5 Questions for Kim Harrison
Kim Harrison is best known as the author of the New York Times #1 best selling Hollows series, but she has written more than urban fantasy and has published more than two-dozen books spanning the gamut from young adult, accelerated-science thriller, several anthologies, and has scripted two original graphic novels set in the Hollows universe. She has also published traditional fantasy under the name Dawn Cook. Kim is currently working on a new Hollows book between other, non related, urban fantasy projects.
LS: Hi Kim, thanks so much for joining us today. We’re thrilled to chat with you. Let’s start off by talking about the bridge between The Witch With No Name and American Demon. You left Rachel and Trent happily besotted and content in that lovely WWNN epilogue and then moved on to other works. What brought you back to the Hollows?
Kim: It is my pleasure to have the chance to talk to you readers! Thank you so much for asking. You wanted to know what brought me back to the Hollows? Well, at the time of writing The Witch With No Name, I felt as if I had begun to become stale. It was book thirteen, and though I had had the occasional opportunity to delve into YA and script a few graphic novels, I had other stories to tell that couldn’t be told within the Hollow’s universe. After wrapping the story up for what I thought was forever, I took some time to stretch my writing muscles by working with something outside the Hollows universe. Hence The Drafter series and the odd, I-don’t-know-how-to-classify PERFunctory affecTION.(Perfection)
But the Hollows was always there, and after spending some time playing with other ways to tell a story, I realized there were a few stories left to tell from Rachel’s perspective. I had grown, and Rachel was not the same person she had been when the series started. When I went back to her POV, it felt like coming home and I have no intention of cutting the series short again as long as I’m able to publish the odd something outside of the Hollows so I don’t become stale again.
LS: In my recommendations of your series, I’ve frequently told friends that the Hollows is like settling down at a cozy coffee shop and spending the afternoon with a bunch of old friends you haven’t seen in a while. The series and those characters are comfortable and entertaining. Was it difficult for you to come back to the series after spending time away from it and did you find it easy to step back into that world or did it take you a little while to get back into the groove of writing about Rachel again?
Kim: Thank you so much for that. I always thought of Rachel and the gang as a healthy escapism, and trying to foster a strong reader connection is part of that. It wasn’t difficult at all to come back to the Hollows. Actually, it felt like a relief. Stepping into Rachel’s world was like slipping under a warm, familiar comforter on a cold night. I find writing from Rachel’s POV to be easy, if writing anything can be thought as such. Despite her changing attitudes and abilities as she grows as a person, her core is solid and she sticks to it. I know how she will react to any situation, and that is sometimes half the battle when it comes to getting words on the paper. She is not the first character I ever wrote, but she is certainly the one I have been writing the longest—and she is still growing, keeping me as a writer, interested in her.
LS: Do you see the Hollows becoming a series you’ll always write in or will there, eventually (hopefully far, far into the future) come a day where you say ‘no, really, this is the final book’?
Kim: I’m sure there will be a day that I stop playing in the Hollows and that beautiful, satisfying epilogue in The Witch With No Name becomes more than a remembered dream but Rachel’s reality. That is my goal. But I don’t see that happening until the day that I cry, “Enough!” and put the pen down for good. I love working in the Hollows. There, among characters I’m intimately familiar with, I can focus on exploring the human existence hand-in-hand with creating new magic systems and beings. The trappings of witch, vampire, and demon have always been to me simply exaggerated facets of the human psyche. Deeper, stronger, more intense: and with that, we can better see ourselves within their shadows.
LS: You began your career in a different genre, under a different name, back in 2002 and found huge success as Kim Harrison in UF. Since then, there has been a great deal of evolution in the industry and your genre in particular. What has changed the most and has that impacted how or what you write?
Kim: It was a great relief when I was finally able to, with my publisher’s permission, publically reveal that Kim Harrison and traditional fantasy author Dawn Cook were the same person. Keeping in mind that manuscripts were submitted on paperback then because the email servers couldn’t handle that much data and that most of the NY gatekeepers were white men, you might think there have been massive changes in not only what you write, but how you write.
Actually, not so much in my experience.
There have always been writers working on challenging topics. There are as many ways to put a book on paper as there are people willing to do it. Selling a novel keeps changing as do the technologies that support it. But having said that, I am giddy with how often now those challenging topics are being sought after and how much easier technology has made my job in terms of having access to better and more versatile tools. The largest positive change I have seen is not in the writers and what they are producing, but the big six publishers themselves and what they are buying and promoting. And yes, when I started, there were six big houses, not two.
Access to a publisher is so much easier now, and self-publishing has gone from vanity press to a real career path. All positive if you can weave through the inherent problems that a lack of gatekeepers can foster. Publishing used to be a very small world, and to a great extent, it still is, but the opportunities now are far greater for the single voice to break past the gatekeepers and be heard, and even more gratifying, the publishers themselves are looking for those once-silenced voices.
When it comes right down to it, the best tool a writer has hasn’t changed much. A chair, a keyboard, time, one or two people with which to bounce ideas off of, and luck that what you are passionate about is what NY is currently looking for. That, and a whole lot of support, be it financial as you are getting started, or emotional to keep you grounded in reality as you spend six to ten hours a day finding ways to destroy the word and then save it. And a publisher. A publisher who wants what you are producing really, really helps.
LS: If you could meet any writer, living or dead, and have dinner with them, who would it be and what would you discuss?
Kim: If I could have dinner with any writer, I’d probably want to spend a few hours with Ray Bradbury shortly after he published Dandelion Wine, where we could dissect each and every interlocking story, stories where he taught me how to string a common thread using human frailties and strength, that the most fearsome monsters are the ones who live next door or even within our own hearts, where magic can be found in a pair of sneakers or tinkling wind chimes, and death waits in a glass of lemonade. I’d like to hope he could look past how unalike we are and see where we were the same, and maybe he would understand how important his work was to me.