We want to extend our gratitude to Kim Harrison, author of the phenomenal Urban Fantasy series, The Hollows, for allowing us to feature her in our LitStack February Featured Author segment.
For the past eight years, Harrison has published a series of novels about witch/bounty hunter Rachel Morgan and her life in Cincinnati and its suburbs. With the series Harrison has spun a particular brand of magic, hypnotizing readers with lush landscapes, belly-busting humor and characters so multifaceted that we expect to see them at our local spell store and Living Vampire pizzeria.
We recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Kim about the genesis of the series, her many Hollows-related publications and the evolution of the publishing industry.
Thanks to Kim and Harper Voyager for supporting LitStack and, of course, for gifting the world with the paradigm of a great Urban Fantasy series.
The Hollows is such a complex, intricate universe. Can you tell us about the genesis of this world? What came first, the characters, the T4 Angel virus or the Hollows?
Thank you, Tee! I’m so glad that you are enjoying the Hollows and the time I’ve put in to the world building. I think every series or stand-alone develops differently, but in the case of the Hollows, I like to say that the characters and the world developed together fairly evenly. My original intent was to take the oddest characters I could think of and find the “girl next door” in her. The Angel T4 virus was a way to show a clear division from our world, and the Hollows was a jump of logic that developed almost from that first chapter. Mix it all together, and you get the Hollows, slowly developing, as did the characters. However having said that, I think most of the time that it’s the characters who come to me first, and the world shapes from their needs and trials.
There have been so many plot threads, so many issues that have been raised and resolved over the series. Has anything that you initially developed changed or have those threads remained as you envisioned them?
Yikes! To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what’s changed and what’s stayed the same from my original ideas. The thread of Rachel’s true parentage was realized early on and has remained unchanged. That she was a proto-demon was a new one born from the death of my original idea of where she fit into the story. Kisten as a love interest came out from nowhere and blindsided me, as did his death. I like to be surprised as I write, even though I try to plan the story from first page to last. Because I have to hold everything in my head from book to book, it’s easier if I forget what I wanted to do and simply concentrate on what ended up on the shelf.
In both Pale Demon and A Perfect Blood we see Rachel somewhat embracing her demon heritage. Though that heritage has, essentially, always been present in her life, do you see her continuing to accept that she’s a demon? How will her “new” identity affect the relationships in her life?
I definitely see Rachel learning to live with the realizations she’s made over the last couple of books. I’d like to think that her change of self has been slow enough to be believable. Her new identity has already begun to affect her relationships, but for the most part, it’s Rachel changing, not those she loves. Jenks, in particular sees her as he always has, and Ivy has begun seeking relationships outside of Rachel not because she’s afraid of her but because she knows that Rachel needs more than she can give—which is exactly the same reason Rachel has begun to distance herself from her business partners.
I have a few ideas of Rachel’s happy ending, but it likely won’t be the traditional husband, house, and white picket fence. Rachel isn’t a traditional kind of girl, and her happy ending will reflect that.
I’d love to talk about Blood Work. I was blown away by how, like the series, I was completely hooked the moment I read it. How did the idea of writing a Hollows-centric graphic novel come about? What made you want to tell Ivy’s side of the story?
Thank you! I’m so pleased you liked it. I’d never tackled anything so visual, and I enjoyed scripting it and the sequel from beginning to end. It was my agent who came to me with the idea originally, and I was eager to tell the Hollows story in a new way. Tapping into the year where Rachel interned under Ivy was an easy choice, allowing me to dip back into Ivy’s POV, something I hadn’t done since the novella UNDEAD IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.
How many issues are in the works and what can we expect from those issues?
BLOOD CRIME is due out December 2012. It takes off right where BLOOD WORK leaves off, and will likely be the last one that I script. I tried it and found that I work best with longer works. Graphic novels allow about 120 words per page, and that simply isn’t enough for me.
The compendium resource, The Hollows Insider, was released last year. As a writer who probably knows far more than necessary about my characters, I’m often left with surplus scenes and information that don’t make it into my novels. Were there “not for novel” details you created for your series that ended up in THI?
Ahhh, no. Everything you see in the HOLLOWS INSIDER was created or compiled by me for its publication from Kisten’s second-death certificate to Rachel’s mom’s request that Rachel be excused from gym class. I had a great time working up the layouts and organization of the Insider, and if not for the fabulous crew at Harper Voyager—who took my sorry examples and made them look good—it would not be the glow-in-the-dark extravaganza that you can find on the shelf. THE HOLLOWS INSIDER took me more time than a regular novel, and was the most terrifying and gratifying thing I’ve ever worked on.
One of the things I thoroughly enjoyed while reading the past two Hollows novels, was the growth of your characters, particularly Trent. He still makes mistakes, but he’s softening somewhat and his affection and respect for Rachel is clear. Is this something you designed for him initially or did it just happen over time? And really, how good was that kiss? Rachel can’t seem to forget it and neither can your readers.
Ahhh, Trent. I never intended him to be anything other than the big-bad-ugly, but Rachel needed to overcome him, and that meant he had to die or she needed to understand him. I love it when my bad guys evolve, and because Trent had a good heart, he evolved. Al evolved. Ku’Sox just needs to die.
A Perfect Blood delves in some serious issues, particularly, for lack of a better term, racism and how hatred blinds reason. What made you decide to tackle this issue?
My editor questioned me once, asking “what about the humans?” She was right, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was probably a human hate group out there, and the rest just flowed. I didn’t start A PERFECT BLOOD with the idea to talk about racism and blind hatred, but I’m never one to shy away from where my characters lead me.
Talk, if you would, about Wayde and he and Rachel’s future interactions. How will Trent react should that interaction lead to something “other than professional”?
Ahhh, Wayde. I really like him. He was in the rough draft, got cut from the version that I submitted, and then written back in. I actually had a conversation with my editor about him, concerned that readers and Rachel would see him as a convenient boy-toy, but I was determined that Rachel could have a body guard and not see him in anything other than a professional manner. But we all know Rachel. She’s always going to look.
And yes, part of the reason I wrote Wayde back in was to see how Trent reacted when she did look. There’s one particular sentence in A PERFECT BLOOD that I could not take out, and I worked Wayde in so I could keep it. Worlds hinge on a look, a touch, a glance, and it was worth all the rewrite work.
Al is such a dynamic and opportunistic character. Was he inspired by anyone in particular and what’s really on his agenda? The ending in A Perfect Blood alludes to Al having plans; sneaky, twisted plans. Can you give us a hint about those?
Al was not inspired by anyone in particular, no. He was supposed to be my ultimate bad boy, but like everything Rachel butts up against, she’s learned to understand him, though not agree with everything he does. I like where Al is right now, able to treat Rachel with more respect but still do the despicable thing because, well . . . he’s a demon.
Al doesn’t really have much of a plan right now other than survival. Gaining Rachel as first a familiar, then a student, and now an equal, left him broke and on a knife’s edge. I think it’s telling that Trent, for all his resources and power, has his back to the wall for the same reason—saving Rachel so she can save them all.
The scope of the publishing industry is changing. What is your opinion of the evolution of the e-book and its impact on the industry?
I am a big believer in e-books, and I feel as if they are going to be a large force in how new authors are made and promoted. Electronic books are a great way for readers to take a chance on new-to-them authors. Most readers love books, and it’s far easier for many people to take a chance on a new-to-them author if the format is electronic. It’s not always about the price, but the space that an unwanted book takes up and the decision on what to do with a book you don’t like. Most people who read love books, and the thought of throwing a paper book away, even one they didn’t like, is akin to nails on a blackboard. Giving your friend a book you didn’t enjoy isn’t likely to happen, either. Tossing electrons back into the ether is a lot easier on the soul.
However, having said that, I think a cold, honest look needs to be taken at how we manufacture and dispose these beautiful readers. The potential damage to the environment in their creation and improper disposal is scary.
I try to read your blog, the Drama Box, frequently and I have to commend you on the open communication you have with your readers. Was that something you always intended and have any of your readers inspired little plot bunnies over the years?
I like being accessible to the readers, and so far, I’ve been able to keep up with them. I’ve come a long way from DEAD WITCH WALKING’s release where I’d get six posts a week to the current hour I spend every day on my blog and face book page, but it’s worth it. Most times I’m working so far ahead of what is on the shelf that any comments the readers make don’t influence the next book, but their questions often tell me where I’ve failed to explain something well enough, and I work in an explanation as soon as I can.
Last question with a mild dose of fangirling: For me, The Hollows is a series that feels familiar and comfortable, like a visit with an old friend. Anyway we can persuade you (or your publisher) to continue the series indefinitely?
Thank you, Tee! Comfortable is how I feel when I sit down every day to work on the next book. Ending the series at 12 or 13 was my idea, not my publisher’s, and if I went to my editor tomorrow and told her I had a great idea to continue the Hollows for another three books, I think she would jump on it.
As a writer, I’m starting to feel the urge to write in a new way, to try a new method, to see what a different voice might accomplish. The Hollows has become so intertwined with Rachel’s voice, that I need to divorce myself completely from it in order to stretch my writing muscles. Right now I’m working on a handful of ideas, one that has captured my attention enough to simply take three months from my schedule and write the silly thing. I don’t know if it will ever see print, but the enjoyment I’ve gotten from it was enough to convince me that I made the right decision. I will probably go back to the Hollows in some fashion at some point, but for now, I’m exploring my options in other worlds and other characters.