I guess I pictured that those ubiquitous kickass book-cover chicks would be parkouring all over a sooty Gotham with explosively powerful crossbows. In fact, yes, that's exactly what I pictured when I thought of "urban fantasy".After reading my post, Matt messaged me and said "You should just write this book." I joked back that I totally should. And then I thought about it for another day and the joke part sort of faded.
This is concept art from Diablo III (and has some of the problems of fantasy figures of women) (PUT HER DAMN HAIR BACK), but this is sort of what I picture. Only...steampunk. Oh yes: steampunk crossbow parkour chick. I'm giddy with the awesomeness, and 95% committed to writing this book.
I toyed with several central ideas, but over the course of the weekend I finally settled on one that I like, not involving demons or vampires or werewolves as the main enemy, and giving my chick a backstory that makes the skin crawl. I also went to Barnes & Noble and picked up a dozen books with kickass urban fantasy chicks (KUFCs) on the covers, reading the backs, putting them down again. I very much doubt that they were all the same on the inside, I give published writers more credit than that, but they all seemed the same from the back covers. I bought the first Anita Blake book, because I think you could make the case that that's where all this came from, and a book called Under Wraps about a demon hunter in San Francisco, and Plague Town, which really doesn't have much to do with all this but which Steve Saffel talked up a lot at the PPWC. A day later, when I settled on steampunk, I went back and bought Ganymede.
See, because I haven't actually read that much of this stuff. Particularly steampunk - I've read one steampunk short story to date, and it stank so much that I figured it was just an art that I'd enjoy visually from here on out. (It was that bad.) And although I've read all the Sookie books, I haven't read any KUFC books, or any real urban fantasy in the new wave - I've read Neverwhere and nearly all of the anthology I mentioned the other day and short stories in Weird Tales and the like, but no novels in the zeitgeist, and not much that resembles what I want to write.
Recent events, though, have made me debate internally whether this is a bad thing. Most of my grounding as a writer comes from non-commercial fiction. I haven't read many of the books that establish the rules of engagement for writing stories about fairies and elves and robots, so I tend to break them without realizing it. I have always believed (through significant insecurity, of course) that this makes for better work, because when you don't feel compelled to play by a certain set of rules, you wind up with more original ideas. Ask any entrepreneur. If you can't find what you want to use or own or read, do it yourself, and someone will probably like it the way it is.
I thought that this potential originality made up a little bit for the confusion faced by readers who are expecting some particular thing and instead get something else with different rules. But recently I've gone back and forth about that. I still don't want my work to be formulaic, but I do want it to get sold. And there's no way around the basic problem of not knowing my market.
My conclusion for right now is to sketch out the fundaments of my KUFC idea before reading all the books I bought the other day, and then read them to see how the details are done. This was the same thing I did with my Greenland book - I wrote a lot of it, and complained to Matt about how hard it is to build a world underground, and he told me to read Homeland, and I did, and it helped with the detail and with addressing the illogical aspects of living underground. I was really glad I didn't read it first, though, because it would have skewed and influenced stuff that it shouldn't've, and made the work less my own.
Anyway. Matt points out that the Marilyn book will take a lot longer than this KUFC one, so I should write this one first. I'm happy to take that advice. Anything that delays the Marilyn book. I also have a couple of short stories on the brain: one literary based on a nightmare I had, one slipstream that will help me clear some emotional chaff out of my life. Or so I hope. And we have to pack all of our stuff THIS WEEK and get ready to live in a completely empty house for another week. Yippee. At least that'll be a week to get a lot of reading done whilst sitting on the cold hard floor.