Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber interviewed

Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber teamed up to edit The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic. Here they discuss urban fantasy.

Tell us a little about yourselves and what you like to write and read.

jan edwards 01Jan: amongst other things, I am a Reiki Master, Meditational Healer, qualified locksmith and I have a BA in English Lit. I can also swim but never did get my 25yards swimming certificate – I must have been slipping that day. On writing: my short fiction is mostly fantasy and horror, but I also write crime and some mainstream fiction. Whatever takes my attention, really. I prefer books that are self-contained, even when they are part of a series; mainly because I forget what has gone on in the previous six volumes and have to go back to refresh!

Jen BarberJen: I’m a history student in the last gasps of studying for a BA(hons), a spreadsheet wrangler and general minion of all trades for the family business, a long-time volunteer at conventions and an obsessive list maker. As far as writing goes, I do urban fantasy, heroic/S&S/portal fantasy, space opera/SF, contemporary horror, historical fantasy, a bit of straight crime, the odd attempt at very vanilla paranormal romance (which I can’t write without cracking up) and the occasional bit of quirky non-fiction.

What I like to read is most things. I tend to favour work with female leads actively doing actual stuff, especially when backed up by other female characters because I’m over the exceptional lone female-trope in fiction. Genre-wise, I read various kinds of fantasy, SF, horror, a bit of crime, a bit of romance, a bit of military/thriller/action-adventure, historical fiction, biographies and non-fiction of multiple types, graphic novels and media tie-ins, and I love short stories of whatever genre, especially when found in online magazines and anthologies. I do love a good anthology!

How urban do you like your fantasy?

Jan: I love “Urban Fantasy” but it has to be the real deal. I’m not a lover of vampires (especially the ones with souls…). In fact that whole romance thing has never been my bag. I like my fantasy a great deal darker, though excessive gore and/or navel-gazing angst do little for me. Basically I am a little old fashioned in appreciating a rattling good yarn! I have been reading more crime of late, but always return to my obsession with folklore and mythology for comfort reading, with a focus on how those old tales can be brought into the modern world. Hence a long addiction to the works of Charles de Lint and Robert Holdstock. I also read Neil Gaiman and C E Murphy and Jim Butcher and… The list could go on for ever.

Jen: very urban. I discovered Charles de Lint when I was 19 or so, and fell madly in love with the idea of myths mixed in with the modern world. Before that I’d been raised on Stephen King (which you could call dark urban fantasy, of a kind, and still remains my number one comfort reading choice) and Terry Pratchett (comic fantasy at its best), Julian May (telepaths and time travel!) and the epic fantasies of Katherine Kerr, David Eddings, Ursula K. Le Guin and Terry Brooks. But de Lint introduced me to a whole new delicious style of story that remains one of my favourite things to read. The later explosion of noir-ish urban fantasy with its warrior women detectives only increased my passion for the genre, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the romance elements that can creep in to replace the cool action parts of the plot, I’ll still gleefully read anything that brings magic and mayhem into the here and now.

What inspired you to create an anthology based on the “urban mythic” theme?

Jen: to me, urban mythic is the utterly shameless mixing of traditional folk tales and myth with modernised magic in the urban environment. I adore Kate Griffin’s Urban Magic series with its fantastic twist on modern magic and urban mages (and was over the moon when she agreed to write us a story!); and Charles de Lint, of course, is the epitome of urban mythic bringing a mash up of atmospheric folk tale with contemporary stories that is irresistible. And as I know Jan shares my fondness for urban fantasy, there was no question what our anthology was going to be about.

Jan: as Jen says, it’s a love of folklore. I’ve read tales of myth and legend all of my life; no doubt inspired by seeing Noggin the Nog on kids’ TV all those years ago! The way that tradition can be updated for a modern mindset is endlessly fascinating for me. I love Kate Griffin’s Midnight Mayor series, for example. Not just the well known “classic myths”, but those old tales that were once part of everyday life. Things like the cowherd my father worked with who would leave bread and milk in the byre for the fair folk and brownies who cared for the dairy – for fear they would sour the next day’s milk.

Jen: so in the modern day there needs to be stories about how to appease the tech-brownies to stop them souring your Wi-Fi and mobile reception? (And if I find the naughty imp who keeps breaking my laptop, we will be having words…)

Jan: or to put it simply, re-enacting those old folk legends in a way that is more plausible to modern eyes and ears.

If you were writing an urban mythic story, which myth would you use?

Jen: something where Medusa doesn’t get her head cut off by home-invading thugs. Or an urban Wild Hunt led by a motorbike-riding Huntswoman. (Actually I will confess to making a few attempts at that last one!)

Jan: oh heavens! So many legends and so little time. I’m with Jen on the Wild Hunt. I’ve written at least one short story on that theme. Always got a soft spot for the Oak and Holly King mythos and had a stab at telling it in my short story “Thirteenth Day”.

Jen: There is something very appealing about the Wild Hunt, isn’t there? That and the connecting myths of white harts and stags leading travellers on through the borders between the worlds. Is there a whole herd of deer that plot to drag people into other worlds, do you think, or just the one pair of legendary beasts who get everywhere?

Jan: I am all for taking the existing tropes and running with them – as if all the hounds of the Hunt were after me.

Did you enjoy the selecting and editing process? Would you do it again?

Jan: abso-flamin-lutely! In fact, now that you mention it, Jenny? How does Urban Mythic 2 grab you?

Jen: Oh hell yes! There are so many other anthologies I want to do too… But addressing the first part of the question, I do enjoy the reading process, particularly as there’s a certain kind of glee to be had when you read that perfect story that you absolutely have to have. And co-editing is always a fun thing. J

What’s on the horizon? What next?

Jan: Well, there is Urban Mythic 2… But I am mainly working on novels at the moment. There are a couple of short stories just out, including “Black Hound of Newgate” in The Bestiarum Vocabulum (volume two of Tres Liborum Prohibitorum), and more in planning. And, of course, being a part of the script writing team for Doctor Who: White Witch of Devil’s End DVD, due out in 2014. Plenty of conventions for next year – Bristolcon, FantasyCon, etc . Always something on the go!

Jen: the world! But seriously: from an editor’s point of view, it is entirely possible that there is a project or two on the bubble – Urban Mythic 2 with Alchemy Press of course, and a rather fabulous thing with Fox Spirit Books … stay tuned for more details on both in the New Year. From a writing point of view, I’ve just had an urban fantasy story (starring Maddy Cain, fox-mage and con artist extraordinaire) come out in Fox Pockets Volume 2: Shapeshifters (Fox Spirit Books), with its sequel due to appear in Urban Fantasy (Elektrik Milk Bath Press) at some point in the future. I’ll also be finishing up the history BA, muddling through a Certificate in Professional Book-Keeping and Accountancy to level up my number-crunching skills, and will be attempting to have some fun at Nine Worlds Geekfest, Fantasycon 2014, Bristolcon 2014 and possibly Edge-Lit. At some point I may fit in the time to sleep.


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