I started writing books while I was in college. My first novel, Legend Undone was completed about a year after I graduated. All the while, in school, I was studying psychology. I was learning all about the human mind and the things that can go very right and the things that can go very wrong. I learned about how environment, relationships, disabilities, changes, and so many other things can affect how the human mind operates.
One topic I found particularly fascinating was that even as unique as people are, there tends to be patterns between people especially in response to external things. Meaning, even though I have not personally encountered turning the corner to see a vampire with blood dripping down her chin, I can make an educated guess at what my response would be. I have encountered walking around the corner of my own house to see my husband standing there and my mind instantly went into a fear response where I froze, sucked in a breath, and put my hand to my chest while I stepped back. You know, like a total coward.
I fully knew that he was in the house, but because he is so quiet when he walks and I am so jumpy, I was surprised at something unknown standing in front of me. Before I had a chance to put together what was actually in front of me, my mind sent signals to my body to react. Because I studied psychology, I know that those reactions are so deeply ingrained in our brains. The initial, knee-jerk reaction is nearly uncontrollable. So while I love my husband and I should’ve been happy to see him, I was shocked and my mind reacted accordingly. This leads me to believe that should I encounter something supernatural walking around the corner, I’d probably be the least valuable person you’d want by your side to defend you.
It’s not just a basic flight or fight response that psychology can teach about the human mind. How people respond to external love and support when they haven’t received it often, how people react to new information that could change their lives, or how people judge the actions of others based on their own past experiences are all common topics that are thoroughly discussed. I loved learning about people and why they acted the way they did. I translated that love into my writing and creating an urban fantasy story.
Most of the characters in the Legends & Shadows Saga are basically energy vampires, called Legends in the story. They have enhanced abilities but need human energy to survive. A topic like that was never taught in psychology, unless we were talking about delusions. But everything else that makes a story or a character great (at least for me) is their ability to love, grow, make bad decisions, rationalize thought, judge or be judged by others, sacrifice for others, and their overall experience that we can relate to as humans. So while the powers in my book are created from my imagination, the emotions and relationships are based on real concepts.
I think the most intense and alluring stories are ones that are close enough to real life or real emotions that the reader can identify with the characters. I don’t have much in common with a murderous, energy vampire that enjoys other people’s pain and dons a plethora of tattoos across her arms. However, I can still write about a character that does. Nikki is a side character in my books that I created but her harsh personality is based on what happens to people who have been repeatedly abandoned and are forced to protect themselves emotionally. I don’t empathize with hardly any of her choices but I can understand feeling pain and wanting to set yourself up to feel less pain. The beauty of stories is getting to see other people’s choices and understand them, even if you wouldn’t make them yourself.
I think most readers have a fascination with psychology, even if they don’t know the fancy terms. Urban fantasy is a great place to experience supernatural elements in a normal world. It’s an easy path from the reality we know and the fantasy that books promise. I love writing urban fantasy and building the characters in my stories. I am fortunate that I went to college and studied an intriguing topic that I loved and I still get to use that knowledge in my passion projects now. I’m not sure which love came first for me, all I know is that I love psychology and I love fantasy. For me, they both have a place in my writing and always will.