It’s all you need
I’ve never been good at synopsizing stories. When asked to describe No Hero, I have invariably described it as “a story about explosions.” When people who can navigate the myriad labyrinth of subgenres ask, I may throw in that its an urban fantasy. Which sets up a slight contradiction. Books about explosions are primarily seen as being for boys. And despite slow change, I think urban fantasy is seen as firstly being a genre for girls (yes there are a thousand notable exceptions, but they would interrupt my sweeping generalizations).
In an ideal world, of course, No Hero would be a book that appealed to everyone . It’s not. I’ve read the reviews. Typically I think overall the male gender has preferred it. The explosions, for the most part, may have won through.
There is one part of No Hero, though, which I think people have thought I threw in for cross-gender appeal, or as a concession to the subgenre, which is actually there because I think it’s important. I think one review put it like this (and I’m paraphrasing) “and because it’s urban fantasy, there’s even a love story.”
Now, I certainly don’t want to be seen to be complaining about reviews. If the romantic aspects of No Hero don’t come across as important, there’s at least a fair chance I should have spent more time developing them. I think I allowed myself to be too constrained by the action movie vibe I was going for, rather than rising above it. (That’s something I’ve tried to address with Yesterday’s Hero.) But I want to state that the love story is not there because of a concession to the genre, or from some desire to get folk with cooties to love it.
Every morning I ride the train to work. (Bear with me – this will make sense in a moment). Integral to riding the train is waiting for the train. It is not the most exciting time in the world. But there is one event that can make my usual wait more tolerable. It is watching a young man and young girl who stand further down the platform. I don’t know their relationship, to be honest. I don’t think they’re together in any way. But when he approaches her, or she approaches him, I get to watch them light up like a city at night. They transform from morose commuters, into lively, laughing, animated people. And it looks a lot like love. It’s one of the best parts of my commute.
I think love is important. I think it is, in fact, the most important part of life. It is at life’s heart. It is the most fundamental driver of what I do as a person. Life with love has more color, more laughter, more joy. It is deeper, and richer. And maybe I’m a cheesy bastard, but that is why there’s a love story in No Hero. Because it felt dishonest to write a story without a romantic aspect. Because it felt like otherwise I’d be telling a story that didn’t light up like those people on the train station. I wrote No Hero with a love story, honestly, because I didn’t feel like I had any other choice.
Money may make the world go round, but love makes people go round. We get it right; we screw it up; we muddle about in between; but we do it. We love. And I’m never going to be able to write a story where people don’t. So, yes, there will be explosions in Yesterday’s Hero but there will be squishy emotional, cootie-loving parts as well, and I am not ashamed.