Old Skool–thats me

Someone recently told me I wrote "old school urban fantasy." It comes as a revelation to me that there even is an "old school" for urban fantasy, but apparently that’s not only true, I’m in it. Hell I’m even "old school" about the way I type up my mss: double-spaced Courier with 1" margins; two spaces after terminal punctuation to differentiate between that and internal punctuation; underlines instead of italics… and I print it out when I ship it (but that’s been my publisher’s requirement up till now.)

On reflection I suppose I can see a dividing line between the stuff that wasn’t yet labeled "urban fantasy" in the 80s and 90s and the books that are currently burning up the shelves on both the SF and the Romance sides of the aisles. It’s harder to say what the old school is, but the new school seems to be be hipper and faster and has a higher percentage of romance, sex, and emotional pyrotechnics. They are adventures, romances, sex comedies, chick-lit, thrillers racing through the fantasy landscape.

Me, I write detective novels with ghosts and monsters. The plot is central, the character development takes time, and the sex is… umm… is there sex in my books? I guess I am the old school, where Fantasy was the material, not the machine. I like my detectives emotionally distant from their cases–the detective is not a factor of the case, merely the catalyst that brings circumstances together to gain justice or at least a solution. The emotionally wrought detective is inevitably bad at their job, makes mistakes, does stupid things. I don’t care for books that revolve around thoughtless, emotionally-driven protagonists who misunderstand things and go off half-cocked, where movement comes from rushing into the unknown for no good reason, or doing something in spite of–and sometimes literally to spite the author of–warnings to the contrary. When my detective is emotional, it’s usually not about the case, but something tangential or personal.

Additionally, I’m a long-arc writer. I set out with long-term goals in mind for the characters and the stories and I build them over the course of several books. Yes, I know this makes me dull compared to the glittering whirligig of most writers in my division. And I admit, I’m better at plotting than I am at character development. Bad Kat…

One of my early instructors said I wrote like Charlotte Bronte if she’d decided to write noir. I wish he’d said Jane Austen, but I have to own up to it; I’m a word geek and that probably comes through. I’m a Mystery fan at heart and a bit of a hermit. Pop culture eludes me. I sometimes wish my books were marketed as Mysteries rather than SF, since I seem to write in that mode more than in the SF mode people expect in this niche. There is definitely a difference in the expectations of my Fantasy fans versus those of my Mystery fans–and yes, I have two very different groups of fans.

And I don’t like writing sex scenes.


But in spite of all that, I’m moderately successful, so there must still be room in the playpen for old-skool genre hacks like me.

I do wish it didn’t come with the word "old" attached.

About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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6 Responses to Old Skool–thats me

  1. Speaking as one who actually prefers old-school urban fantasy, sex scenes optional, I hope you’ll keep right on doing what you’re doing. 🙂 Yay, old school urban fantasy!

  2. Cynthia says:

    I think what you write is urban fantasy and the books with the higher percentage of emotional content are generally paranormal romance. Although admittedly there is some blurring between the two. As a voracious reader of most genres, I enjoy the good examples of both.

  3. Adele says:

    and it’s because yours are good detective novels with ghosts and stuff that your books stand out amongst all the emotional angst and sex on the shelves.

  4. Dixie says:

    Argh on your behalf – “old school” compared to what?? I love your books. I requested our local library order a copy, and by the time it arrived, there were seven hold requests on it.

    I would much rather read well-written, well-plotted novels than the “latest-greatest” trend. Long-arcs take skill to plan and write, and bravo to you for attempting them. Joss Whedon is long-arc.

    While I realize the romance genre is a huge chunk of the market, I applaud you for sticking to your own vision. I buy and read books about heros with a human side, and you write them very well. Additionally, I keep and re-read novels, and the trendy ones simply don’t age well. Yours do.

  5. Ann W. says:

    Referred to your novels by Bruce/Elizabeth/Mel, I just purchased/read all three books… splendid job!!!

    A mystery fan at heart (mainly old British mysteries), I appreciate — first and foremost — a finely tuned plot. For me, it is the journey of the tale that attracts, not the solution/end of the story.

    As for sex in novels, I find that the same applies. The journey — the sexual tension — is more satisfying than the actual written event. Case in point: When Quentin oh-so-lightly brushes his hand down Harper’s back, it creates a solid threshold of anticipatory intimacy. Once the threshold is crossed, that part of the story is over.

    From one “word geek” to another… If I don’t need to pick up a dictionary at least twice during the reading of a novel, then that novel was a bust. So reading your books was happy times for me.

    However, I’m not too sure about people who categorize your writing as “urban fantasy”. Guess they’ve never waited at a bus stop after dark in downtown Seattle.

    Oh, one more thing… Since I live at Priest Point, I’ll walk down the road later today and pass my books on to Grandma Ella. Her eyesight’s not what it used to be, so I’ll probably end up reading them aloud to her…

  6. Oh my goodness! Someone who knows where Priest Point IS!


    The Urban Fantasy tag is a publishing thing. I never had any idea there was such a thing until after the book was sold. I do find it odd that something most people consider “new” can have an “old school”. very strange…

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