I’m very excited to present to you all my “Men of Urban Fantasy” week here on the blog. Urban (aka contemporary) fantasy is so female dominated, that I thought it was high time for me to shine a light on some of the amazing men on the scene and their more-than-memorable protagonists. I’m thrilled to kick off the week with James R. Tuck, author of the Deacon Chalk series for Kensington (BLOOD AND BULLETS, BLOOD AND SILVER and BLOOD AND MAGIC, forthcoming).
WHAT KIND OF MAN DOES THIS FOR A LIVING? by James R. Tuck
Before I was a writer of urban fantasy I was a reader of urban fantasy. Some of my favorites are Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series, Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. My bookshelves are full of urban fantasy books that have one thing in common.
They feature kick ass women characters.
Now all the series are different, the writers all bringing fresh takes to the wide world of urban fantasy, but they have common things about them and the main one is that they feature women as the lead character. It’s become a thing for people outside the genre to point at and use to easily categorize books.
“Oh, it’s a modern day world with monsters and a heroine that wears leather pants and has a gun? It’s urban fantasy.”
And that book would be. (and I would totally read it)
But, there is a growing number of us guys who are joining in the ranks of urban fantasy and bringing something a bit different.
We’re writing men as the lead characters.
Of course this brings a different take on the genre. When I read urban fantasy I think about what the characters go through. I examine it and in my head I think about how someone who fights monsters would be in normal life. Like how does someone who just got done shooting a pack of vampires in the face handle a fender bender, or simply ordering a coffee at a busy Starbucks? I think monster hunters would be pretty traumatized people. They would suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a way that is different even from combat soldiers. They would have all the violence to process that a combat soldier would, but it would be a lot closer in nature. I think there has to be a difference between shooting an enemy combatant and killing them with a sword or a stake through the heart. And you have to add in the fact that they would be dealing with things that were not human, which would add to the level of stress. It would affect them differently.
In my books every character but one suffers from some form of PTSD.
The women in my book handle it differently than the men and the non human’s deal with it differently than the humans. Kat’s past (losing her sister to vampires and being tortured by one) makes her burn with an almighty hatred for anything vampire. She is obsessed with keeping tabs on all of them so that the main character Deacon Chalk can hunt them down. She also never goes anywhere without a cross.
Father Mulcahy deals with his past by drinking, chain smoking, being a Catholic priest, and helping Deacon with his war on monsters. You haven’t learned what happened to him before the books started, but it’s a great story. He has a truly dark history and has witnessed and done some terrible things that drove him into the arms of the Church.
Larson’s past with monsters fills him with rage.
Charlotte the Were-spider (yes, you read that right) seems more adjusted due to her supernatural nature, but she’s not. What she went through in book one is what makes her get involved in book two, and what happens to her in book two will affect her, and her relationship with Deacon, for a long time. She seems pretty well adjusted, but she’s not.
And finally the main man Deacon Chalk. Talk about a study in PTSD. Deacon is one seriously damaged character and the books I write are an exploration of that. In book one we meet Deacon five years after his family was killed by monsters and for five years his coping mechanism for his grief has been to kill every monster he can find. He hasn’t really healed at all. This is a very guy way of dealing with grief and pain. Shove it aside and get on with work. It’s something we do. It’s not that men don’t have emotions, we have them hardcore, but our whole life has been skewed by our culture that we have responsibility before we have feelings. That is why we men push our emotions aside. Part of it is a coping mechanism, part of it is the way we are raised.
That is exactly how Deacon is. He thinks he’s doing alright, but he’s not, and that doesn’t begin to change until he meets Tiff, the one person in the Deaconverse who has NOT been traumatized by monsters.
Tiff likes Deacon and wants to be with him, but because he still loves his dead wife and he’s completely damaged, they do NOT have the instantaneous BOOM! Romance of love at first sight. It takes a while, months, before he is ready to even take the first step. He has work to do, a mission driven by vengeance AND a death wish, and hard feelings that make it near impossible for him to move past the loss of his family to allow someone in his heart. Plus, his lifestyle of monster hunting has made him nearly unfit for normal society. He’s almost completely nocturnal, carries more guns than a small army, and his first reaction to almost any situation is violence. That’s great for hunting a rogue pack of predator lycanthropes, not so great for ordering a cheeseburger at McDonalds.
For me writing the Deacon Chalk series is an exploration of being a certain kind of man. We all love the alpha male character and what I am writing is how that alpha male would react to being shoved into a world of monsters. Sometimes he comes off a bit cold, sometimes a lot cocky, but those are all coping mechanisms for his trauma. Not just the loss of his family, but the things he has to do in his role as a monster hunter. Like a combat soldier, Deacon puts himself between any human, even lowlife, despicable ones, and a monster. He holds that line for humanity, no matter the cost. In the Deaconverse the monsters are truly monstrous and do horrible things so that cost is just as terrible.
But Deacon is a man, and a man has responsibilities.
Even if it kills him.