A big welcome to Martina Boone who is here to telling us about Urban Fantasy and the Gothic Genre and celebrating the release of Persuasion, Heirs of Watson Island #2 (published on October 27, 2015 by Simon Pulse). Want to win a copy of Compulsion, book one in the series? Enter via the widget below.
Urban Fantasy and the Gothic Genre
I was born in a fairy tale city. Until I was five, I could look up and see Prague Castle on the hillside through my bedroom window, and reading the opening pages of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I remember feeling the magic of my childhood all over again, seeing the glittering spires of the gothic churches chasing the sky, soaring above the red and green rooftops and the cobbled, twisted streets.
Like the setting of all good gothic novels, in my childhood, Prague was a bit down-at-the-heel, choking under the thumb of an oppressive dictator. Substitute a vampire, or demon, or an evil uncle in place of the communist Soviet Union, and really, that’s the foundation for a gothic novel. Or an urban fantasy.
You can make a case for saying that urban fantasy was a natural evolution for the gothic genre, especially in the United States where castles and haunted mansions are in short supply. We have no shortage of crumbling cities, though. And no shortage of evil to combat, or readers who desperately want the forces of good to win.
But taking away the castles and haunted mansions also takes away the sense of history, a place in time, and the atmospheric, rich descriptions that I love in traditional gothics. That’s why I didn’t set Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy in Washington D.C. or Baltimore or New York, even though the story probably would have worked just fine that way. History adds a dimension and a context that I love.
These days, you don’t hear the term gothic very often. More often, as long as they contain a bit of magic, they get pigeon holed into the “urban fantasy” or “paranormal” label. It’s true they always contain a battle between good and evil. There’s also usually a fantastic romance. And often, there’s a beautiful, twisted, broken setting that feels like a character.
Where, for me, the split between paranormal and urban fantasy occurs is with the heroine. Heroines in the urban fantasies I love tend to kick butt more, or kick butt faster. They out alpha the alpha male protagonist or at least challenge him from the get-go, whereas in a paranormal, they can be less dominant or take longer to grow into their strength.
I love the idea of an alpha heroine. I’d totally be Buffy if I could. But I feel like there’s still so much that holds girls back from embracing that alpha side. Too often, the girls who don’t play the game the way it’s expected to be played end up being called bitchy or worse by classmates or coworkers who would call the same behavior in a man the mark of good leadership. Girls are expected to soften themselves.
That’s where I love the freedom of the gothic as a genre label. Heroines can start as whatever kind of girls they please. They can be alpha girls, or girly girls, or anything in between as long as they arrive someplace and shake it up, make things happen, change the people around them.
In Compulsion, Barrie Watson gets confidence from her fabulous high-heeled shoes. But she discovers that it’s what she does in those shoes that matters. She finds her strength. Saves a small magical corner of the world that no one else knows exists. Navigates a lot of issues with gender and race and class and wealth, and both explodes and embraces the burden of her family’s three-hundred-year old history.
Set in small towns or atmospheric out-of-the-way places and bringing in questions of social inequality and bringing in curses and things set into motion in the past, books like Compulsion, or The Raven Boys, or the Lyndburn Legacy series are re-introducing readers to something between the paranormal and the urban fantasy. They’re also shaking up the boundaries of what it means to be a gothic heroine.
The new breed of gothic heroine doesn’t rely on a hunky alpha boy, no matter how much she may like him or want him. She doesn’t give up her hopes or future for the sake of the romance. Like the rest of us, she just juggles romance along with life, family, school, mystery, murder, and the supernatural. : )
Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She fell in love with words and never stopped delighting in them. She’s the author of SIBA Book Award nominated Compulsion, book one in the romantic Southern Gothic trilogy, the Heirs of Watson Island, which was an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Bookstores Alliance, a Kansas State Reading Circle selection, a Goodreads Best Book of the Month and YA Best Book of the Month, and an RT Magazine Best of 2014 Editor’s Pick. The second book in the trilogy, Persuasion, will be published in October 2015.
She’s also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, the CompulsionForReading.com book drive campaign for underfunded schools and libraries, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site devoted to the discovery and celebration of young adult literature and encouraging literacy through YA series. Locally in her home state of Virginia, she works with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia to promote literacy and adult education initiatives.
She lives with her husband, children, and a lopsided cat, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.
1 Compulsion for Reading bumper sticker and paperback copy of COMPULSION
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Persuasion by Martina Boone
Available on October 27, 2015 by Simon Pulse
Grieving the death of her godfather and haunted by her cousin Cassie’s betrayal, Barrie returns from a trip to San Francisco to find the Watson plantation under siege. Ghost-hunters hope to glimpse the ancient spirit who sets the river on fire each night, and reporters chase rumors of a stolen shipment of Civil War gold that may be hidden at Colesworth Place. The chaos turns dangerous as Cassie hires a team of archeologists to excavate beneath the mansion ruins. Because more is buried there than treasure.
A stranger filled with magic arrives at Watson’s Landing claiming that the key to the Watson and Beaufort gifts—and the Colesworth curse—also lies beneath the mansion. With a mix of threats and promises, the man convinces Barrie and Cassie to cast a spell there at midnight. But what he conjures may have deadly consequences.
While Barrie struggles to make sense of the escalating peril and her growing and forbidden feelings for Eight Beaufort, it’s impossible to know whom to trust and what to fight for—Eight or herself. Millions of dollars and the fate of the founding families is at stake. Now Barrie must choose between what she feels deep in her heart and what will keep Watson’s Landing safe in this stunning addition to a series filled with “decadent settings, mysterious magic, and family histories rife with debauchery” (Kirkus Reviews, on Compulsion).
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