I don't pretend to be the expert on the urban fantasy genre. No doubt I've been exposed to it and have read literature as well as enjoyed watching it on TV and film. I've even worked with a few urban fantasy authors in helping them get their series off ground. Although there is much to enjoy in the genre, I feel there is a missing gap, one that keeps me from enjoying urban fantasy as much as I otherwise would.
I'm both an escapist and a dramatist with leanings all over the literary map. But the one thing that gets my juices flowing is reading a story that can touch me on a deeper emotional level. Most of the urban fantasy I've encountered is sugar coated fluff. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. All the usual goodies are there to be enjoyed: action, romance, magic, armies of darkness, an evil as hell villain, the prophesied chosen ones, the approaching end of the world, etc. But there was always something missing for me. And it had nothing to do with either the race, gender, age, or overall epicness of the story. I just didn't find anything in the genre that pulled me in the way Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings did.
Some might argue that I just don't get it. Well, I'd argue that I do get it. The problem is I haven't found an urban fantasy story that grips me and doesn't let go the way Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials did. Nothing has had the coma-inducing wow factor of J.R.R. Tolkien's the Silmarillion.
It took me a while to figure it out. But part of the reason I struggled to find my kind of book in urban fantasy is obvious. No one's written my kind of book, or at the very least, I don't know that it exists. The effect is the same, which leads me to usually ignore the genre.
That wouldn't be a problem except that I know exactly what would make my head spin in an urban fantasy story if someone actually wrote it. It's not hard for me to figure out that there are many people who feel exactly the way I do. So being a veteran writer of speculative fiction, I figured I'd take care of the problem myself.
Enter my new series. It does pretty much what other urban fantasy books do, but puts a twist on things. Namely, it gives me what I want to read but have found lacking in urban fantasy. A hot badass chick with magical powers, a cast of unforgettable characters, a kick ass storyline, and here we go—wait for it—(insert drumroll here)...substance. That's what I felt I've been lacking all along. Something to sink my teeth into.
Light hearted magical romps are cool. But sometimes you don't want a Hamburger. Sometimes, the only thing that will satisfy you is a big, fat juicy steak. That's what my new urban fantasy series does for me. It gives this carnivore some flesh to bite into.
My new urban fantasy series is also teen fiction. As the most transitional period in a person's life, being a teenager is a very difficult time. I remember how it was for me and I want to put some of that into my story to give it added weight. My series differs from what I've seen out there because it is written specifically to be topical and to touch the third rail subjects that few authors in this genre will touch (not if they want to sell lots of books). I'm crazy like that, so I have no problems taking chances. If anything, the edginess of my books is what will not only set them apart, but also be a selling point.
The fact that my series features an African American MC gives it another unique perspective. The few beta readers who got a chance to see an early copy of my series made sure to stress this point. Black female protagonists are sorely underrepresented in the genre and there are readers out there dying to find heroines who look like themselves. All you have to do is troll social media sites like Goodreads or Amazon forums to see how desperate some readers are to see themselves represented on the covers of the books they read. It will be nice to have at least one more book series out in the wild for them to read.
As far as I know, there isn't a series quite like mine as it dips its toes into many genres, including some that are atypical for urban fantasy. I'm still keeping some of that under wraps. But I'll have more to say about it in the near future.
Anyway, if I wasn't clear enough, let me say it again. There are plenty of awesome urban fantasy books out there. I know because I've read some of them. But none of those books have given me the experience I'm looking for. I want to read something that feels personal to me. It's fun to play in other people's worlds. But for once, I'd like to read an urban fantasy story that feels as though it was written with me in mind.
That's the beauty of being a writer. If you don't see your kind of book out there, then you go write it. That's how we got the Foundation series, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia. A writer has an idea for something that doesn't exist and brings it into being. Now whether or not readers will line up to get a taste of the author's wares, is a whole different ball game.
So since I haven't found my kind of urban fantasy story yet, I keep reading and following recommendations in the hopes that I eventually will. In the meantime, I won't leave things to chance or throw my hands up in the air either. Rather, I'll continue to write the books that I'm dying to read and hope that in the process, I'll have given those underserved readers with similar taste to mine the fix in this genre they've been craving.