The Fantasy of Writing Urban Fantasy

Patricia Rice here.

Pardon while I puff my wings and crow a bit. Tomorrow is the release day for my very first genuine fantasy, written under the name of Jamie Quaid and called BOYFRIEND FROM HELL.

It’s a Pocket release and not BVC, so I’ll just mark the excerpt page from Pocket in case anyone is interested.

I’m crowing because fantasy is not an easy market to break into. I’ve been writing romance for thirty years, since the early days when publishers would buy bubble gum off the sidewalk if it spelled S-E-X.  I was an accountant and a reader who knew a good story when I read one. I didn’t necessarily know how to write one, but editors bought stories, not craft back then, and so I sold. And kept on selling. And the more I sold, the easier it was to sell because the romance market was insatiable.

I gradually learned my trade, and being of a roving Uranian nature, began to look for new challenges. Love stories might be their own brand of fantasy, but after a while, I longed for ghosts and time travel and paranormal activities to add edges to the usual male/female conflict. I started reading Ray Bradbury and Jules Verne in elementary school and have been reading sf/f since, but my name was known as a romance writer. I needed to earn a living, and I saw no way of doing that by changing genres. So I created the Magic series (currently being reissued by Sourcebooks) with psychic heroines and scientific heroes, blending romance with my belief that there is more to this world than we realize.

But the freedom of e-books (Thanks to BVC!) has allowed me to earn a living without consulting editors and agents, so I’m free to indulge in my Muse. Admittedly, I wanted my first fantasy efforts to be print published because NYC still adds a level of acceptance and cachet that doing it myself doesn’t. I don’t have to apologize for my romance e-book originals because I’ve already established my credentials in that genre. But I wanted the approval of fantasy readers—and editors are the first line of readers I had to target.

The fantasy market is much smaller than romance, and the judges are consequently much tougher. I not only needed to know my craft and my story, but I had to give them a hook they could sell. This is not easy, especially in a market crowded with eager people who build their own websites in their sleep. I can’t do that. (The saga of how I broke my wrist so I didn’t have to update my website is another tale for a stormy day.)

My first attempt at urban fantasy made the rounds of NYC with much applause and no sales. I knew I had good material but no hook. I’d like to say I studied the market and deliberately developed a promising premise, but my Muse hates analysis. No, the inspiration for THE BOYFRIEND FROM HELL came from boredom and a country song about bugs hitting the windshield. Don’t ask me how my Muse took that to my protagonist’s boyfriend trying to kill her, exploding in flame, and going to hell. It happens.

Even with that germ of an idea, it was a long strange road to publication. It took a year to turn that germ into a proposal. It took another year for the proposal to make the rounds of every fantasy editor in New York. And even after those first chapters were fished from someone’s slush pile, probably after a weekend fight with a boyfriend, it took months to hammer out a contract because NYC contracts these days are akin to enslavement. And then, over the next year, the book went through three editors.

So now you understand why I have to crow just a little at finally seeing my baby on the shelf. That baby is nearly three years old by now, and I’m pretty attached to Tina, my wielder of justice, and the chemically enhanced Zone of Baltimore in which she lives.

If there’s any moral to this story, it’s that persistence pays. Only time will tell how much!




The Fantasy of Writing Urban Fantasy — 4 Comments

  1. You are so tough. I am not sure I am willing to go the NYC route with my contemporary fantasy. Not for slave wages. Looking forward to Tina’s adventures. (Not sure I’d retrieve a boyfriend who tried to murder me, but people have different maps of reality… ;^) )

  2. I bought ‘Boyfriend from Hell’ at a B&N in Tampa last Saturday (2 days before the release date? uh-oh) and put it on my TBR pile (a sadly shaky structure of great size). Reading this here made me pull it out of the pile and start reading. I love it. Tina is a marvelous character. Please let this be only the beginning of a long and interesting series.

  3. Congrats on your book contract and release. I’ve added it to my TBR pile. Your website came up in a google search for urban fantasy target marketing.