Researching Urban Fantasy
By Cristy Rey: Writer, librarian, slayer of demons, romancer of stones…you know, all the stuff that matters.
For Shakuita Johnson’s blog, The Ramblings of Me, at http://dark-indiscretions.com/
I write urban fantasy. This means I weave imagined fantastical creatures and themes through the “real world,” or the world that we live in. I create a mythology for my characters. I impose order in the world they inhabit. I write the rules and, sometimes, I even break them.
In this genre, as in all the genres and subgenres that fall under the fantasy banner, authors are like gods. We can choose to create from scratch and fill readers in along the way, or we can leave you as much in the dark as cavemen before Prometheus gifted them with fire. Alternately, we can take what is already out there in the popular consciousness and tweak it to our liking. We can re-create myths, legends, and fairy tales. We can take Barbies and rip their heads off and reform their limbs so they become something different, something all our own.
I have done the latter.
As much as my series, the Incarnate series, has been called “different” and “new,” it’s not altogether unfamiliar. I write witches and werewolves. I skew existing concepts derived from sources as far-ranging as Western neo-paganism, Greco-Roman mythology, contemporary pop culture, Gothic literature, Modernist poetry, and wildlife photography…to name a few.
Shakuita invited me to guest blog for her and, at first, we thought I’d provide sources on the writing craft and the indie publishing business. I was gung-ho until we started talking about our next projects and our conversations moved from “How can we hone our business skills?” to “What information is out there about X, Y, and Z for researching our next novels?”
This blog post is an extension of that. As a good librarian (spoiler alert: I am a great librarian), I want to share a selection from my personal bibliography. I invite you to take a look at it and, most importantly, to evaluate the sources for yourself. In the immortal words of Obi-Wan (a character built on the archetypes of Campbell’s seminal Hero with a Thousand Faces), “Use the Force.”
Below is a list of books. All links provided are to Google Books:
- Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, by Rosemary E. Guiley, published 1989.
- The Essential Guide to Werewolf Literature, by Brian J. Frost, published 2003.
- The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer, originally published between 1906 and 1915, later abridged in 1922.
- Celtic Myths and Legends, by TW Rolleston, originally published in 1911.
- Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, originally published in 1942.
- Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, originally published in 1949.
- From Romance to Ritual, by James and Jesse L. Weston, originally published in 1920.
Here are some free Internet resources:
Cristy Rey is the author of the urban fantasy Incarnate series. The first book, Taking Back Sunday, and a short prequel novelette, Edge of Seventeen, are available now at online retailers. She also writes and publishes unconventional romantic women’s fiction. Weeping Angels will be released in July 2014, and The Heart Grow Fonder will be released at the end of the year.
Cristy lives in Miami, FL where she is a reader and writer most of the time, and a knitter much less of the time than she was six months before she took up writing again. She writes the books that she likes to read. She describes her writing style as riot grrrl Jane Austen sprinkled with a little magic. There’s always a killer soundtrack running in the background of her novels – all you need to do is turn to the playlist to know what’s up.
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