Today I’m going to hand the blog over to John G. Hartness, author of Hard Day’s Knight, the first novel in the The Black Knight Chronicles. He’s here to talk about world building in urban fantasy and how far an author should take it!
To Build or Steal? – World Creation in The Black Knight Chronicles
By John G. Hartness
One thing that all fantasy authors have to deal with is the world their books take place in. Do your characters inhabit the same world that you do, or do they live in a world all their own? That’s one of the things that separates a lot of urban fantasy from epic fantasy – the world-building. So when I started working on Hard Day’s Knight, knowing that if I liked writing the characters (I did!) that the book would spawn a sequel (it did!) and probably a series (Book 3 coming later in 2011!).
Now most urban fantasy seems to take place in the same world that we live in, just with a few key differences. Faith Hunter’s fantastic Jane Yellowrock series is certainly set in our New Orleans, but it’s our world if vampires were out in the open due to a misunderstanding in the Oval Office some decades ago (really, you gotta read the books, I’m not giving that one away!). On the other hand, Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft novels take place in a world that feels a lot like ours, but is in a completely made-up magical city that only exists in Price’s world.
Both these are valid approaches, and I decided that for this series I would go down the same road Faith Hunter took her characters. Which is similar to the path that Jim Butcher took with his Dresden Files books, too. I decided to use the real world, just tweak it a little to allow magical creatures to exist. For the “normal” people in my world, it’s just like the world you and I live in every day. They don’t know anything about the creatures they live side by side with, and would probably prefer to keep it that way.
But for the folks that are in the know, they’re living in a world of magic. Vampires are real, and so are witches, trolls, fairies, werewolves and probably other things I haven’t even put into a book yet! The folks who have had their eyes opened to the supernatural are those people who have a shadow behind their eyes, those people who you look at and think “She knows something I don’t know.” Because they do. They might wish they didn’t know about zombies, vampires and things that go bump in the night, but once you’ve stepped into the world with my characters, you can’t go back.
So my characters live in my world, in Charlotte, NC, which happens to be where I live. No, you cannot look me up in the phonebook and come stalk me for spoiler hints. I don’t have a land line, and I don’t do cliffhangers anyway. But I digress. It’s what I do.
I set my series in the real Charlotte so that I could use real landmarks in the books, something I really enjoy when I’m reading. It’s one of my favorite things in a Kathy Reichs book, and I loved it in JL Bryan’s Jenny Pox. I find as a reader that I really enjoy local color in a book, and the best way I could put that color into my books was to set them in places I could easily drive to if need be. So in the end I decided not to build a world at all, I had a perfectly good one right outside my front door.
*Don’t forget to visit John tomorrow at his next stop on the blog tour: A Chick Who Reads
John G. Hartness is a recovering theatre geek who likes loud music, fried pickles and cold beer. He’s been published or accepted online in several journals including The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, cc&d, Deuce Coupe and Truckin’.
His first novel, The Chosen, is an urban fantasy about saving the world, snotty archangels, gambling, tattooed street preachers, immortals with family issues, bar brawls and the consequences of our decisions.
He followed up The Chosen with Hard Day’s Knight, a new twist on the vampire detective novel and the first in a planned series of at least five books. The second book of The Black Knight Chronicles, Back in Black, landed in March 2011 and has enjoyed immediate success. John has been called “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte,” and fans of Joss Whedon and Jim Butcher should enjoy his snarky slant on the fantasy genre. His next novel, Knight Moves (Black Knight Chronicles Vol. 3) is due out in the summer of 2011.
He can be found online at www.johnhartness.com and spends too much time on Twitter, especially after a few drinks.