There are no gnomes, elves, orcs, dryads, or any other fantasy races within my universe. I did not want to go back and do what I did before. At the core, my story/universe is about humans and humanity. But this is the trick: I was inspired by real mythology, the Gnosistic system, the imagery of demons from across mythology, and I asked a simple question: what do those who are monsters fear?
And that’s where the focus came. Everything about the story, the setting, the mechanics, and the general attitudes about magic, monsters, and humanity itself stem from there. This is what allowed me to free myself from the constraints of urban fantasy. It’s what allowed me to focus and bring out the things I wanted to write, explore, and show my perspective on fantasy. It’s not that the setting isn’t rooted in fantasy. There’s still the trappings of the genre, subtle nods, but I wanted to do my take on it.
And that’s where others should go as well. Find what makes your work tick, what you like, and bring it out. By taking a simple idea like what if Shackleton/Lady Ivanna Sharevnkov II of Rustinia went to the frigid south in a late 19th centuryesque world to find the last city of the freezer gods and then making a story out of that. If you try to go big with all the general trappings of some Tolkenesqiue world, it will/can work. But I find it lazy, and almost disrespectful to those who have done that before.
The question is this: what makes your story different-even a difference of angle/perspective-to the dozens of other stories sitting in an agent’s submission box or an editor’s email?
Just consider it.