Back to Urban Fantasy

After publishing several medieval fantasy books–five to be exact–I decided to return to urban fantasy, the genre of my very first novel, Demonkeeper / Damliche Damonen. And now I’m celebrating the German release* of my new novel, Im Zweifel für das Monster (Monster Lawyer).

So why write an urban fantasy about a lawyer representing monsters? First of all, urban fantasy is awesome! How fun and scary is it to imagine modern-day monsters among us? Answer: very fun and very scary. Also, writing Im Zweifel für das Monster as an urban fantasy was a natural fit for me—an organic choice. Im Zweifel is a marriage of two passions in my life—I’m an adult lawyer, and I have loved monsters since I was a little boy. There is nothing more “urban” than the law—modern civilizations are built upon it—and monsters are inherently fantastical, and so the natural habitat for a lawyer/monster story is indeed urban fantasy.



Key Seattle Sites in Im Zweifel für das Monster / Im Zweifel für das Monster Cover

A Q&A with my Publisher

Auszüge aus Fragen und Antworten mit meinem Verlag

After several medieval fantasy novels, why did you decide to write urban fantasy?

When I wrote my first novel, Demonkeeper (Dämliche Dämonen), nearly twenty years ago, I was a criminal prosecutor in juvenile court. I loved monsters and fantasy, and the young criminal defendants I was seeing in the courtroom were very real and had hard, gritty lives. So I created young fictional characters and put them in a real-life setting (Seattle), and then used monsters to represent the turmoil and perils of a hard life. It felt perfect for urban fantasy.

Now things have come full circle in my writing career, and I’ve returned to urban fantasy. Crazy as it sounds, the original young fans of Demonkeeper have all grown up! And because I’m writing adult novels, Monster Lawyer (Im Zweifel für das Monster) can be genuinely horrifying, and it is! It’s also serious and fun at the same time. Like Demonkeeper, there are societal themes to give Monster Lawyer depth, but I still weave in humor whenever I can because…well, I’m me.

Warum hast du dich nach mehreren High-Fantasy-Romanen entschieden, Urban Fantasy zu schreiben?

Vor fast zwanzig Jahren schrieb ich mit Dämliche Dämonen meinen ersten Roman. Es war recht junger Urban-Fantasy-Roman, und jetzt bin ich zu meinen Ursprüngen zurückgekehrt, denn so verrückt es klingt: die ursprünglichen jungen Fans der Dämlichen Dämonensind erwachsen geworden! Diese Geschichte ist für sie. Und weil ich jetzt Romane für Erwachsene schreibe, ist Im Zweifel für das Monster wirklich gruselig! Aber ich webe immer noch Humor ein, wann immer ich kann, weil… nun ja … ich ich bin.

Demonkeeper has a lot of humor. How is this with Monster Lawyer?

The fact that Demonkeeper was both spooky and funny is a product of my personality. I like to see the humor in things, even if those things have a dark side. I think it’s good to laugh when addressing death in particular; it helps us deal with our mortality.

It’s the same with Monster Lawyer. The idea of a lawyer representing monsters strikes me as hilarious, and the situations that arise when Daniel Becker represents monsters in legal cases are delightfully ludicrous. But the idea of representing a monster has a very serious side too. I work with lawyers who represent real-life murderers, and their representation of killers can be seen as an analogy to representing “monsters.” This serious underlying theme lends Monster Lawyer depth and makes Daniel’s character arc extremely interesting, especially because of his painful childhood relationship with the monster he’s asked to defend as a grown-up. No more spoilers, but I can tell you that Monster Lawyer is funny and sad and serious and raises lots of ethical questions. It’s truly an adult take on monstrous urban fantasy, but with plenty of immature humor to make it fun too. I hope!

Additionally, writing Monster Lawyer was a real experiment for me in mixing humor and horror. One thing I learned is that the tone of the tale can be “spooky” and funny—those two moods can coexist—but when real “horror” arrives, the humor flees the page, goes into hiding, and doesn’t come back until it’s safe—usually not until the next chapter.

Dämliche Dämonen hat eine Menge Humor. Wie ist das bei Im Zweifel für das Monster?

Die Vorstellung, dass ein Anwalt Monster vertritt, finde ich urkomisch, und die Situationen, die entstehen, wenn Daniel Becker Monster in Rechtsfällen vertritt, sind herrlich lächerlich. Aber ich habe auch gelernt, dass der Ton der Geschichte gruselig und lustig sein kann – diese beiden Stimmungen können nebeneinander bestehen –, aber wenn echter Horror auftaucht, flieht der Humor, versteckt sich und kommt erst zurück, wenn er sicher ist – normalerweise nicht vor dem nächsten Kapitel.

Most authors choose a Private Investigator or a Cop as their hero in Urban Fantasy, but you chose a lawyer. Why?

Well, yes, I am a lawyer, and it is good for me to write what I know. It gives me an interesting and genuine perspective to share, and I can create scenes for my readers that are not cliché or overused. It’s true that many stories use a cop to generate situations for action on the streets, and an attorney is more of an analyst in an office. As a prosecutor I’ve never chased criminals down dark alleys. But the real-life drama of a courtroom is incredible. I’ve tried burglaries, rapes, homicides, you name it. Serious stuff. I handled a home-invasion stabbing where one of the five defendants received a sentence of life without parole. Trying a case in front of a judge and jury and waiting during those tense moments for the verdict to be announced is a heart-pounding, emotionally exhausting experience. Now imagine you’re trying a case with monsters and, if you lose, the penalty is that you get eaten. You get the picture.

Of course, Monster Lawyer’s lawyer-protagonist, Daniel Becker, also goes into the field to track down evidence, and he has a supernatural investigator to help out, so we get plenty of on-the-scene action throughout this particular story.

By the way, lawyers are a natural fit for fantasy. They are experts on rules, and well-developed fantasy worlds have well-defined rules. So do monsters. Vampires have rules—they drink blood, sunburn easily, and only die when you shove a wooden stake through their hearts. Werewolves have rules—full moon transformations, bites that cause lycanthropy, and getting shot with silver bullets really sucks for them. As I like to say, fantasy worlds and monsters have immutable laws, and where there are laws there are lawyers.

Die meisten Autoren wählen einen Privatdetektiv oder Polizisten als ihren Helden in der Urban Fantasy, aber Sie haben sich für einen Anwalt entschieden. Warum?

Nun ja, ich bin Anwalt, und ich schreibe gerne darüber, was ich kenne. So kann ich eine authentische Perspektive vermitteln und dennoch Klischees vermeiden. Im Gegensatz zu Daniel Becker, dem Helden von Im Zweifel für das Monster, habe ich aber noch nie Verbrecher durch dunkle Gassen gejagt. Reale Anwälte sind ja eher die Analytiker im Büro. Aber Daniels Fall ist von der Art, dass man keine offizielle Unterstützung anfordern kann. Also muss er die Action-Szenen selbst durchstehen.

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