I’d like to welcome Deborah Coates, author of Wide Open a new paranormal/fantasy novel released this month. Later today you’ll get my review of Wide Open, so stay tuned!
I Don’t Call It Rural Fantasy
by Deborah Coates
Which is…odd? I guess?
In the best of all possible worlds, rural fantasy would be the underpopulated equivalent of urban fantasy. But one of the things I write about are the parts of rural life that don’t get touched on much. Not transplanted New Yorkers or cottages by rivers or mountain folk who live up the hollow. Those are all fine things to write about, but there’s a lot more going on in the rural parts of this country (and I’m pretty certain in the rural parts of lots of other countries) and rural fantasy as a phrase doesn’t feel to me as if it describes those other aspects of rural life.
I write about ranchers and farmers, about people who can’t get jobs because there aren’t any jobs to get, about tractors and ATVs and pickup trucks, about shotguns and hay balers and bison and cattle. I write about flyover country, about the parts of the USA that people think they know but generally don’t.
Did you know that 40% or more of all farmers in the USA are over 55? That the average age of a farmer in Iowa is 58? That the price of an acre of land in Iowa in 2011 was $6,708? The average size of an Iowa farm is 330 acres which means that it would cost approximately (obviously, some acres are worth more than others) 2.2 million dollars just to buy the land for that average farm.
None of that is what many people think of when they think of rural or rural fantasy. They think of ‘Bubba,’ of guys with missing teeth, of a woman in a flannel nightgown with a shotgun. I know that’s so because I see those images on the covers of books and I read about them in stories in magazines. Do I think those people don’t exist? Nope. I know they do. And frankly if you live in the country, you probably want a shotgun (rabid animals, predators). But they’re a small slice of the diverse people who live and work outside the urban and suburban US.
Are there serious problems in the rural US? Yes, there are. But they aren’t the whole story and, in addition, many people don’t understand what those problems actually are.
So, if I don’t call it rural fantasy, what do I call it? Well, I call it fantasy first. Wide Open has ghosts. It has several kinds of magic. And I call it contemporary. It is set today. In our world. For me, Wide Open is contemporary fantasy set in western South Dakota.
You can call it rural fantasy. I don’t. Though maybe I should.
In Wide Open, Hallie Michaels comes back to western South Dakota after being gone for four years in the army:
Big Dog’s Auto sat on the western edge of Prairie City, a cornfield directly behind and prairie stretching to the west. The near bay held a red pickup on a lift; the far bay, two motorcycles, a car engine on blocks, multicolored fenders, and the hood from a vintage Thunderbird stacked against the wall. Cars were parked three deep along the side of the shop, two with the hoods raised and one jacked up and the right rear tire removed.
Brett came out of the office to the left of the garage bays while Hallie was rummaging in her duffel, digging out a jacket. The temperature had dropped another five degrees during the twenty-minute drive into Prairie City. The deputy—what had Lorie called him— Davies, was sitting in his car out on the road, like he didn’t have anything else to do, which he probably didn’t, because nothing ever happened in Taylor County. Other than Dell hitting a tree—and where was he then?
“It’s going to be at least two hours,” Brett said. “He’s got to run over to Templeton for a tire.”
“Jesus.” Hallie rubbed her hand across her eye.
“Sorry,” Brett said. She tilted her hat up and stepped back on the heel of her boot. Hallie remembered that Brett liked things to work and to keep on working. Sometimes she convinced herself to ignore things that didn’t fit with what she wanted, like that her car was old and parts wore out. “Lorie’s getting a ride with Jake when he gets off work,” Brett continued, “but that’ll be, like, an hour. Maybe your dad can—”
“I can give you a ride.”
Hallie turned and looked at the deputy, who had approached as she and Brett were talking.