Epic to Urban and Back Again

Reign of FINALby Gail Z. Martin

I love writing epic fantasy–so why am I stepping over to spin some urban fantasy tales?

This year, 2014, will be the first time I’ll have new novels out in both epic and urban fantasy.  In April, Reign of Ash will continue the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. It’s the sequel to Ice Forged as the apocalypse continues in the kingdom of Donderath.  And in July, Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books will introduce readers to a brand new urban fantasy world set in historic, haunted modern-day Charleston, SC.

Reign of Ash will be my eighth epic fantasy novel.  I love the broad canvas of epic fantasy, and the opportunity to tell a sweeping, complicated story that is both big enough to encompass kingdoms and dynasties and intimate enough to depend on personal relationships.

I’m personally having a blast imagining the medieval apocalyptic scenario that lies at the heart of the Ascendant Kingdoms storyline.  The high Middle Ages had a rich and complex culture, dependent on alliances, the feudal system, a network of trade agreements, and a complicated social structure.  Layer in a dependence on magic akin to our reliance on the power grid, then blow the whole thing to smithereens, and you’ve got a ruined world ripe for intrigue, power games, social restructuring, chaos and anarchy on a scale that’s, well, epic.

As someone who majored in medieval history in college, there’s a level of perverse pleasure in being able to make a living from a much-maligned liberal arts degree (see Mom, I knew what I was doing!).  I enjoy writing what some people call “big fat fantasy” and novels the size of a brick because it’s fun to mentally move into a fictional world for an extended stay–packing a steamer trunk instead of a carry-on bag, so to speak.  It’s exciting to tell a detailed, richly layered, complex story with a juicy tangle of plotlines that eventually sort themselves out to a conclusion on a big screen scale.

So why venture into the dark alleys and shorter word count of urban fantasy? Because different stories require a different setting, and I had some characters that weren’t going to leave me alone until they got their own book.

Deadly Curiosities grew out of a short story I did for the “Magic” anthology by Solaris books.  That story, “Buttons” was set in the Trifles & Folly curio and antique shop, where the real mission is to find and remove dangerous magical objects from circulation. I’d been writing stories in that universe for several anthologies, but in different time periods ranging from the 1500s to the late 1700s, so “Buttons” was the first story set in modern times.  Since my epic fantasy series have always taken place in entirely fictional worlds, it was a new challenge to remain historically accurate while slipping supernatural mayhem into the mix.

I discovered that jumping into a completely different setting, era and voice not only felt like taking a literary vacation, but it actually recharged my epic fantasy batteries as well.  Switching back and forth between the two subgenres keeps me on my toes, and it’s created a level of energy and creativity that is both exciting and surprising.

You know you’re in the right place when writing feels like too much fun to be how you make your living.  Here’s to having a foot in both worlds!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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