Kim Harrison is, without a doubt, one of my favorite authors. Her bestselling series, The Hollows, is not only my all-time favorite Urban Fantasy series, but also is comprised of some of my favorite books of any genre. So, when I learned that Harper Collins would be releasing the mass market paperback of her latest book, The Outlaw Demon Wails (in stores today!), Ana urged me to man up, get over my shyness and contact Kim for an interview. Which I did, heart palpitating, palms sweaty. (I am a ginormous pansy, I have discovered–if it weren’t for Ana’s cheekiness, I probably never would have worked up the nerve to click ‘send’. I consoled myself by thinking I wouldn’t get a response, and that would be the end of it.)
So, when I received an email back from Kim, agreeing to the interview, I literally fell off my chair. There are probably 50 or so emails from me to Ana which consist of “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”, or other similar unintelligible messages. And, I discovered, Kim Harrison is not only an amazing author, capable of writing the most insane plot twists and beautifully flawed characters, but she’s also just a darn cool person. Now if only I could get my hands on a copy of White Witch Black Curse…
Without further ado, I present you with our Chat with Kim Harrison! *banana dance*
The Book Smugglers: Welcome Kim, and thank you so much for taking the time to “chat” with us! Your latest book in The Hollows series, The Outlaw Demon Wails is a huge hit, scoring a high spot on the New York Times bestseller list upon its first release. I am a huge fan of The Hollows series—in fact it is without a doubt my favorite urban fantasy series period.
One thing I love and admire about these books is how well planned they all seem, and how each revelation seems to have had its seeds planted in previous books. When you began writing The Hollows, did you have a set outline for where Rachel’s story would eventually go? Or was it more of a make-it-up-as-you-go process?
Kim: I didn’t have the first series goal in mind until I finished Dead Witch Walking, actually, and it was only when I finished The Outlaw Demon Wails that I came up with the second series goal. (Which we should reach about book 11 to 13, depending upon contracts and how fast it falls together.) The reason the books are tied together so tightly I think is more because I work far ahead of the publishing schedule, usually two to three books ahead of what’s on the shelf. That lets me go back to a book that is, say in copy edit, (six months before publication) and add something that I won’t actually need until two more books. It works for me, although I know some authors would cringe to have a book open and sporadically working on it for three years.
The Book Smugglers: Why tomatoes? Note: For those who have not read The Hollows books, tomatoes are the cause of humanity’s sharp demise in population, leading to “the Turn”—where vampires and other supernatural beings decided to come out of the closet. So…what do you have against tomatoes?
Kim: Why tomatoes? A couple of reasons, actually. Tomatoes were widely thought to be poisonous for a long time, which is understandable as they are in the Nightshade family. There was also the real biogenetically altered tomato that flopped on grocery store shelves way back when bio engineered food was new to the market. But the biggest reason is a nod to the B rated movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I love tomatoes, and I usually have a plant or two growing in my landscaping somewhere.
The Book Smugglers: Your main cast of characters includes a unique witch, a living vampire, and a pixy— not to mention elves, werewolves and demons. Your use of these archetypal creatures, however, is distinctly unique and each supernatural creature feels rooted in the rules you have created in The Hollows universe. What myths or writings influence you when creating this world?
Kim: This is a hard question for me to answer as I didn’t do much research when I developed the species that live in the Hollows. I read a lot of fairy tales when I was growing up, not just Grimm, but multiple versions of the same story from culture to culture, and I think it gave me a well-rounded idea of what’s out there. I also draw a lot on my scientific background when I develop a new species, using logic to decide things like life span, eating habits, and such. For example, pixies are small and winged, therefore, in my mind, they would have a lot of characteristics that a humming bird would have. And anyone who has had a humming bird feeder knows how fierce and territorial they are.
The Book Smugglers: Each Rachel Morgan book is a frantic, high-stakes read. I find myself out of breath (and sleep deprived) by the time I turn that final page! Rachel herself has admitted to being addicted to danger. So ‘fess up. Are you an adrenaline junkie? Action addict?
Kim: Thank you! I’m glad I’m able to keep you glued to the pages. I’m totally not an adrenaline junkie, but I like watching action movies. That’s about as far as it goes. I’ll never jump out of a perfectly good airplane or climb a mountain just to say I did. I am always trying new things, however, and am not afraid to fail.
The Book Smugglers: Rachel Morgan is one of my favorite heroines—in part because she makes so many rushed mistakes, and yet has her heart in the right place. These tendencies make her even more of a full, real character, if a flawed and at times unreliable narrator. What are your favorite things about Rachel? What motivated you to create such a unique, empathetic character as your heroine?
Kim: My favorite things about Rachel are her loyalty, determination, ability to think for herself, and most importantly, her strength of character to not care what anyone thinks about what she does or what they might say about her. That kind of inner strength is hard to find, but it crosses all personalities from the mild introvert to the extroverted do-it-all. The motivation to create her came from my want to follow the growth of a strong person put in a tenuous position without losing her girl-next-door appeal.
The Book Smugglers: Many Urban Fantasy type novels like The Hollows have a solo hero or heroine, taking on the world and all its problems alone. Your books are different in that the partnership and strong bond of friendship between Rachel, Ivy and Jenks is an integral part to each story—and even when Rachel tries to go it alone in martyred-hero syndrome, her friends and family are there for her. Was this a conscious decision on your part? Why did you choose to make friendship such an important theme in your work?
Kim: Rachel relying on her friends for emotional and physical support was a conscious decision on my part. Friends are a big part of who and what we are, and I wanted to show that. As a character, Rachel is attracted to strong people, and to leave them out of the action would make the story a lot harder to believe.
The Book Smugglers: Be it the drama of the Tamwoods, the close relationship between Rachel and her mother, or the ties of Jenks to his brood, the theme of family is central to all of these books—and even more pronounced in The Outlaw Demon Wails. How prevalently will the revelations of Rachel’s family history figure into the next story arc? Had you planned on Rachel’s unique heritage from the very beginning of the series?
Kim: The revelation of Rachel’s background will of course influence what comes next, but only as a framework sort of way. I am a big believer that people can come from humble beginnings and make a difference in the world, and I tried to make Rachel special without making her unique. Her background was the same as thousands of people. She loves her mom and dad, and that her birth father isn’t the same as the man who raised her was not unique to the witch culture. That she survived a common childhood illness through medical intervention was the catalyst for what happened next, not that “she was born under a new moon when the planets were aligned” sort of a thing.
Rachel’s unique parentage was an idea that I developed while writing Dead Witch Walking, but that she was a stepping stone to demons happened all at once at the end of book six. I had another idea I wanted to end it with, but my editor nixed it because it brought in a few issues that were going to complicate the story line tremendously. (grin) Fortunately the proto-demon idea meshed with what I was planning on.
The Book Smugglers: Rachel and Ivy have one of the most complicated, alternately heart-wrenching and heart-warming relationships I have ever had the pleasure of reading. What inspired you to write such a complicated friendship-love relationship? In The Outlaw Demon Wails we see that Rachel and Ivy finally seem to have reached a tenuous understanding—but given their one step forward two steps back history, should we expect more complicated developments in their relationship in upcoming books?
Kim: I gave up trying to scrip Rachel’s relationships while I was writing The Good, The Bad, and The Undead, and that included Ivy’s pursuit of Rachel. It wasn’t until Ivy pulled off her cross and crawled across the coffee table that I even knew Ivy was bi. It hit me as hard as it hit Rachel, and I had to see where it was going to go. I still am. I never sat down and said that I wanted to explore these issues. They just happened. And that, I think, is why both women ring true.
I like to tell people that I’m trying to find both women’s happy ever after. For a long time, I believed that Ivy’s wouldn’t include Rachel but for a platonic relationship, and the books will reflect that as both women search out new people to be close with. But I am a romantic at heart, and I am open to them ending up together if that is the way the books lead me after all other options have been explored.
The Book Smugglers: Speaking of Ivy, there’s a certain tragic, bittersweet quality to this character—and all living vamps for that matter, as she has the knowledge hanging over her that one day she will lose her soul and become true undead (like her terrifyingly cold mother). Why did you decide to create this schism between living and undead vampires?
Kim: I love rules, and the living and dead vampires came from my want to have my cake and eat it too. I like the strict sunlight restrictions and need for blood to survive that the traditional, soulless Dracula vampire has. I wanted my ugly, terrifying, soulless monsters, but I wanted to write about the tragedy of them, to pity them, to see that though they have everything, they have nothing. It’s hard to find that for a true monster, so I had to develop the living vampires—those with a soul, who live with the knowledge that they will one day lose them. And it worked beautifully.
The Book Smugglers: Originally, The Outlaw Demon Wails was supposed to mark the end of the series. Thank goodness it ain’t so! Considering the dramatic finish to the last book, for the next installments to The Hollows, will we be seeing a lot more of the Ever After and the demons there? Can you tell us a little bit about what this next chapter in Rachel’s life will be like? (No I’m not fishing for spoilers, scout’s honor!)
Kim: We will be seeing a whole lot more of the ever-after as the books progress, yes. I can’t wait to get into it. I don’t have a lot of spoilers, but there will be new villains as Rachel begins to understand her old ones a little better. It’s hard to be afraid of someone once you’ve seen their own fear.
The Book Smugglers: Which character is your favorite to write, and why?
Kim: My favorite character to write changes from book to book. Originally it was Ivy, then it shifted to Trent, and now it’s Al. It seems that the more a character is growing or changing, the more interesting I find them.
The Book Smugglers: If you could cast anyone in the lead roles of your Hollows characters, who would you cast?
Kim: I try not to think about casting the Hollows, but I think Morgan Freeman would make a fabulous Keasley, Al could be played by Gary Oldman, and Piscary could be played by Arnold Vosloo. Mmmm. I like that bald head he’s got in the Mummy movies. Or maybe Vin Diesel.
The Book Smugglers: You also have a new Young Adult series in the works! Could you tell us a little bit about this new project? Why did you decide to start writing in the Young Adult genre?
Kim: Young adult is one of my favorite audience to write for, and in fact, Dead Witch Walking originally had a strong YA slant to it when it was first picked up. YA was where I found my love of reading among Henlein, Andre Norton, Jack L. Chalker, and a little Anne McCaffrey, and the chance to pass on that love of reading is a big draw for me. I think YA is one of the most difficult audiences to successfully write for, and I like the challenge. I hated being talked down to or asked to suspend my disbelief too far when I was growing up, and I hope I have given these readers enough to chew on.
As for what the books are about? Madison Avery lives in a world far more near to our own than the Hollows. There are no vampires or witches. Instead, I’ve focused on reapers, angels, and such. She’s dead. (grin) And not too happy about it, but she has a future ahead of her if she can figure a few things out, hopefully saving a few people from her fate along the way.
The Book Smugglers: Sounds wonderful! I cannot wait to read Madison’s story. Thank you again for your time, Kim!
For more from Kim, check out this podcast from Harper Collins:
Kim Harrison, dark urban fantasy author of the New York Times bestselling The Outlaw Demon Wails, was born and raised in the upper Midwest. After gaining her bachelors in the sciences, she moved to South Carolina, where she has remained since. She is currently developing a new young adult series between working on the Hollows books, and is a member of both the Romance Writers of America and The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. When not at her desk, she is most likely to be found chasing down good chocolate, exquisite sushi, or the ultimate dog chew.
And that’s not all! As promised, we are giving away SIX copies of The Outlaw Demon Wails (mmpbk). Also, we have one GRAND PRIZE winner who will receive the entire collection of The Hollows books (1-6)! All you have to do is leave a comment here by midnight (Pacific Standard Time) on Saturday, November 29.