DEBORAH COATES lives in Ames, Iowa and works for Iowa State University. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov's and Strange Horizons, as well as Year's Best Fantasy 6, Best Paranormal Romance, and Best American Fantasy.
Mystery vs Urban Fantasy
First, I want to thank you for hosting me on your blog today! I'm so happy to be here. I thought I'd take some time to talk about why I read both fantasy and mystery novels and why Wide Open is the book it is.
I love mysteries, particularly series mysteries, and particularly series mysteries where the mystery is neatly wrapped up at the end of each novel, but the lives of the central characters expand and develop across the course of several volumes. These mysteries, the ones I like, also generally have a strong sense of place, the setting sometimes an essential element of the mystery and almost always important to who the characters are and why they do the things they do. A couple of my current favorites are the Armand Gamache series set in Quebec by Louise Penny and the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnsen set in Wyoming.
I also love fantasy, not because, as some might claim, anything can happen in a fantasy novel, but because the author creates his or her own boundaries and then creates a story that not only works, but brings to life the world within those boundaries, a world that may or may not resemble ours. My favorite fantasies are too numerous to mention, but a couple of recent favorites include The Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The urban and contemporary fantasies that I like best come out of both these traditions. They have a central mystery that must be solved by the end of the book. Unlike mystery novels the central mystery may or may not involve murder, but even in urban fantasies it often does because nothing ups the stakes like a few dead bodies. These novels have characters involved in complex relationships that change and grow over the course of several novels. The very best ones have a strong sense of place. And though they are generally solidly grounded in the world we know, they're also twisted just a little into a new shape with new boundaries that the authors work hard to stay within.
When people ask me what I read or what I've been reading lately, I'm apt to point to mysteries rather than urban fantasy, but in many ways I don't think reading mysteries is all that far away. The genres have a lot in common...just twisted.
My novel, Wide Open also has a central mystery--what happened to Hallie's sister. When Hallie first arrives back home, Boyd Davies, the new deputy sheriff tells her to leave the investigation up to law enforcement, but you know, just like in a mystery novel, that doesn't actually work very well:
"Look," Deputy Davies said after a minute. "It was a single-car accident. No one else was with her. There was no other vehicle involved."
It was Hallie's turn to stare out the front windshield at the low rolling hills and the big wide open. There was a certain comfort in how familiar it was, in how "right" it felt, the prairie and the big sky and the shifting gray and brown and gold. But that comfort, the re lease of tension because she was home and she knew what that meant, was canceled out by Dell's death, by knowing that nothing would ever be the same.
"I want to see it," she said suddenly. "Show me where." Like she could tell, just from seeing, what had happened.
He was quiet for a minute, and she thought he'd refuse. He probably should refuse. From his perspective, she was nothing but trouble. What was Dell to him? Another body, another report, another trip to someone's house to tell them their sister/daughter/friend was dead.
"All right," he said, like it was the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
Thanks so much, Deborah! And I totally agree that there are overlapping elements between genres :D
Wide Open by Deborah Coates
When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her. The sheriff says that Dell's death was a suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to. As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts other ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation. She's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.
» READ THE FIRST CHAPTER HERE «
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