With my new novel Deadly Curiosities (Solaris Books, summer 2014), I make the jump to urban fantasy. I’ve been writing epic fantasy for seven years, and will be continuing my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga books for Orbit with Reign of Ash in April, so I’ll really have a foot in both camps. That’s like trying to ride two horses at once, which are each running at different paces.
I’ve read a lot from both epic and urban fantasy, but it was a bit of a switch shifting from third-person narrative for the epic books into first-person for the urban stories. But I would say that the hardest part has been convincing myself that it’s ok to use modern phrases in the urban book since I worked so hard to become aware of them and avoid them in the epic books.
There are so many words and phrases that we use every day that do a great job of conveying exactly what we mean. In normal conversation, we don’t worry about the origin. In writing, it matters a lot. There are a couple of etymology web sites that have become bookmarks on my computer because I am frequently checking to see when a word or phrase was first used, and how it was used. For example, people have been puking since the Middle Ages, but they didn’t barf until recently. And while they have been pissing for hundreds of years, it’s only in the last few decades that anyone has been pissed off.
It matters because the wrong word choice is an anachronism and it ruins the suspension of disbelief for the reader. The right words take the reader deeper into the atmosphere of the book. The wrong word yanks them out with a hook.
Since I’m a word junkie, I find this fun. I collect cool words like other people collect shiny rocks. So I’m overjoyed when I find a great period-authentic word that is exactly what I need. The trick is to sprinkle those less familiar, but authentic, words so that they are enjoyable little bonuses instead of annoying readers by sending them to their thesaurus on every page.
With Deadly Curiosities, it’s also fun because the book is set in modern-day Charleston, SC, so there are some wonderful concepts and phrases unique to that area that help to set the mood. And while visiting the Middle Ages to check out locations isn’t entirely possible (although it’s amazing how instructive it is to visit what’s left), scouting local spots in Charleston is easy and always a pleasure.
So there you have it–the hardest part is remembering to have characters speak in modern English. Strange, but true!
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.