Epic-Urban Whiplash


After seven years of writing epic fantasy, I’ll have both a new epic novel and a new urban fantasy coming out in 2014.  It’s been fun to work in both camps simultaneously, but it’s also been challenging, and sometimes I have to remind myself which century I’m in.

My Ascendant Kingdoms Saga is a post-apocalyptic medieval setting where the magic upon which the culture depends has failed as a result of a devastating war.  It’s a tough, gritty existence, made more so by the absence of usable magic.  My characters have lost a civilization equivalent to the High Middle Ages, and are trying to salvage and rebuild from the ruins.  By our standards, their life would have been hard before the war and the loss of magic.  By their standards, life afterwards is barely sustainable.

My new Deadly Curiosities novel is set in modern-day Charleston, SC.  Cassidy Kincaide is the owner of Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop that really exists to get dangerous magical objects off the market.  Charleston is a grand city that is very much alive and well, and I love visiting whenever I have a chance.  Not only have I not blown up the world in Cassidy’s book, her whole goal is to keep anyone else from doing that.

One of the things that has been fun–and challenging–about writing epic and urban at the same time has been switching between narrative styles.  The newest book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series, and all my epic books, is written in third-person narrative.  I’m constantly looking up words to make sure they are period-appropriate.  And while it’s a fantasy world of my own construct, I still do a lot of historical research to make sure that what I’m writing is plausible, possible or within precedent.

Of course with Deadly Curiosities, I’m writing about modern American culture in a Southern city.  It’s a first-person narrative, and the dialog is going to be consistent with how we speak today, with some Southern idiom thrown in for flavor.  (I’ve been living in the South now for 15 years, so that part has been thoroughly researched!).Deadly Curiosities has a bit more humor, a little lighter touch, because it isn’t the tough struggle for survival my characters face in Ice Forged.  There are life-and-death struggles, but the tenor of the book as a whole is very different.

When I took on the two projects, I wondered how it would work and whether I’d be able to jump in and out of the worlds easily. What I found is that the challenge has been a real creativity boost and a lot of fun.  I haven’t had any difficulty getting back into the mood or the characters’ heads when I’ve switched off projects, and I’m having a blast.

Maybe the moral of the story is, if you’ve been putting off tackling a project because it seems too different, jump in.  You might just find that the switch-off brings creative benefits!

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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