Deadly Inspiration

by Gail Z. Martin

After eight epic fantasy novels, why write an urban fantasy?

To paraphrase famed bank robber Willie Sutton, “Because that’s where the story is.”

I’m not planning to quit writing epic fantasy. For one thing, I’ve got more novels under contract and even more clamoring for attention in my head. But an idea led to a short story which turned into a novel that became a whole new fictional universe, and now there are more stories that just won’t be satisfied until I tell them.

Maybe that only makes sense if you’re a writer, but having stories in your head that want out is a miserable thing unless you go along with the urge and write them, bringing them to life. Which brings me back to Deadly Curiosities.

It all started when I got my first invitation to write a short story about pirates and magic for an anthology. I came with “Steer a Pale Course”, and introduced an antique shop whose mortal owner and vampire partner worked together to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. The time period for that story was the late 1700s. Other anthology stories were set in that time, or in the 1500s, when my vampire character Sorren was newly turned, the best jewel thief in Antwerp. Then Jon Oliver at Solaris asked me to do a short story for his Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology, and wanted something more modern-day. He liked my story “Buttons” so much that he asked for a novel with an eye toward a series.

I’ve grown up visiting antique shops, because my dad loved to prowl the aisles, looking for a good bargain. With time to kill, I went looking for unusual, archaic items and amused myself by making up stories about them. I’ve also always loved visiting museums and living history sites, experiencing how people lived in other time periods. And always, there were the personal items that they surrounded themselves with, things that might not be monetarily valuable but were precious to them. Mingle that with a life-long love of ghost stories, and I started to think about items that might be haunted, or whose owners had invested with magical power.

Then I got invited to speak at a conference in Charleston, SC. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, and I fell in love with how beautiful it was, and also with the blood-stained history just beneath the genteel facade. Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the US, and it hadn’t been overused as a fantasy setting. I made up my mind I was going to figure out how to set some stories there. So a lot of different streams all seemed to come together to create the Deadly Curiosities universe that culminates in the upcoming novel.

A modern-day setting in an existing city meant urban fantasy, but I had been reading for pleasure in that genre for quite some time, taking a “busman’s holiday” from epic stories just to clear my mind. Familiarity with the structure and tropes of urban fantasy–and conversations I’d had with urban fantasy authors over the years–all helped the story fall into place. When you’re a writer, nothing is ever wasted. You might not know exactly when or where you’ll use an experience, but sooner or later, it shows up in your books!

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