The Evolution of an Urban Fantasy Series
Honestly, all of this could have been avoided if my parents had paid more attention to what I was watching on television.
But I was the nerdy middle school kid who wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t have many friends, and I spent most of my time reading. I also had an infant little sister, so perhaps my parents can be forgiven for leaving me to my own devices at that point.
What was I watching that might not have been appropriate for an 11-year-old? It all started with Highlander: The Series. I came for the epic sword fights, but I stayed for the intrigue of a hidden society of people living in a world much like ours. Unbeknownst to me, this was my introduction to the subgenre of urban fantasy! Until then, I’d mostly been reading epic fantasy with a few Star Trek novelizations thrown in for good measure. (Told you I was nerdy).
I was so taken with the concept of the show that I spontaneously invented fanfic before I knew such a thing existed and hand-wrote some short stories about a young woman training to be a Watcher (the secret society that tracks Immortals and records their histories). I still have those journals in a box somewhere, and I promise that the writing is all terrible!
But I’d caught the bug. Over the next few years, my family acquired a home computer and dial-up internet access and I discovered that a lot of other people were doing the fanfic thing, too. I filled notebook after notebook with a sprawling cast of characters set in the Highlander world. And one summer, after my third time at Space Camp (yep, still that nerdy), I realized that I’d written the equivalent of a novel, if not two. This was also about the same time that I realized that the most solid route to space (the military) wasn’t going to be for me. But I’d found something even better. I was already visiting other worlds.
Over the next few years, my reading and television habits expanded. My fanfic writing grew the same way. I got bored with writing just Highlander stories and branched out into crossovers (melding multiple universes together). Eventually, I had a few characters that I wrote many stories about. I posted them online and never got much reaction, but that didn’t matter. I was writing for me.
My senior year of high school, I wrote a series of short stories for my capstone project. At this point, my fanfic world had become so muddled and ridiculous that it didn’t take much to pluck out a magical vampire character (originally inspired by such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Forever Knight) and build an entirely original world around her.
When my senior year of college rolled around, and I was once again faced with a massive capstone project, I brushed off that world. But by this point, I actually knew what urban fantasy really was. I also knew what alternate history was, and loved it, so I smashed them together and created the world of Limani. My magical vampire was a bit too ridiculous at that point, so I split her into two characters who became mother and daughter.
Since I jumped straight from undergrad into a creative writing graduate program that specialized in popular fiction, the world of Limani came with me. Over the course of two years, I wrote the novel that would eventually become Book 1 in the Steel Empires series, Steel Victory. This incarnation of the world seems to have settled and stuck with me, but that hasn’t stopped me to continuing to draw inspiration from everything around me.
But as you can see from the Steel Empires book covers, the swords are one thing that are here to stay. Thanks, Highlander.
No one uses a katana in the Steel Empires series, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time! In Steel Magic, new this week from Dog Star Books, Toria uses a swept-hilt rapier and Kane wields a scimitar.
From the back of the book:
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.
The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.
Steel Magic's Amazon Link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1935738852/
Author Bio: 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).