(JL Gribble is one of my girl crushes. We met at a book nerd convention and were basically friends in, um, five seconds. Eventually, we had drinks with Severus Snape. No big deal. Her new urban fantasy novel, Steel Blood, came out Wednesday, so I asked her to tell me about her must-read urban fantasy authors … not counting herself, of course. Oh, and all gif choices are mine because I just had to. Take it away, JL!)
When celebrating the new release of an urban fantasy novel with very nontraditional vampires, the best place to go is the online home of other authors with nontraditional vampires! If Celia, Imogene, and Victory walked into a bar together, I imagine Victory would travel the following emotional journey: shock, amusement, confusion, possibly more shock, and then acceptance of her fate (preferably with beer).
Grab your own beer, blood bag, or other drink of choice and join in the party as we celebrate Victory’s newest adventure in Steel Empires Book 3: Steel Blood. Since I write more on the urban fantasy side of the speculative fiction spectrum, Sara asked me to talk about my top 5 favorite and/or most influential urban fantasy authors.
I first fell in love with Mercedes Lackey when I was introduced to her epic fantasy Valdemar books in middle school. Once I ran out of those, I started in on the rest of her novels and found that she also wrote some crazy adventures in “our” world, too. While I enjoyed the books with elves and Guardians, what really piqued my interest was her retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in early 20th century San Francisco. The Fire Rose introduced me to a world of elemental magic that didn’t exist in a medieval allegory. The rest of her Elemental Masters books showed me that urban fantasy doesn’t need the trappings of an immediately identifiable modern society to be successful.
In the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I also discovered while still in school, Philip Pullman solidified my love for alternate universes. As he dragged his characters through epic adventures, I was more than happy to go along for the ride. To this day, I find myself considering what sort of invisible animal companion a person might have, whether for characters in my own books or a person I know in real life, as a metaphor for characterization and personality. For the record, mine is a blue-point Siamese cat. (His name is Alex.)
I have a ton of respect for the modern Young Adult genre and the barriers it is breaking in the speculative fiction world, but I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t as much of a thing when I was younger. Instead, back in high school, authors like Laurell K. Hamilton were on my go-to list for strong female characters kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. Though I no longer follow the Anita Blake series or this author, I’m glad that part of my early urban fantasy education involved a world that mashed together every paranormal creature (and the kitchen sink), letting me know that I shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.
For a while, it seemed like every urban fantasy series involved a strong female character kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. But as in all things, the mold gets more fractured with every use. These days, I thoroughly enjoy authors such as Carrie Vaughn. Even though her Kitty the Werewolf series still embodies some traditional elements of how urban fantasy “should” be done, it quickly did away with the tortured love triangle and presented characters in committed relationships who supported each other through their adventures. This was a refreshing find in a world that seemed Twilight-mad.
These days, the books that immediately get bumped to the top of the to-be-read pile are those by Ilona Andrews. I especially enjoy the Kate Daniels series, with it’s incredibly unique urban fantasy setting, but even the books marketed as paranormal romance still feature well-crafted world-building and dramatic characters, despite the half-naked men on the covers. In homage to this favorite author, the books in my series all start with the word “Steel,” just as the novels in the Kate Daniels series all start with “Magic.” I may have picked up the first book on a whim because the author shares a first name with my mother, but I was immediately sucked in—pun not intended.
I hope this list has helped you revisit some old friends or learn about potential new favorites! In the meantime, I hope you consider checking out the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate history series as I celebrate the release of the third book in the series.
ABOUT STEEL BLOOD:
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.
BUY STEEL BLOOD NOW!!!
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. Check out her website or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.