Maria here. Please give a warm welcome to author J.L Gribble as she makes a guest appearance on my blog! The latest book in her Steel Empires series is about to be born, and I’m pleased to have her talk about her monsters. Take it away, J.L.!
A major reason why I probably don’t write horror is because I think monsters are people, too.
This isn’t to say that I dislike reading or watching horror because I’m too busy sympathizing with the monsters to root for the humans. It’s fairer to say that humans can be equally monstrous, so pinning evil and villainy on a creature just because they are “other” never interested me.
Instead, urban fantasy allows me to explore that sense of “otherness” using the supernatural, just as science-fiction has been teaching us about humanity through the lens of alien races for decades. Though still incorporating elements of monstrousness, supernatural creatures can be an equal part of society in open-world urban fantasy. That unique facet draws me in, and challenges me to create well-rounded characters no matter their species.
For example, in many urban fantasy stories that include the quintessential vampire “Master of the City,” they are often cast as antagonists to the main character, or at least road blocks that add conflict to the narrative. To be completely honest, my hero Victory (a vampire) became the Master of the City because, well, she was the only vampire in the city. What started out as an in-joke in my own head instead developed into flipping genre norms and humanizing the traditionally monstrous. Instead of shadowy underworld leader, I had a professional politician with a seat on the city’s ruling council, and echoes of that decision have rippled through each installment of my series.
Of course, it would have been easy to take the obvious road and make all of the “bad guys” in my series human. But that would have been boring and a little too on the nose. And even though I have vampire heroes, I certainly also have vampires who create conflict. But the fun thing about writing monsters, even when they’re also people, is figuring out what makes them monstrous. The four “worst” characters in my published books include two humans (one with magical powers and one without), one elf, and one weredragon. The weredragon is the most literal monster, but he fights for his family, whereas one of the humans fights because of prejudice and fear. The elven character plots for control over the world, but the other human has an evil born of selfish desire for power.
One day, I would like to challenge myself to create a truly villainous monster of a character and tilt a little more toward the horror genre, in the lines of Maria Alexander’s incredibly creepy “Mr. Wicker.” But for now, I’m happy to keep exploring what makes monsters human, and humans monstrous, through the scope of urban fantasy.
About the book:
As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.
For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.
Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.
This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/steel-blood-jl-gribble/1126268372
From the publisher: http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/steel-blood/
About the author:
By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).