After narrowly escaping her fate as a sacrificial scapegoat, Arcadia Bell is back to normal. Or at least as ordinary as life can be for a renegade magician and owner of a tiki bar that caters to Earthbound demons. She’s gearing up for the busiest day of the year—Halloween—when a vengeful kidnapper paralyzes the community. The influential head of the local Hellfire Club taps Cady to track down the fiendish bogeyman, and now that she’s dating red-hot Lon Butler, the club’s wayward son, she can hardly say no.
Cady and Lon untangle a gruesome thirty-year trail of clues that points to danger for the club members’ children. But locating the person behind the terror will require some metaphysical help from Cady’s loyal bar patrons as well as her potent new Moonchild powers—and she’d better figure it out before the final victim disappears and her own darkest secret becomes her biggest enemy.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away two copies of her new novel, Summoning the Night.
Authenticity in Urban Fantasy
Readers often tell me that my series feels very real—a funny thing for a fantasy writer to hear. But I get what they’re saying. My world-building only asks for a humble suspension of disbelief: humans with magical talent, occult societies, Earthbound demons who look like humans. Nothing too taxing. No dragons flying around skyscrapers, no trolls, no were-panthers. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. A talented writer could make any of them believable—much more, in fact.
But what makes something real to a reader?
I’ve been told my dialogue is authentic (perhaps that’s because I say it out loud as I’m writing it, like a crazy person), and that my sex scenes feel genuine—one reviewer remarked that she felt like she was watching someone’s home videos. (Maybe that last one’s due to the fact that I don’t write a lot of purple prose: no seeing stars or body part described as a “rosebud” or eyes like pools of chocolate.)
With regard to my world-building, I’ve done more research that one might expect. For example, both my magical system and occult orders are based on existing ones, like the O.T.O (Ordo Templi Orientis), which was heavily molded by its most infamous member, Aleister Crowley. The local branch of this still-operational order was happy to answer my questions and invite me to public rituals. And the most fantastical element in my series, the Æthyric demons—big, bad ugly ones summoned from another plane—are based on demons cataloged in historical texts, like The Lesser Key of Solomon.
But despite all this, believability—or, more precisely, a reader’s willingness to trust an author—is utterly subjective and hinges on the smallest details. My heroine, Arcadia Bell, is 25; my hero, Lon Butler, is 42. Neither is immortal. She’s not a gold digger. He’s not going through a midlife crisis. They’re just two people who happened to fall in love. And though you’ll find plenty of books featuring young (even teenage) girls dating immortal vampires who’ve been alive for hundreds of years, make the couple mortal and–GASP!–it’s controversial.
Most of my readers are fine with this scenario. But, on occasion, I’ve read comments from (usually younger) readers who’ve said they chose to imagine Lon as someone in his thirties—because (a) it made the age difference between the hero and heroine more palpable to them, and (b) 42 was just too old for an urban fantasy hero, and (c) geez, Lon almost acts like someone younger anyway . . . right?
In other words, they didn’t want to believe, and no amount of authenticity will sway them. Sure, I might be married to someone who’s around Lon’s age (and I’m almost there, myself); and yeah, Lon’s the right age to have a fourteen-year-old kid, Jupe, from a previous marriage. But none of that matters to a reader whose fixed concept of a 42-year-old man is someone who’s Old and Yucky and Boring. There’s a pretty good chance that no amount of realism will be enough to convince her otherwise.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Research and attention to detail is all well and good, but once something pulls a reader out of the book and shatters their suspension of disbelief, it’s hard to pull them back into the story again. I suppose the only thing a writer can hope to do is to create characters that make readers want to believe, even when it challenges their preconceived notions . . . and perhaps write a story that makes readers forget they ever had those notions in the first place.
Meet Jenn Bennett!
Jenn Bennett is an award-winning visual artist and author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series from Pocket Books. Born in Germany, she’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the U.S., and the Far East. She believes rebellion is an under-appreciated art form, has conjured more demons than you’ve had hot lunches, and likes her fairy tales like she likes her coffee: dark. She currently lives near Atlanta with her film-geek husband and two very bad pugs.
Social Media: Facebook | Twitter
Want to purchase Jenn’s novels?
- Kindling the Moon at Amazon | Book Depository
- Summoning the Night at Amazon | Book Depository
- Leashing the Tempest (December 25, 2012)
- Binding the Shadows (June 2013)
- Crossing the Æthyr (2014)
Thank you Jenn for taking the time to stop by Literary Escapism!
Jenn is giving away two copies of Summoning the Night. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Do you like it when an author pays attention to the details or are you not bothered by authenticity in an UF novel? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
The contest will stay open until June 19th at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have.
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.
I think accurate details in a book are important, especially if you are reading about a familiar area. I don’t mind if a resteraunt or business is made up in a book but things like geographical errors detract from the story.
The more authentic the better! I’m the kind of person that will fact check…seriously. I know it sounds anal, but when I read, say, historical fiction, I’ll look up things that the author wrote about in the novel to see if that’s how the events really occurred in history. I do the same thing with topics I’m not familiar with too like different aspects of the occult. So, yes, to this reader it matters a lot.
I like when the author is authentic, but it is also nice when an author gets creative.
Let’s just say in UF, I’m more inclined to give an author leeway as opposed to other genres. I can appreciate a fantastic setting/characters if you have something that grounds the novel with a bit of reality (Ie: Family, relationships, boring job, whatever lol).
But let’s say epic fantasy? Reading 21st century jargon & idioms yanks me out of the story and to me, interferes with the rhythm and tone of the novel one is trying to create.
No need to enter me into the contest! Already have this fabulous book!
I try not to get too hung up on the details if I read something that isn’t correct, but is fairly obscure. On the other hand, if the author gets something wrong that is a pretty well-known fact, or one that is easy to confirm with one or two mouse clicks, that will throw me right out of the story.
It appears that I have a reading comprehension problem. :) Most of my statement still applies. I tend to give authors in the UF genre more leeway with details. Unless it’s something I really know a lot about.. (which is not mythology btw) and the author gets it totally backwards, I may be a wee bit more harsh.. but otherwise.. not too picky over here.
I love authenticity in a novel! I love it when an author (like Jenn) goes out and does research and finds crazy history that she can base her writing on. Aleister Crowley and texts like the Lesser Key of Solomon?! Holy cow, sounds awesome! How in the world do you go about finding something like that? Oh, right… Google.
But take that history, twist it a little, and I’m just fine! Actual geographical places, as in states and regions, I get sticky on because I’ve been all over and I love to read a book and say, “I know where they’re talking about!” But that’s my own quirk.
Twist a history lesson, I’m there! Thanks for the great post! I’m 43 and I still act dumb and stupid like a 25 year old, just with a little more responsibility and less tolerance for alcohol :)
Hi everyone! Thanks for all the great comments! I suppose the consensus is: keep it real, but make it original. I couldn’t agree more. :)
Kristin: High-five for being over 40 and acting 25. And I’m right there with you with alcohol tolerance, ha!
I love that the author did so much research before writing this book. It’s definitely evident and adds a lot to it. I was only a few chapters in when I decided that Jenn Bennett must be in the OTO and I had to force myself not to google her until after I finished it in case I accidentally came across a spoiler.