Why I Write Urban Man-tasy
Sara, thank you for having me over! I’m thrilled at the opportunity to talk, without actually having to... you know, speak. Public speaking and me get along like chocolate and motor oil –- and really, who wants a 10W40-filled Cadbury egg?
Here’s my obligatory intro: I’m Sonya Bateman, author of MASTER OF NONE, the first in a new urban fantasy series from Pocket Books featuring the world’s unluckiest thief and a very grumpy genie (who doesn’t grant wishes). This series has a male protagonist, just enough romance to be deemed a subplot, lots of actions and explosions, some torture, and exactly zero vampires or werewolves (though the djinn are shape-shifters). I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it anyway.
In the short time I’ve been a published author so far, there is one question that readers seem most interested in hearing about from me: why a male protagonist in a female character-dominated genre? Part of the reason is that, while I enjoy a kick-ass heroine as much as the next urban fantasy fan, sometimes different is good. Jim Butcher kindly proved before me that a male main character in UF can work (quite fabulously, in fact – Harry Dresden is a wonderful character), so all the trailblazing credit goes to him.
Mostly, though, this series ended up in the first-person POV of a man because of Donatti.
Gavyn Donatti is my unlucky thief, the character who started the series (and yes, everything is all his fault!). When I first came up with the idea of doing a modern-day take on Aladdin, bringing the fascinating legends of the djinn into urban fantasy, I started writing the book in third person with the intention of switching POVs between Donatti and Ian, the angry and not-quite-all-powerful djinn – or possibly between Donatti and Jazz, the kick-ass heroine love interest. But something wasn’t working. The idea was there, but the execution wouldn’t gel.
So I switched to first person, and Donatti took over so completely that soon I couldn’t remember what the book had been like in third. His voice was strong, and a totally natural fit for the story. Besides... he made me laugh. A lot. And telling Ian’s story, filtered through him, made the impact stronger and closer.
Here’s a brief excerpt that I feel is a good example of Donatti’s voice:
“Uh-huh,” I said. “So, what’s my life’s purpose?”
“I do not know.”
“That’s great. Neither do I.” The road entered a sharp and unexpected curve. I gripped the wheel tighter and eased off the gas. Damn, it was dark in the country. No streetlights, no city glow, and I hadn’t seen another car for miles. “How does this work? You serving me, I mean.”
The warning note in Ian’s voice gave me pause. I chose my words with care. “Well, I have to admit, I don’t know much about djinn. Okay, I don’t know anything. Do I get three wishes?”
Ian muttered something that included television and idiotic. “No wishes,” he said. “If you need or desire something, I will attempt to fulfill that need or desire, in a way I see fit.”
“Oh, good.” Wasn’t there a story about magic backfiring? Something about an animal... a monkey. The Monkey’s Paw. An old couple wished for money, and their son was killed in a horrible accident, for which they were compensated. I wouldn’t put it past this djinn to try something like that. Be careful what you wish for... you just might get it.
Will I ever write a story with a female protagonist? Very likely. In fact, the novel I wrote just before MASTER OF NONE had a female main character, and I had a great time writing it (it also got me an agent, which was a bonus). For now, though, I’m going to stick with urban man-tasy –- as long as Donatti has more stories to tell.
Thank you, Sonya, for taking the time to answer my questions! And feel free to post any comments or questions for Sonya.