The Piano Lessons End…Or Do They?

The Cost of Publishing a Novel

What is Urban Fantasy?



When I tell people that my forthcoming novel is urban fantasy, I often get blank looks and an honest “I don’t know what that is.” When I say, “It’s fantasy—you know, like science fiction/fantasy?” they nod, reassured that they now know what I’m writing. But when I try to explain further, it’s like wading through mud.

“Urban” makes it sound like it’s always in a city setting. I don’t know how this subgenre got its name but it’s not exact. My version of urban fantasy is our regular world with a paranormal twist. Yeah, that’s not too clear either.

So imagine that one day you head to the supermarket and fill a cart with groceries. Normal, right? Then you get to the checkout counter and the person working the register is a vampire. She’s wearing a ski mask and gloves to protect herself from any stray beams of sunlight, but you can still see the points of her canine teeth through the mask when she tells you to have a nice day.

Your next-door neighbor is a werewolf (and in today’s times, I have no idea if that would drive your property rates up or down) and your boss is a ghoul. But the laundry still needs to be done and everyone pays taxes and you need to make an appointment to get your dog groomed.

That’s urban fantasy. It’s the real world with those added bits that makes it off kilter in a magical or spooky way. A might-have-been or might-even-be universe somewhere.

I love the genre because it’s where I can walk down a street and wonder if I turn a corner, will there be another dimension waiting? It’s there, just out of sight, just beyond my reach, where the rabbit hole tilts up and spills out—onto the end of my pen.

And it’s nice to be able to talk about it here in more detail. I guess I’m going to have to stick with the ole “It’s fantasy/scifi” answer unless someone has a better way to explain it.

How do you define urban fantasy?





* Image courtesy of Maggie Smith at




  • jan • December 14, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the clarification – I wasn’t sure what it was!

    • J. M. Levinton • December 14, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Glad to help! 😉

  • Marie MacBryde • December 14, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I think I get it now! The distinction between fantasy and urban fantasy is one is completely made up, like Tolkien’s works, for example; the other takes place in the real world. So urban fantasy could take place in a rural area as opposed to the city, as long as it’s real with the fantasy/sci-fi or paranormal twist. Right?

    • J. M. Levinton • December 14, 2015 at 11:58 pm

      Right! 😀

  • Naztko (@Naztko) • March 12, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Oh, I was wondering what category I could use. But I think I’m still a little confused. I don’t think any of my characters are urbane even when they’re a punster Munster.

    • J. M. Levinton • March 14, 2017 at 2:21 am


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