The Itchy Witch Is Back
Kim Harrison is a New York Times best-selling author of The Hollows Series, The Madison Avery Series, The Peri Reed Chronicles, and two graphic novels that take place in The Hollows world. Kim Harrison sat down with me on behest of Grimdark Magazine to talk about her newest addition to The Hollows series, American Demon.
By Beth Tabler
Kim, thank you for taking some time to interview with me. Your Hollows Series is back with a new story, American Demon. Did you always plan on starting a new story arc with the Hollows crew after The Witch With No Name?
Hi, and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk to your readers! Did I plan on restarting the Hollows after The Witch with No Name? Absolutely not! I crafted that epilogue at the end of WWNN so carefully, so lovingly, just trying to get it the perfect balance of happy ending and satisfaction. Rachel deserved a well-earned peace after what I put her through. But the main reason I wanted to step away from the Hollows was to stretch my writing muscles in ways that the Hollows universe couldn’t give me.
Several years spent on published and non published manuscripts with different characters in different worlds outside of that first-person narrative, however, and I began to feel a definite pull back to Rachel and the gang. I’ll be honest. Stretching my writing muscles was great and I learned a lot, but wow, stepping back into Rachel’s voice was truly like coming home. I hope that the readers feel the step from The Witch With No Name to American Demon is seamless. That happy ending epilogue is not out of reach, just put off for a few more years.
Rachel Mariana Morgan is a true heroine. I know leagues of readers consider her to be a role model. She is smart, tough, and loyal to her found family. Did she always start that way as a character, or did she develop over time?
Thank you! I love hearing that Rachel is both identifiable and likable in her sometimes bull-headed determination that the world be fair to everyone in it. I feel that she has evolved a lot over the books, not only making smarter decisions, but more inclined to listen to others in finding a solution that doesn’t involve fists and feet. She’s stronger even as her love for her widening found family makes her more vulnerable. This time, though, she knows it. Her core, though, is unchanged. She’s just being smarter about it.
For me, the aspect of the “found family” is the foundation of The Hollows series. When picking the supporting characters for Rachel, who is a witch, and who became a family for her, what made you decide on a pixy, elf, and Vampire?
Oh, the core of Rachel’s found family was a happy, glorious accident. I wrote the first chapter of Dead Witch Walking as a short story way back in 1999, I think. I was trying to break into print in the short story market, and the stuff making the cut back then was really, really weird at that time. I knew I couldn’t match the brand of odd that was being accepted, so I just threw together the three most oddball characters I could think of to see how they worked. A witch, a pixy, and a vampire in a bar sounded good to me.
Incidentally, the short story didn’t find print, so I stuffed it in a drawer and forgot about it while I found publication with a more traditional fantasy at ACE. It wasn’t until Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher began to make noise with LK Hamilton that I drew it from the dust and developed it into a full manuscript.
Al is one of the most fun characters to read and watch as he changes throughout the series. He was alternating between demon and foe, challenger, partner, friend, and eventually as family to Rachel. Where do you see his character heading now into American Demon and beyond?
Al is one of my most favorite characters. He began as an almost stereotypical big-bad-ugly with lots of power and a bad attitude. But Rachel, ah, Rachel… When the time came to vanquish or learn to understand him, she took the harder road, and I’m so glad she did. She began to see past his anger, perhaps seeing it in herself. Rachel gave him trust, and he responded in a beautiful way. Unfortunately, overcoming prejudice is often five steps forward, three steps back, he and Rachel are again on the outs. Their relationship needs mending. I have yet to see how. His emotional wounds are eons old, and we will need to see his story in more detail before Rachel can even hope to understand.
In terms of the craft of writing, how do you see your books? Is it a linear progression, a story beat leading into the next. Or do you craft the stories around a specific scene and build out from there?
When Dead Witch Walking sold as a three-book deal, I was delighted. Long series were not the norm at that time, and I tried to structure the trilogy with a good, solid ending—only to find I had to joyfully adjust when the series was extended, and extended, and extended! It has truly been an honor and privilege to take my time within this world.
There has always been the long-time goal of saving Ivy’s soul, but I’ve written the series as a linear progression. Now, with the series restarting, I have a new goal, one that can stretch or shrink depending upon the readers’ desire to keep buying them. But in regards to crafting each individual story? It’s very linear. No jumping around.
You have written two graphic novels, Blood Crime, and Blood Work. How does the story creation differ from writing a regular novel?
It feels like ages since I worked on the graphic novels, but I really enjoyed them. In many ways, creating a graphic novel was much the same as my process for plotting out a novella. Beginning, middle, end all in fairly rapid motion with lots of movement and very little soul-searching character development. Because it’s so fast a medium, character development has to twine tightly with action. It wasn’t a bad exercise. Paring down my dialog was hard, but it’s amazing what you don’t need, especially when there is a visual for the reader to focus on. I enjoyed the chance to tell a story in a new way, and working with Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey was a treat. I don’t think I could ever top the experience, and so I haven’t looked into developing any more graphic novel titles. Quite often it’s not what, but who you get to work with that makes an experience.
Your action sequences leave me breathless. So exciting! How do you structure something like a fight scene or a magic scene? Have you researched fight techniques, or is it more by the seat of your pants?
Okay, now I’m smiling. I’m very much a seat of the pants when it comes to both magic and fight/action sequences. I try to write the fight scenes like sex scenes: know where everyone’s hands are at all times, and for every action, there is a reaction.
I did do some research in the form of getting two, now very dusty black belts in Hapkido and Taekwondo. Lately, my joints can’t take the stress–especially with Hapkido, which is my favorite–but it was a very fun span of my life.
I got to ask about the titles of the books, great puns from Clint Eastwood. How did that come about? I know there has got to be a fun story there.
If I am remembering correctly, it was sort of an evolved, joint decision between me and my editor at the time, Diana Gill. Dead Witch Walking isn’t from a Clint Eastwood film, but we’d done The Good, The Bad, and the Undead, and Every Which Way but Dead, and it just seemed appropriate. Marketing wasn’t paying that much attention, and by the time they were, (and believe me, marketing has a big say in the books that they are interested in) the tradition was locked in. Now, as I continue the Hollows with Ace, and Anne Sowards, I am gratified to announce that the play on the Clint Eastwood titles will continue, and you can look for Million Dollar Demon late next year.
Finally, I love to ask this question. I call it the dinner party question. If you were having a dinner party and could invite any three people alive or dead, fictional or real, who would they be and why?
Oh, squirrels. This is a hard question. Just off the top of my head, I’d love to have dinner with Ray Bradbury as he was the first author (at the tender age of ten?) who showed me the most dangerous monsters are those who live among us. Second, Michelle Obama, to get her take on the world. She’s got stories to tell. And thirdly, I’d want my husband, Tim, there, because he would keep the conversation flowing so I could listen and learn instead of talking and coming away with nothing.
Thanks so much for this. It was a lot of fun to talk to your readers.
About the Author
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 over two-dozen books spanning the gamut from young adult, thriller, several anthologies, and has scripted two original graphic novels. 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.