to find and woo. I am still writing antagonists, and those evil-doers must be believable within the artificial world I create. They must fit within the scope of an ever-evolving genre, within the culture of a world much like ours, a world with fewer enforceable, physical borders, a culture that is a melting pot like ours, seething with ancient hatreds, ongoing cultural, ethnic, and religious battles, fewer places to hide . . . but with supernatural characters and magic. My artificial world is like our world on steroids—a lot like our own, but with woo-woo stuff in it. My antagonists are like modern day bad guys who suck blood, and my protagonist is like a TV cop who can turn into other animals, and my crimes are like modern day crimes everywhere—they need a solution.
Like antagonists in mainstream thrillers, the urban fantasy bad guy often possesses an inherent level of personal violence and perpetrates a higher level of external violence. They are the jihadists of the magical world and alternate reality. The pace is tight and the antagonist is usually on a deadline to achieve the evil ends.
Unlike thriller novels, where the action takes place in a world almost identical to ours, in urban fantasy novels the writer must accomplish strong, believable world-building for the reader to accept the rising suspense and the magical danger or violence. After all, it’s a world where technology and magic co-exist and normal humans live cheek-by-jowl with supernatural characters.
If you want to meet me in person, I am a guest at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC May 31 – June 2, 2013. Come see me! http://concarolinas.org/
For more information about Faith, find her on Facebook or at www.faithhunter.net.