Tag Archive: urban fantasy

Debut Urban Fantasy author Jess Haines was gracious enough to share insight into her new series, her experience with publishing, and some tips and resources for new writers. Check it out!

Diaz: You are the author of the new H & W Investigations Series. Tell us about the current release, Hunted by the Others.

Haines: Sure thing!  Here’s the back cover copy from Hunted:

They are the Others—the vampires, mages, and werewolves once thought to exist only in our imaginations. Now they’re stepping out of the shadows, and nothing in our world will ever be the same again…

In a Town Like This, Being A P.I. Can Be Murder

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm—if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires.

As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend—a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing—and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil—whether she likes it or not…

You can get a sneak peek at the first chapter here.

Diaz: The second book, Taken by Others comes out January 2011. Did you intend on it being a series when you started?

Haines: I wrote Hunted by the Others to be standalone, but started working on the second book while I was in the midst of my hunt for an agent.  I made a brief mention in my query letter that I could see expanding into a series, but didn’t make a big thing of it.  My fabulous agent, Ellen Pepus, took me at my word and negotiated a three book deal with Kensington!  I’m hard at work on DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS (book #3 in the H&W Investigations series) and am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more of Shiarra and her friends after that.

Diaz: What other projects do you have in the works?

Haines: I’ve got a few things up my sleeves!  As I mentioned above, I’m working on book #3, Deceived by the Others.  Don’t hold me to this, but I believe that one is expected to hit stores in July, 2011.

I’ve also got a couple of novellas—one called Spark of Temptation that can be found in the anthology Nocturnal.  It tells the story of how Sara and Arnold got together in the span between Hunted and Taken by the OthersNocturnal is releasing in September, 2010.  I’ve got another novella coming out next year in an anthology called The Real Werewives of Vampire County.  Sorry, no release date on that one—yet!

There’s more brewing in the background, but unfortunately it’s too early for me to make any announcements.  You can stay on top of the latest news on my blog or by signing up for my newsletter.

Diaz: What attracted you to the Urban Fantasy genre?

Haines: There’s no one thing I can put my finger on.  I’ve always been a gamer geek with an interest in the fantastical, so it was no great leap of logic for me to take the next step and write some of it myself.  Add my love of vampires, werewolves, and cheesy 80’s horror movies to the mix, and you’ll see how it was only a matter of time before I’d give in and write an urban fantasy.

Originally, when I set out to write a novel for publication, I started out thinking I would jump into the deep end of the high fantasy pool by writing some huge epic in the style of Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, or George R.R. Martin.

It took me a while to figure out that I was taking myself way too seriously.  In late 2007, I set aside the high fantasy and took my cue from Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Patricia Briggs by setting a new story in an alternate now and spicing it up with a touch of humor.  Voila!  HUNTED BY THE OTHERS was born!  Err, written…!

Diaz: You spent several years as a technical writer. Was that just a cover as you pursued a career as a fiction author, or did the decision to write fiction come later?

Haines: Actually, I’m still a technical writer.  That’s my day job—it pays the bills, while the money I make from writing fiction is used to pay for all those little things I always wanted, but never quite managed to save up for.

I’ve been writing fiction far longer than I’ve been writing the technical stuff, but didn’t decide to pursue a potential career as a novelist until a couple of years ago.  My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.

Diaz: What about the publishing process surprised you most?

Haines: That my editor did not turn ten feet tall and breathe fire when I had the temerity to offer my own opinions.  *g*

Seriously, this whole process continues to amaze me.  Everyone has been remarkably cool to work with—from my agent, to my editor, to my publicist, to my fans.  Even the bloggers—like yourself!—who offer me a spot to talk or simply share your views on my work floor me with your thoughtfulness and generosity.  You guys are all incredible.  Thank you!

Diaz: What was the greatest challenge you faced trying to get your work onto the shelves?

Haines: Getting past my own insecurity.  It took a lot for me to put aside my personal demons and submit my work to anyone.  If not for one of my closest friends pushing and prodding me to do it, I may never have persevered in my hunt for an agent or gotten as far as I have today.

Diaz: What advice to you have for aspiring writers?

Haines: Don’t despair—there’s always hope!  As long as you don’t give up, and are open to looking at ways to improve your craft, you can find success.

Whenever you feel disheartened by rejections or critiques, remember that it doesn’t mean you can’t make it.  All it means is that you’ve got more work to do to find a home for your baby—whether it be a few edits, a lot of edits, or a whole rewrite.  Remember, success in this business doesn’t come overnight, and it isn’t easy, or everyone would be doing it.

While I’m beating that drum, I’ll list a few good resources for writers:

That’s far from a complete list.  I’ve got more links to handy resources on my blogroll, too.  I’m also open to questions—though I can’t always promise a speedy reply.  Contact me anytime!


Kelly Meding entered the realm of Urban Fantasy with her fist book Three Days to Dead. With the sequel, As Lie the Dead, coming out this July and several more stories in the works, I decided to ask Kelly what’s it’s like creating and managing a series.

Diaz: Why do a series instead of a single book?

Meding: As a reader, I love series, because when I find a group of characters I enjoy spending time with I want to keep reading about them. It isn’t dissimilar to a long-running television show—same people, new story every week. Urban fantasy really works well for writing a series, because often the world the characters inhabit is just as much of a character as the actual characters. It’s a world that I want to keep exploring.

When I wrote THREE DAYS TO DEAD, I knew it was going to be part of a series. The world of Dreg City has so many layers, so much backstory, that I knew I couldn’t explore it in just one book. A series lets me play in this awesome sandbox, expand the lives of minor characters, and build an over-arcing story that I hope readers enjoy following.

Diaz: How did you sell your publisher on the idea of a series?

Meding: Fortunately, urban fantasy is kind of tailor-made for a series. There are very few UF debuts that aren’t part of a series or trilogy—which I know is frustrating for readers who prefer standalone novels, but it’s great for me. And because it’s a series, it’s easier to sell multiple books at once.

Diaz: How are you managing keeping track of subplots and details as each storyline progresses?

Meding: Several years ago, I read an awesome post over at the Fangs, Fur & Fey livejournal community, written by Yasmine Galenorn. She described her Series Bible, which is how she keeps track of her series, and the idea of it really stuck with me. For Dreg City, I have a 3-ring binder, and in it are divided sections, loose leaf paper, folders, and plastic sleeves. I have sections for Hunters & Handlers, Other Humans, Weres, Vampires, Other Critters, etc….

I try to keep notes as I go. If I add a minor character, I put their name into the notebook so it’s there if I need to reference them again later. If I make a backstory observation on someone, I write it down. Sometimes I forget to do this and I have to go back through a document to find something, which is a pain in the butt. Now that I’m writing Book 4, having this Series Bible around is especially important because the world is expanding all over the place.

Diaz: Is the personality or tone of the world you’ve created changing in ways you didn’t expect?

Meding: It continues to get darker with each book, which I didn’t expect (this might sound funny to people who know me and know I tend to write dark). But I suppose there’s truth to the saying “it’s always darkest before dawn,” and it applies here. Evangeline Stone and Company are heading for…something. And it’s just going to get worse before it gets better. If it gets better (ha!). But I’m glad that things still surprise me, because it keeps the world exciting and fun to play in.

Diaz: How far ahead are you plotting–two, three, twenty books down the line?

Meding: I have a general idea of where the series is going to go, but I’m not really a plotter. I know where two of the larger plots are heading and how they’ll change the landscape of the series as a whole, but I don’t have the book-specific events laid out yet. Once I finish writing Book 4 and have a better idea of how this one ends, I’ll have a better grasp of the next book.

Diaz: What are your plans in the future (e.g another series, a stand alone, life as a carny)?

Meding: Life as a carny sounds like fun, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out. *grin* I’d like to see the Dreg City series continue for a few more books, which is completely in the hands of other people (like my loyal readers). I also have a new series coming out next year with Pocket Books, which I will be talking more about in the near future. And there are half a dozen other projects crowding my brain, so we’ll see what develops.

Diaz: What are your favorite series by other authors?

Meding: The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost; Lords of the Underworld and Alien Huntress by Gena Showalter; the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent; the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs; Hell on Earth series by Jackie Kessler; ACRO by Sydney Croft; the Kate Daniels/Magic books by Ilona Andrews…I could go on and on, but these always stick out.

Diaz: What do you like about those series?

Meding: The characters. Some of them are urban fantasy, and some are paranormal romance. In some the same character narrates all the books, and in some the lead characters change with each volume. But it’s the characters, nonetheless, who draw me back each and every time. I want to experience their adventures, and I want to be by their sides as they live and love.

After the characters is the world building. All of those series I listed above are unique, creative, and just fantastic examples of world building. Each book tells me something new, and each book expands what’s already known.

Diaz:  Anything I missed, but you think may be important to a writer contemplating writing a series?

Meding: Know your world. There’s nothing worse than wanting to do something in the third book, only to realize you’ve established in book one that you can’t do this/something else is true. So be careful about the rules you create—make sure they’re rules you can stick to for the duration.

I may be poking a stick at a beehive here, but a conversation with a fellow writer got me thinking. We both write dark fantasy and horror and currently are shopping projects that fall under the incredibly broad sub-genre known as Urban Fantasy. From the inception of the term, Urban Fantasy meant to refer to any work with a “world within a world” theme. A fairly broad concept, this would include everything from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and E.K. Sedia’s A Secret History of Moscow to Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Now it seems as though a standard plot/character has hijacked the genre and is now dictating all efforts to produce an original work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Anita Blake, but it seems as though Urban Fantasy can only be one Consultant/Investigator/Enforcer with supernatural powers spending their time kicking monster but while dropping one liners. As editor for Paper Cities, E.K. Sedia tried to bring back the original meaning of the term Urban Fantasy by showcasing a broad range of stories that extended beyond the usual suspects (vampires, witches, werewolves, and zombies) to more unusual constructs that still perpetuated the “world within world” theme. Still, many agents and editors are coming to expect a very specific formula from writers who fall under this category, making it difficult to stand out in a sea of stories about ass kicking loners.

Disclaimer–my current project shifted more toward the acceptable ass kicking paranormal consultant theme, but I did craft it to be different from the norm as did my writer friend with her project. I have other projects manifesting that fall outside of the accepted construct. Does this mean we need to cultivate a new genre, or can Urban Fantasy go back to its more encompassing roots and embrace those writers who may not want to fit into the current formula? Any thoughts from you the masses?