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Thursday, 24 February 2011

The mystery of the UF heroine’s missing and/or awful parents by Carolyn Crane + Giveaway

Banner made by Beth from Maybe Tomorrow?
I am incredibly honoured, excited and not a little intimidated to welcome to my blog today an author whose debut novel became a favourite novel of 2010 (and I'm pretty sure ever). I gobbled up and had serious withdrawal symptoms once it was over. I fell in love with Carolyn Crane's genius and fantastic writing and if you haven't read her novels yet, let me ask you why?? Trust me, you absolutely have to discover this unique and breathtaking new UF series!

And now please give the warmest welcome to the amazing mastermind behind this whirlwind story:

the amazing Carolyn Crane!
*Stella trying to contain fangirl squeek*


The mystery of the UF heroine’s missing and/or awful parents
by Carolyn Crane

I’m not making some big, original observation when I point out that urban fantasy heroines are often challenged in the family department. I myself killed off my heroine Justine’s mother, and her father lives in a heavily defended shack in the woods (all the better to be prepared for that killer epidemic that sure to come.) And her brother is a llama herder in Peru or something - I’d actually have to go back and check what I made him, that’s how important he is! LOL

I’m trying to think back now on why I made the decision to basically deprive Justine of a strong family system, and I sort of recall thinking a couple things - first, that a strong family would be ‘in the way’ for what I needed her to do and be. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking it would just be easiest to get rid of them. (My mother has never mentioned my killing off my character’s fictional mom, though of course, being the worrier I am, I worried she might wonder…)

Also, her family’s brokenness contributed conveniently to her misfit status, and more than that, to the crazy amount of fear she has (which later becomes her greatest strength) So, I have her father super paranoid, and her mother died of the very disease she fears.

The “othering” effect

The other day in a post on my own blog, I was speculating on how some of my favorite authors (not UF) create super realistic characters, and in thinking about it, I came to realize how important a family is to “place” a character within the spectrum of a larger society. Just like in real life, knowing a person’s family can give you insights into that person. When a heroine has a dead, missing or weird or evil monster mother or father (some heroines have parents who are missing, dead, weird, AND evil monsters!) it adds a sense of mystery and “otherness” to that character. As if they’ve been partly or fully cut loose.


The mothers, alive or dead, seem especially formative to heroines on a supernatural level. Justine’s totally was. I’m thinking also of the moms in Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Ann Aguirre’s Corinne Solomon, Vicki Pettersson’s Joanna Archer. I sometimes wonder if a lot of the women working in this genre make things matriarchal instead of patriarchal just to reverse the norm. Also, a lot of what’s supernatural does get associated with females (like witches).

Also, taking the mother away seems to pack more instability punch, considering how the mother is a traditionally stabilizing force for family in many societies. And somehow, the motherless child just seems worse off and more unusual than the fatherless child.

Also, a lot of times when the father is present, he is an evil force. (Though not always! See Jane True.) Or, he is not there at first, and later revealed to be evil, or somehow, a complicating factor. Luuuuuuke. I am your faaaather.

Families keep the heroine anchored in humanity

A lot of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction have two societies - there’s the normal human society, and then there’s the supernatural society. Often, the early books in a series can be about the transition of the heroine from the human society to the supernatural one. So, really strong ties to a human family firmly grounds a heroine in human society, which can make things more difficult for the writer. I’m not saying all UF heroines are missing family and parents - some authors keep the strong family around - but, it made things easier for me to give my heroine less family ties. It made her more rootless.

Often, too, the supernatural society becomes a heroine’s new family - like with Mercy Briggs, so already having a family there would just complicate things. You’d have to think of plot devices to get rid of them. Easier to start with them dead.

Okay, actually I’m now thinking about characters with really strong, vivid families. Like, Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s series. The level of realism isn’t awesomely high there, but what would it be like if that was an urban fantasy? I was thinking the plot might be how does Stephanie keep it all from her family, to protect them? That reminds me of the movie True Lies, where Arnold Schwarzenegger had to keep his secret agent status a secret from his family, and it led to comic routines.

What do you think about all this? What UF heroines do have strong families?


Carolyn Crane has long been fascinated by hidden worlds—the wiry insides of old gadgets, the strange workings of secret societies, the mysteries of people’s minds and hearts.

She’s into that as a reader and a writer, too. Plotty puzzles. Psychological intrigue. Concealed realms.

The trilogy that begins with takes place in a shadowy and fantastical Milwaukee/Chicago, a place of many secrets. (She grew up in suburbs of both cities, leaving a trail of dismantled princess phones behind her.)

Today she lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daring cats. She spent years as a waitress and shop clerk before moving to ad agencies and the freelance writing life. 
She graduated from the University of Minnesota, and when she’s not writing novels or working her day job, she can be found reading in bed, running, helping animals, or eating Mexican food.

Carolyn Crane is the author of the Justine Jones: Disillusionist trilogy (, and book #3 to come this December)


You can reach her at her website, blog,  and .

The realistic characters post mentioned above can be found on her blog

Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness—only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.


Carolyn generously offered a signed copy of (Book #1 in the Disillusionist trilogy) to a lucky commentator.

To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. Answer Carolyn's question: What do you think about Carolyn's post (the lack of family and family connections in UF novels)? What UF heroines do have strong families?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on Friday 4 March 2011.

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