Cathy Clamp has written paranormal romance and urban fantasy in partnership with C.T. Adams. Clamp and Adams hit the USA Today bestseller list with their Sazi and Thrall series. They are also the authors of the Blood Singer series, published under the name Cat Adams.
by Cathy Clamp
The release of Forbidden this month makes the nineteenth urban fantasy novel I’ve either fully or co-written for Tor Books. But “urban fantasy” is a fairly new shelving classification. Before that, books that contained shapeshifters, like Forbidden, or vampires or demons were often on the horror shelves, or in a weird little section labeled as “dark fantasy.” That’s where I found the books I loved—hidden on back corner shelves where the dark creatures lived.
Here are some of the books that inspired me to drop my own characters into that same darkness:
- Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton. This is one of the first truly urban fantasy books I read that really grabbed me. Twisting the past to make vampires, creatures of legend, become “citizens” through a SCOTUS decision was brilliant! I ate up the aftermath of that moment and have followed Anita Blake and her world ever since.
- Sunglasses After Dark, by Nancy A. Collins. Sonja Blue was an urban fantasy dream heroine! An angsty vampire with an attitude, hunting her own (vampire) kind, while searching for her creator to bury him forever. It doesn’t get much better than this, and is made even better by the graphic novels that have come since!
- Blood Price, by Tanya Huff. What an amazing heroine Vicki Nelson was. A tough as nails cop, going blind, and Henry Fitzroy, a royal bastard vampire who writes romance novels for a living, teaming up to solve paranormal crimes. Every book made her more blind, and more dependent on her partner. She gave him back some of the humanity he missed, and he gave her some of the predatory tools she needed to survive in a seeing world. Urban fantasy gold!
- War for the Oaks. No early Urban Fantasy list would be complete without this terrific dip into faerie. Eddi McCandry, the rock musician who uses her gift of music to save the world from evil. Rock on, Eddi!
- Bloodlist, by P.N. Elrod. Yeah, I like vampires. Can you tell? And a 30’s private investigator living in a gangster ruled world is even better when he becomes a vampire and has to search for his own murderer. Jack Fleming was smart, no-nonsense and could easily have been a contemporary of Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin (also one of my favorite series). Is it any wonder that my first protagonist was a smart-ass, highly intelligent hitman who was forcibly turned werewolf, and who has to figure out how to make his life whole again?
- Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber. This one goes all the way back to 1943, but is definitely Urban Fantasy. Discovering your wife is a witch is traumatic enough without realizing that her magic is all that has been keeping you safe from evil. It would suck to discover that putting your foot down to stop the spells stops your own protection and opens you to the evil intent of the whole community of other witches. The very beginning of Urban Fantasy, and still stands today as the gatekeeper.
- Storm Front, by Jim Butcher. I was writing my book at about the same time as Jim, but when I read it, I knew this new genre was going to stay and grow. Who doesn’t love Harry Dresden’s resourcefulness? Reading a spell and making the decision to substitute petroleum based wax for bees wax and knowing it will likely go wrong, and then having it go wrong in a wildly different way, was truly inspiring to an aspiring author! It’s the cornerstone of urban fantasy: worry about wild magic, prepare as best you can for it, and realize you couldn’t possibly have prepared for how bad it would be. Bravo!There are so many other books that influenced me along the way—thrillers, mysteries, horror, and romance novels that thankfully all blend seamlessly into the genre that is urban fantasy. Forbidden is a thriller, and a mystery, with romance and werewolves, werecats, werebirds, all wrapped up with a magical bow and dumped into the forest of northeastern Washington State. This is what urban fantasy is all about, and I salute all those who came before me that inspired me to add to the genre. If you haven’t read any of the above, buy them along with Forbidden. You won’t regret a dime of the money.