Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guest: Anne Barwell

My guest today is Anne Barwell! She shares her thoughts about urban fantasy and some information on her WIP. Enjoy!


Urban Fantasy  - a brief tourists' guide to The Sleepless City.
A big "thank you" to Hayley for the invitation to visit her blog today. 

Why urban fantasy?  When I was growing up, the term was virtually unheard of, although there were some stories out there set in cities with characters who were supernatural beings such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts and the like, if you could find them. But then, during that time it was difficult to find much in the way of fantasy, as science fiction was more popular.  
Today the shelves are full of fantasy, and a large number of those are urban fantasy. Why the attraction to the genre?
I can't speak for others but I really like the idea of something different lurking out there amongst the city streets, of there either being another world amongst the cracks in the concrete or one which co-exists alongside our own without our knowledge.  I'm a big fan of finding the extra ordinary in the ordinary, and especially of a scenario where someone wanders into this kind of world and has to adapt to it quickly and become a part of it themselves, either to survive or if they want to be with the person they love.
I've always enjoyed a good vampire or werewolf story, and thought why shouldn't these beings live alongside humans? Urban fantasy explores that, and what it means to be different. In most stories the supernatural pass themselves off as humans for the most part, except for when their talents are needed to bring down what is often referred to as a 'big bad'.  And yes, I am a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, why do you ask?
Of course there's the flip side of it all as being a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost does have its downside. What happens when a vampire falls for a human who is going to age and die while the vampire keeps living physically unchanged, for centuries? I think that's the real curse, watching everything and everyone around you change while you don't.
I wrote a series of short stories a few years ago about a photographer who fell for a vampire, the irony of it that he would never be able to capture the man he loved on film. I really liked these characters, and the scenario and wanted to do something further with them, so when Elizabeth Noble and I were discussing vampires one day – as one does -  and she said she had a vampire character she'd like to write more of too, our series The Sleepless City was born.
So far we have five books planned, and we're having a lot of fun with it. The first book is Shades of Sepia, which is my current WIP, and Elizabeth is writing book two, Electric Candle.  The main characters are vampires, werewolves, ghosts and the photographer I mentioned before, although his character has morphed a bit since then, as they all have. We're going for a slightly different take on vampire and werewolf lore, and it's led to some very interesting conversations.
I'll leave you with the blurb for Shades of Sepia, and a brief excerpt to whet your appetite. Keep in mind though, that this is currently a WIP... Stay tuned.

A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years and he has never seen anything like it before. Neither have any of others who make up the team of supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans who live in this city.
One meeting with Simon and Ben Leyton finds himself falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. Ben has only recently arrived in Flint, and finding it very different from his native New Zealand, but there's something about Simon that makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.
After a close friend becomes one of the killer's victims, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away and avoiding the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent is it already too late to prevent either of them from becoming the next victim? 


"Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something."
Lucas laughed. "I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes actually."
"Yeah but the League has Batman in it," Blair began, "and the Legion is―" Luckily whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing.  Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics' conversations they'd go for what seemed forever.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Forge asked Simon.
"What?" Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn't get telephone calls, and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.
"You're the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone," Forge pointed out, "so it's obviously your phone."  He'd complained about it ever since Simon had explained―quite logically he'd thought― that if he was to carry a telephone it made sense for it to at least sound like one.
"Try your pockets?" said Lucas helpfully.
"Oh right." Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.
"You're supposed to answer it, not stare at it," Forge said. "Or have you forgotten how to again?"
"I know how to answer it." Simon poked at appropriate button then held the telephone up to his ear. "Simon speaking. How can I help you?"
Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private then realised it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.
"Hey, Simon. It's Ben."
Perhaps he was calling to say he'd thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case he'd just not contact Simon again at all?
"Hello, Ben."  Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.
"I rang to apologise," Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.
"Apologise?" Simon frowned. "Why?" If anyone should be apologising for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.
"I obviously upset you, and I'm sorry."
"You didn't," Simon reassured him. "I overreacted. I do that sometimes." He reached for his glass of milk and took a long draught. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. "Would you still like to meet for coffee?"
Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.
"Yeah, sure, that would be great." Ben answered Simon very quickly. "When and where? I'm working a long shift tomorrow so that won't work but I don't start until eleven on Thursday."
After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. "That would be fine. I don't have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter's on West 13th Street? We could meet at there at nine."
"I haven't been there but I'll find it," Ben said. "See you at nine then on Thursday?"
"Yes. Goodbye, Ben."
"Bye, Ben," called out Lucas.
"Bye ..." Ben trailed off. "Hey, who is that?" His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. "Simon, is there someone listening in on us?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Simon said.  "I share my... building... with some friends who don't understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I'll explain on Thursday."
"Okay.  Bye."
"Goodbye," Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.
"He sounds cute," said Lucas. "I like the accent." He grinned. "Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me."


Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn't away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.



  1. Great excerpt Anne! I can't say I'm surprised, though. I love urban fantasy, at least in some of it's permutations. My loyalty to slash not withstanding, I have to say I first fell for it when I ran into Butcher's Dresden Files, and that Tanya Huff with her fabulous Henry, a royal bastard bisexual vampire. I am going to have to read your series with Elizabeth to get back into he swing! Great post, thanks and thanks to Hayley for hosting!

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Lou. The Dresden Files are on my TBR list and I love/own all of Tanya Huff's Blood books. Have you read the spin off Smoke series? They feature Tony Foster as the main character although Henry's in there too.


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