Epic Vs. Urban—Writing Both Sides of Fantasy
By Gail Z. Martin
Swords or shotguns? Grenade launchers or catapults?
How about both? (Though not, usually, in the same story.)
I write epic fantasy and urban fantasy—along with alternate history and comedic horror—in time periods ranging from medieval to Victorian to modern. Sometimes people ask if it’s difficult, jumping around time. For me, it’s all part of the fun.
This year, we had a bumper crop of books coming out on both sides of the genre. Vengeance is the second book in my Darkhurst series about three undertaker brothers who become outlaw monster hunters and discover there is a much bigger conspiracy than they ever expected. The Dark Road is the second in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, tracing the story of the brigand lord through his time as a mercenary, fight slave and smuggler. Assassin’s Honor is the first in the new Assassins of Landria series, as King’s Shadows Joel Breckenridge and Garrett Kennard go rogue to save the kingdom from a shadowy itinerant holy man who has ensnared the aristocracy with treasonous whispers.
Plot and characters aside, the books are all very different. Vengeance is ‘big fat fantasy’, with multiple point of view characters, several braided story arcs, a big cast of characters, and a truly epic scale. The Dark Road is a serialized novel from Jonmarc’s point of view, told in an interconnected collection of short stories and novellas. Assassin’s Honor is buddy flick epic fantasy, under 300 pages, and rocks the ‘Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins’ vibe with humor, action and intrigue. I really like switching up how the story is put together, even though all three are technically epic fantasy due to their scope and the medieval setting.
The same is true for the urban fantasy side of the writing. Tangled Web is the third novel in the Deadly Curiosities series, set in Charleston, SC. When a malicious weaver-witch awakens the spirit of an ancient Norse warlock and calls to the Wild Hunt, Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren—and all their supernatural allies—will need magic, cunning, and the help of a Viking demi-goddess to survive the battle and keep Charleston—and the whole East Coast—from becoming the prey of the Master of the Hunt. Close Encounters, the fourth novella in the Spells, Salt and Steel series (co-written with Larry N. Martin), takes a snarky-scary approach to monster hunting in the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania with mechanic Mark Wojcik. And the upcoming Sons of Darkness (launching in November) has ex-priest Travis Dominick teaming up with former FBI-agent Brent Lawson to tackle demonic threats in and around Pittsburgh.
Once again, the series are all different not just in their locations, but in the novels’ structure. Tangled Web is told from Cassidy’s first person point of view and often straddles the line between urban fantasy and horror. Close Encounters is also first person, and decidedly snark-filled, in between supernatural chills. Sons of Darkness is told from both Travis’s and Brent’s viewpoints, and also blurs the line between horror and urban fantasy. The tone of the writing and the character voices, as well as the setting, distinguish the series from one another.