This is a big question for me lately, so I’ve been trolling the internet looking for a definitive definition trying to decide where I fit in.
In one post I read (which, sadly, I forgot to bookmark so I could share) describes the role of setting in urban fanasy. It was an interesting idea that she presented–that the city becomse it’s own character. Recognizible and central to the plot. I think this is a really cool way to look at it and certainly fits with the urban fantasy that I have read. By that definition I am not urban fantasy.
Some other posts made the differentiation between paranormal and fantasy. Paranormal covers things like psychics, ghosts, and otherworldly phenomena. Fantasy deals with mythical, fantastical creatures. Demons. Shape shifters. Vampires. Werewolves. By that token, I am urban fantasy. I don’t think this definition holds true at all because there are far too many definitive romances about vamps (at the very least), and several houses have listings indicating that they are seeking romances dealing with those vamps, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, etc. So while one way to look at it, not terribly useful way to categorize.
In a recent discussion on Twitter with the lovely Jessa Slade, she offered up the idea that in paranormal romance the relationship is central. In urban fantasy, the protagonist arc and the world itself is primary. If you can’t take the romance out without ruining the book and you have a happily ever after or a happily for now, then it’s romance. That seems like a more solid way to define the difference, but the thing about it is that I am straddling two worlds here. The relationship and the action story arc are equally important. It’s like the difference between romance and romantic suspense. In romantic suspense the romance and the suspense plot are equally important. And that’s probably why I have difficulty picking one over the other. What I’m writing now fits the same parameters as romantic suspense–just with those fanged, furry, and fantastic critters. So by that token, I’m still what I designate paranormal romantic suspense, albeit with a lower heat level than a lot of what’s popular right now.
Think I can talk New York into separating that category out into it’s own thing?
Jessa made the excellent point that romance readers tend to be more accepting of urban fantasy than die hard urban fantasy readers are of that mushy love stuff and that designating myself paranormal romance would be less likely to piss folks off. While I figure my hypothetical future publisher will ultimately make that designation, it still seems like I am hanging out on the paranormal romance side of the fence.