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.