Jun 8 2012 4:00pm

They’re Good with Their Hands: Musicians in Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Promises to Keep by Charles de LintOne of the trends in urban fantasy and paranormal romance about which I am most excited is the inclusion of musicians and music into the stories. It adds a bit of realism to the story, anchoring it to a real-life context, not to mention exposes the reader to new sounds and ideas. As a person coming from the music industry who now works in the book industry, it’s cool to see my worlds collide. Here are some of my favorites.

One of the first series I remember seeing musicians in was Charles de Lint’s Newford stories featuring Jilly Coppercorn. Jilly’s best friend was a fiddler named Geordie Riddell, who often aided Jilly in her schemes to save someone or to aid the fae. Geordie was married to Melanie, a harpist and healer. Melanie often used music and magic together to help make “something” happen. These books encouraged people to check out local folk music and, traditional Celtic music, along with some really magical stories. He is the “father” of urban fantasy.

Jeri Smith-Ready’s vampire DJs of her WVMP series conjure the same feeling: Each vamp DJ is stuck in an era of music and when they DJ, they tell a fantastic story of the music’s time. By making the setting a radio station, Smith-Ready adds a bit of real life to her monsters. We all know of and can relate to listening to the radio. Ready gets the music industry and portrays it clearly. I read some of her books while still working on the road, and felt right at home with Shane McAllister and company. This series is a must-read for music lovers.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe HillJoe Hill gives us musician Judas Coyne in his frightening horror/urban fantasy book Heart-Shaped Box. Coyne is a retired successful metal musician with a penchant for collecting “oddities.” When he buys and receives a special box, all hell breaks loose. This book is freaky tense, and scary. Hill doesn’t hide his love for music which is peppered throughout the pages. A different kind of book, but the ending doesn’t disappoint!

Allison Pang’s heroine Abby Sinclair has a best friend Melanie, who is also a musician. As a fiddler, she uses music to open up the cross roads so that she and Abby can travel to the other side. Pang also brings an element of current music into her books by occasionally having Melanie play a popular song, to add a bit of humor. Start with A Brush of Darkness.

In Nerine Dorman’s What Sweet Music They Make, violinist Tersia catches the eye of young vampire Severin. Their love story revolves around her musical talent. Dorman evokes the swelling melodies of classical music in this tale of bittersweet love. Her visuals and world building are sweeping word landscapes which are not to be missed. It doesn’t matter if you are not familiar with the violin or classical music, this story will appeal to everyone, but to music lovers it adds a special element.

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye WellsOne of my personal musician favorites is Jaye Wells’s crazy pervert industrial musician, Erron Zorn, from the Sabina Kane series. He is combination of many current musicians, and he and his band Necrospank 5000 add an element of snark and magic. Wells shows us her love of music in an undiluted and humorous way.

This August, Carrie Clevenger will release Crooked Fang, whose main character Xan Marcelles is a bassist for the band Crooked Fang—and oh yeah, he’s also vampire. Unlike some vampires, Xan doesn’t have magic powers, nor does he live in a palatial estate with fancy computers or cars. He is a regular guy who still manages to get into his share of trouble.

Do you have a favorite book featuring musicians and music?


Synde Korman talks music and books on her website Tombstone Tails, along with creating a line of literary jewelry on her etsy site Cemetery Cat Designs.

When she’s not herding cats or creating art, she works as a part-time bookseller. You can find her on twitter as @psynde.

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Lege Artis
1. LegeArtis
I like Miranda from Dianne Sylvan's Shadow World series... She plays guitar, and music is big part of her gift... My favorite werewolves- Bran, Sam and Charles Cornick from Patty Briggs's Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series are all very talented musicians ( like thay weren't awesome already...;-) ).
And,of course, violin is only one of Sherlock Holmes quirks.
Great post, Synde!
2. EvangelineHolland
Damali Richards of LA Banks' Vampire Huntress series is a spoken word artist, and her demon and vampire-slaying team were her musicians.
Synde Korman
3. SyndeKorman
thanks for the great suggestions and
Lege Artis- thanks as always for the kind words!!
I really think you would love Crooked Fang too. I will give you the heads up when it's out..
Liz Mc2
4. Liz Mc2
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. Classic (1987) urban fantasy with a great romance too. Eddi and her band are awesome, in a very 80s way.
Liz Mc2
5. Nia2113
Sunfire by Lynne Connolly is a good one for both romance and music. I got close to tearing up at the end of it. Its part of the Pure Wildfire Series and makes me wish Pure Wildfire was a real band!! Sunfire used to be free on the Nook (which is how I found out about it) of course to get you hooked and to buy the other 3. It might still be free. I believe I have read it close to 3 or 4 times now.
Liz Mc2
8. EC Spurlock
It was always my understanding the Emma Bull's War For the Oaks was the first Urban Fantasy book, predating the DeLint, who got the idea from her. The music is in fact critical to the plot of WFTO, as both the human and fae sides of the war need the power the music invokes.

Roberta MacAvoy's Tea With the Black Dragon also features a Celtic band, with fiddler Martha Macnamara as the main character. Martha is also one of the most kick-ass mature women characters in all of fiction, and it's very cool that she gets a second chance at romance late in life.
Synde Korman
9. SyndeKorman
EC Spurlock yes that is why I said one of the first series I remember, not this was the first. thanks for your comments.
Robbie Thornton
10. Button
Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series has several musical elements. Acheron is never far from his guitars. Possibly the most romantic scene ever for me was when Acheron seranaded Tory from the stage at Sanctuary, backed up by the shapeshifting house band, The Howlers. There are several other musical sorts throughout the series, and Kenyon even provides a playlist for each book on her website. Kenyon's brother is a musician known as Warchild, and he,s done a pretty cool soundtrack for the series.
Carmen Pinzon
11. bungluna
Tanya Huff's The Enchantment Emporium and The Wild Ways has Charlie Gale, a professional musician who uses her musical talent to wield her magic.
Lynn Ristau
12. Elsandra
Considering de Lint's "Moonheart" came out in 1984 and Bull's "War for the Oakes" came out in 1987 the influence may be the other way around. Also, Terri Windling's "Bordertown" series started before WFTO and Bull wrote a book in that series so I would say they all influenced each other!

I also enjoyed Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballad series where a folk musician, his actress girlfriend and their friends deal with ghosts that act out old English ballads.
Liz Mc2
13. filkferengi
Shout-outs to Emma Bull's bands Cats Laughing and Flash Girls, whose cds rock!

Yay for Tanya Huff's Emporium series!

Also, don't forget Gael Baudino's _Gossamer Axe_, in which a bard frees her girlfriend from Faerie through the power of heavy metal music.

note: Charles de Lint & his wife Mary Ann Harris are very talented Celtic musicians themselves, who need to put out a cd for me to buy *right now*. De Lint's cd, "Old Blue Truck", is excellent, but shows more southwest influences.
Cristina P
14. krissapl
Midnight Angel by Lisa Marie Rice. A contemporary romance, not UF or PNR.
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