Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Pamela Palmer, and Vicki Pettersson four sirens of the urban fantasy landscape hung out with me at The Virginia Festival of the Book last Saturday sharing their magic with a large audience who had assembled to see them.
The panel was called Strange Brew: Urban Fantasy Authors ‘Spell’ Out Their Secrets. The spillage was excellent. Here’s what we learned from the authors:
KIM HARRISON: How does she create that magic edgy relationship between Rachel and Ivy?
Kim Harrison is the author of The Hollows series. Rachel is a kick-ass witch living with Ivy the bi-sexual vampire who’s chosen not to feed. Rachel and Ivy live together and co-own a sleuthing biz, but the close proximity puts Ivy into a constant frenzy of sexual/feeding hunger around Rachel. As Ivy’s scent winds around Rachel’s body, they fight the nasty beasties that haunt this other worldly Cleveland. Rachel’s intimacy with Ivy grows and she accepts Ivy’s friendship, as well as her preferences. Yet that knife-edge of tension remains between them. How long can Ivy manage to hold back before nature takes its course?
HER SECRET: Harrison says if she had tried to write about such a relationship it never would have worked. It just popped out onto her computer screen one day and she sat staring at what she’d written scared witless. Yet she put it out there–and readers have lined up ever since. Scare yourself, folks. This is the take-away from the birth of the first Ivy/Rachel homo-erotic moment. Scare yourself with what you write and don’t ever stop.
How do Frost & Palmer write such bad boy heroes that we readers find sexy-hot instead of villainous?
Palmer reveals that she thrives on writing a seriously flawed hero. Her type of man needs to find the serious commitment to change. They’ve got to dig down deep to touch base with the better man within.
I like that. I like someone who has to work to find his better side and make it stick. Meanwhile, what woman doesn’t love a challenge? These sexy guys need a moral make-over, and Palmer’s heroines have got to be strong enough for two. If you’ve read her latest work–VAMP CITY–you know the hero’s not a nice guy. Meanwhile, in a world full of bad options, he’s the heroine’s only hope, her one small flame in a dark, dark world.
I don’t know about you, but something in me is so happy when you have a desperate heroine who needs a guy so much, she’ll even choose–even in a vampire who feeds off her fear as she fights to survive.
Frost, meanwhile, maintains that her new hero, Vlad the Impaler, is over his pointy stick phase. He’s come through the middle ages with all of history shaping him into who he is. So yes, he’s taken the heroine’s friend and tortured him for information. Yes, he can set people on fire just by looking at them. It’s been a hellishly long 600 years of history, most of it was violent and bleak, so sue him for being a little slow to learn about compassion and mercy.
Frost said her secret was that no matter who her hero skewers, his heroine is always safe in his arms. Frost says if the hero is trustworthy when it comes to the heroine, then we know we can trust him too. Vlad keeps his heroine safe and everyone else in danger–a sexy combo of protectiveness and threat in one package.
Pettersson is writing about a PI noir figure who makes his first appearance with black wings. Shaw is a centurion, the most simple form of an angel, sent to usher others into the great beyond. When he’s suddenly sucked from his heavenly duties into an earth bound body, he’s finally has a chance to solve his own murder from years before.
The best part is that he immediately encounters an uber-curvacious rockabilly chick who’s hunting for her bff’s killer as well.
Pettersson’s secret is to create great characters that know why they are and what they like without caring about what others think. Her distinctive writing wears a retro patina to the point where her work isn’t so much paranormal–it’s para-noir. Yum!