I have a problem. I like to kill. Kill, maim and destroy.
Luckily for me, as a genre writer I get to torture people for a (semi) living. First it was with the four books that make up the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and now with the alchemy and gargoyle filled Spellmason Chronicles. After seven books, I’m getting pretty good at destroying bits and pieces of Manhattan.
And because I’m a bit of a nerd heavily steeped in all things Whedonesque, I cackle like a cartoon villain while doing it. If they ever bill me for it, I’m screwed.
Conflict is the name of the game when it comes to all writing, but urban fantasy gets a special blend of it. There’s the grand tradition and tropes of traditional fantasy blended with a modern sensibility and setting. Over the top conflict where gargoyles can throw cabs several city blocks or crumble entire buildings to a pile of rubble is not only welcome, it’s practically required.
But, as the saying goes, you always hurt the ones you love, and having written about, lived in or around New York City for over twenty years now, I do love it so. Naturally, I must destroy it, right?
Any good conflict invests readers in the outcome of it. What’s at stake, what needs to be protected, and yes, what is lost.
In order to care about the story, the reader has to be invested. That includes not just the characters, but the world around them. Manhattan is a character, and it needs to be tortured. When I write in either of my series, I need you to love New York City in the same way my protagonists do. Their losses need to be felt by the reader. They need to empathize with them. In the Spellmason Chronicles, Alexandra Belarus is an artist on top of being the only practicing Spellmason. When a museum gets trashed it cuts her to her core. When her family’s ancestral Gothic home on Gramercy Park is threatened, I need the reader to feel that threat—what the building means to her and her family, Alexandra’s love of the art and architecture of it all..
And I have to be prepared for the fact that sometimes I have to go ahead and destroy those things. It’s not that I want to. It’s just that if the world is going to have value, sometimes you need to show its worth by the reactions of having it taken away, destroyed. It makes my characters richer for it, showing their metal in a world where magic, alchemy and gargoyles are finally starting to reemerge in our modern times.
So I stomp through Manhattan like Godzilla (the good Japan kind, not the Matthew Brodericky kind), causing havoc, and making life interesting for my characters.
To my mind, if you characters are happy too much, you’re doing something wrong as a writer. I will, however, try to keep my mad cackling down.
Fantasy and science fiction author Anton Strout has given readers equal shares of chills and laughter since the first book of his Simon Canderous paranormal detective series, Dead To Me, came out from Penguin/Ace Books in 2008. He continues his tales of mayhem in Manhattan with his second series, the Spellmason Chronicles, as he treats readers to the story of a girl and her gargoyle, and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and love with his trademark snarky twist.
The Once & Future Podcast is his latest project, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors to listener's ear holes one damned episode at a time..
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.