Today on the Author's Corner, urban fantasy writer Joshua Bader talks genre, and what it means to readers, as well as writers.
Howdy and welcome back to City Owl’s Author’s Corner! Today, I want to talk about genre. Genre is all about convenience. When someone asks what I write, I can answer “urban fantasy” rather than going on for five minutes about a vagabond wizard turned magical heavyweight for a shady multi-national corporation. Urban fantasy may not capture all the nuances of my work, but it gives the shortest possible indicator as to whether this book is something that might be of interest to the person I’m talking to. If I’m lucky, the phrase conjures images of Harry Dresden or Anita Blake absolutely destroying whatever werewolf, vampire, or supernatural baddy happens to be in their way at the moment and saving the world in the process. Mind you, in mine, Colin tends to be the one getting destroyed most of the time, but he’s a resilient guy and, so far, has been lucky enough to save the day without getting himself killed.
Good writing happens much the same in novels. A genre is convenient, but it’s meant to help readers find books similar to other books they like. The moment a writer buys into his genre, he’s in trouble. If anything, I’ve tried to stay away from the core elements of the urban fantasy genre, saving my vampires for book 5 for anything beyond a peripheral glance. I would rather spend time delving into drama, mystery, suspense, horror, and romance, then just recycling whatever happens to be popular in my genre. One of my favorite reviews on Amazon starts off with “This isn’t the type of book I usually read, but…” and has a 4 or 5 star rating up above it. From the author’s side, our job is to tell a good story, regardless of what genre it eventually fits into.
Within Frostbite, one of the things that I think worked for a lot of readers was starting the book with a back story of normal, non-supernatural tragedy. Nobody needs to buy into a particular understanding of werewolves or vampires to feel these emotions:
“When school let out that summer, my dad sent me to live with my aunt and uncle in Boston. The plan was I’d come back in the fall, once things settled down, got back to normal. I don’t think my dad or me ever realized that without mom, there was no normal. If we had tried, maybe we could have come up with a new normal, but we didn’t. The last time I saw him in the flesh was at my high school graduation… in Boston, not Denver. I celebrated my twenty-fourth birthday three months ago, which makes me a Cancer. My dad had cancer and was either dying or already dead.”
That paragraph bought emotional connection and sympathy between Colin and the reader. From that moment on, the reader could believe in magic, wendigoes, fairies, and demon-blooded assassins, because they believed in Colin. If he believed it, the reader could too. That’s not part of the genre package… and it helps connect readers that might not normally read urban fantasy.
Most of all, I encourage writers to write stories they would want to read, with all the nuances and emotion that do it for them in the book. If you would want to read it, chances are someone else will too.
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Colin Fisher is a young man with a lot of problems on his plate: a dying father, a dead car doubling as a home, and a mysteriously disappeared fiancée. You’d think with a magical inclination, he’d be able to turn it all around, but not so much.
Yet, his back luck appears to be on the way out when the CEO of a multinational corporation offers him a job. It’s a sweet gig as a personal wizard with a fat paycheck. The catch? The paranoid CEO isn’t a mere hypochondriac, he’s been hexed with an authentic ancient curse.
Now Colin is the only thing standing between his new boss and a frozen bundle of fangs, claws, and rage. If he can’t stop the cannibal ice demon in time to save his new boss, it’ll be back to living out of his dead car. That is, if he even survives the battle.
"Well-researched and creatively presented humor and action perfectly blend with moral quandaries in this outstanding debut." - Publishers Weekly Starred Review
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