As part of the Independent Christian Book Black Friday Sale Blog Tour (you can read my previous post here,) I had the chance to interview Grace Bridges, author of RotoVegas, which is the first book of her EarthCore series. Urban fantasy is a bit of an unusual genre, with fantasy elements in an urban setting; it tends to be grittier than classic fantasy, which can be a fun twist. I was also fascinated, as if you look through most “Christian fiction” sections in a bookstore or magazine, most of what you will see is romance or bonnet-and-buggy fiction, and then a few Ted Dekker thrillers, and that’s normally it. Don’t ask me why the “Christian fiction” label is so limited when Christian fiction really has the potential to be so all-encompassing, but it is.
On to the interview!
First of all, what inspired you to write urban fantasy? It seems like an unusual sub-genre.
Actually I didn’t realise its genre until long after it was written. I wanted to write something with superpowers resulting from New Zealand’s geothermal sources, and initially that suggested science fiction as most superhero stories tend to be. However, as I wrote, cultural elements fitted in so naturally that it was no longer simply a matter of science. It became more about the powerful invisible dragons who live in and around each geothermal site – this is a well-known aspect of local Māori lore. With the addition of dragons, it became fantasy; with the location in a small city, it became urban.
One-sentence summary. Go!
Superpowers from hot springs – who knew? Creatures making their homes in the untamed thermal sources of New Zealand have a job for Anira to do.
What do you think is unique about your book?
It’s set in New Zealand, my home. Ever heard of a story set in the city of Rotorua? Me either. So I thought it was about time.
What real-world inspirations and influences fed into your book?
All of the settings and city locations are real. In Rotorua, geothermal activity is a fact of daily life. Steam rises from drains and yards. Unstable geysers appear and disappear around the tumultuous lake edge and city park, while stable ones have erupted every hour for as long as people have lived in the area. Isn’t it the perfect environment to add fantasy creatures and supernatural powers?
I saw this on Tumblr–describe your writing process in three words or less.
Subscene (once I’ve planned to scene level, I divide each scene into bite-sized subsections immediately before writing it)
Neo (I use a typewriter-like distraction-free Alphasmart Neo device for the actual writing)
Steampunk, cyberpunk, high or dark fantasy and urban fantasy appear to be part of a trend of aesthetic fiction–e.g., fiction with strong visuals or visual inspirations. How did visuals and aesthetic shape “RotoVegas”?
Rotorua, nicknamed RotoVegas for its cute little tourist strip, is a city with a completely unique aesthetic. Ancient volcanic craters form the lake and its island, the surrounding hills of the caldera, the looming Mt. Tarawera nearby with its fearsome crater from end to end. To say nothing of the mineral steam that permeates its atmosphere from the many thermal vents, hot streams, and so on. This is a place I know well. I have been careful to describe it in accurate detail, and I can’t wait to take you along for the journey!
What do you want readers to take home with them after reading “RotoVegas”?
A sense of wonder at the very real forces in the Earth’s crust and what they can do; a fun and satisfying adventure beyond reality into the realm of what-if and imagination.