I recently finished writing the first novel in an urban fantasy series. I am very proud of the accomplishment. The series is called The Guardian Diaries, and I am currently working on the second novel now. I have many tales I wish to tell in my fantasy world.
While the interest to pour a story out onto paper has been with me for the entirety of my adult life, the motivation to commit the effort has not been. I can recall the moment when that motivation resolved.
I think that it’s interesting – for me it is, at least – that the catalyst for my novel wasn’t something that happened to me. It wasn’t some other work I read that inspired me. Rather, it was something that I didn’t experience that pushed me to dump over half a year’s worth of very late nights into Cravings, the first of The Guardian Diaries.
In this post, I will try to capture the essence of that motivation and why I think that it is a good and healthy thing for writers to experience.
It was March 23, 2011 and it was bathtime for our two children. They were splashing in the tub and I was sitting beside it, trying to keep the water off of my keyboard. I browsed Amazon and GoodReads, searching for a new book to read. I had, for several months, been tearing through the urban fantasy genre in search of another world to catch and hold my attention.
I had just finished the fourth or fifth book of a quite decent series. I should have been excited to pick up the next book in line. Alternatively, I might have been frustrated that I would have to wait for the next sequel to be published. In this case, the next several books were already available. I was not, however, interested in diving into the next one.
The books had all been very well written. The stories were interesting. The characters were genuine, and I was invested in their success and personal development. I should have been all jazzed up for more. There was a piece that was missing for me, though.
I was really jonesing for a male protagonist.
I am, by inclination, an epic fantasy zealot. I enjoy science fiction, but I’m not passionate about it. My interest in urban fantasy sprang from several very exciting campaigns with my gaming group that were each based in a modern fantasy setting. We are all older now and have a lot of other competing interests. We don’t get to game regularly like we used to. Lucky for me, I had been able to scratch my geek itch by reading about some very well crafted magically modern worlds.
The problem I ran into is that the urban fantasy genre is a very young one. I tore through the bulk of it and was hungry for more. The books I found were becoming increasing built around strong, dangerous female protagonists engaged in cumbersome romantic tangles with males from whatever species filled the role of apex predator in that particular fantasy world.
Again, I’m not saying that I wasn’t still finding fascinating stories by incredibly talented authors. I just kept hoping to find an interesting male protagonist that I could relate to. I branched out into steampunk, Cuthulu, and even some of the darker fantasy and horror stuff. A lot of those works get too occult for me, though. I can appreciate them when they are done well. Still, I don’t really enjoy them.
What I wanted was more urban fantasy books with male protagonists.
So… I decided to write my own.
I set about writing the book that I wanted to read.
So, what did I have to work with?
I knew that I wanted to write an urban fantasy novel with a male lead.
That’s all well and good.
However, I don’t think that ‘there is this guy and magic is a real thing’ is the makings of a good story. I spent the next nine months jotting down notes and leaving myself little audio memos. Then, on December 22, 2011, I asked myself some questions that I was willing to write a novel to explore.
There are all sorts of talents and tools that can be dangerous or even deadly if used in appropriately.
- What would happen if a tool existed that needed to be kept secret?
- What would happen if that tool turned out to be dangerous?
- What if, in ignorance, that tool was used to kill?
These questions gave me an interesting philosophical and ethical topic to explore.
Cravings is a story about the danger of power without knowledge.
Without getting into spoilers, these questions gave me the story that I wanted to tell. They also provided the justification to include magic in the world. You can write a romping who-done-it in any genre, but this one doesn’t work without including something like magic.
Cravings is the kind of book that I want to read. I still have plans to someday write 4000 pages of high-fantasy swords and sorcery. Maybe I’ll even come up with a question worth asking of that genre. For these past several months, though, I’ve been able to explore the characters, problems and settings that I hope to find every time I walk into Barnes & Noble and prowl through the fiction shelves.
We should write the books that we want to read. We should put those stories out there for the world to devour. In doing so, I can only hope that we create some fans and grow the genre. And maybe… if we’re lucky, one or two new fans will be inspired to write the books that they want to read.
Then we can all enjoy them.