Special Note to Kim Harrison Fans. Today, February 25, 2011 at 7:00pm (EST), ASSIGNMENT X will present a live streaming broadcast of Harrison’s book signing for PALE DEMON that’s being held at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, OH.
Author Kim Harrison had the 9th book of her extremely successful Urban Fantasy series “The Hollows” hit stores this week with PALE DEMON which features the continuing adventures of Rachel Morgan and company.
For those not in the know, “The Hollows” is an alternate world from our own where a plague (know as The Turn) distributed by tomatoes has wiped out a huge portion of humanity. Because of this thinning of the herd, all of the supernatural beings that had been hiding amongst humans are forced out in the open and now live alongside the survivors. This new society includes things like witches, vampires, pixies, demons, elves, werewolves, and so much more.
ASSIGNMENT X chatted with Harrison and found out about fan input, a new graphic novel featuring “The Hollows’, TV or movie plans, what kind of merchandise is out there for fans to own a piece of their favorite supernatural world, and of course an ending to all things and when that will happen.
ASSIGNMENT X: How does the readers’ sense of ownership of the characters affect you as a writer?
KIM HARRISON: They write to me with suggestions and demands. They have demands, but I’m working about two books ahead of what they are actually seeing. I’ve written book number eleven – it’s in rough draft right now. So, when they come to me with demands it’s very easy to divorce myself from it because what they are talking about is already settled for the most part.
AX: PALE DEMON was released this week, was there anything that you were caught off guard with in this book?
HARRISON: I was! The ending that is on the shelf is not the original ending of the book. The original ending of the book was scrapped due to a suggestion from my editor, and I came up with a new one that I liked so much better. But it was a surprise – it was not the ending I had originally envisioned. It’s better than the original ending. That was a twist. Trent’s happy ending is in there. It’s not the ending, but his happy ending completely floored me. I did not see it coming, but it makes perfect sense. You’ll know it when you see it. [Laughs] So there were a lot of surprises that came along. There are a lot of funky things that happen that I didn’t plan. That’s why I let myself go off on tangents when I write, because it’s like having the story told to me for the first time.
AX: There was a softer side to Trent in this book as well, which as a reader was interesting to see.
HARRISON: I’ve always liked Trent, and I’ve never had the opportunity to show his redeeming qualities. To show that he’s doing all of these bad things, but this is why he’s doing it, and wouldn’t you do the same thing? It goes back to the old question; of would you steal to save your family? Until you are put in that position you may not know the answer, and very despicable person might be doing it for a very noble reason. You just never know.
AX: Where did Jenks’ swearing and taking the names of Tinkerbell and Disney in vain come from?
HARRISON: I’ve had people write to me and say that they swore to Tink in the grocery store line, and the woman behind them started a conversation about the books. I love it, I love hearing stuff like that. The swear words from Jenks stems from my … how do I put this because I’ve never been asked this question quite this way before. I don’t like to use really harsh swear words, and maybe it goes back to my beginning of reading young adult. The words weren’t in there, and I really didn’t need them. I’m also from the Midwest and I am a prude at heart. If I can come up with another word that has the same impact, but I don’t have to use the actual word, and then save the harsh words for when it’s really important, I will. I love coming up with alternative swear words and in each of the series that I’ve done, each one has a different word or phrase that becomes THE swear word. Tink was a natural step, I mean I love Tinkerbell, but can you imagine what a pixie would feel like if a fairy was getting all of the attention and had gone to Hollywood before the turn happened? She was talking to human beings, and blowing everybody’s cover! That’s a big deal.
AX: One of the more dramatic things you have done in the books is the “shunning” of Rachel from the witch community. When you do something that large, do you have a general idea of how long it will hang around in the books before the characters get out from under it or if they ever will?
HARRISON: I have no clue. I have absolutely no clue. This one evolved slower than I thought. Originally I thought, OK she’s shunned, and now she goes and takes care of it. But it took two or three books before she actually gets around to taking care of it. All things happen the way they are supposed to. I look back at it, and it was a natural progression. When something bad like this happens, you deal with it. You don’t want to have to go and face your peers, but when it comes right down to it, you find out you need to, if only to settle things in your mind.
AX: Besides the novels, you also have a graphic novel?
HARRISON: It’s called BLOODWORK. I’m going to be a guest at San Diego Comic Con this year, which I am terribly excited about. The graphic novel is full color, it’s a hardcover. They’re doing it up right. It’s coming out on July 12th, which is a week before Comic Con. This is coming out through Del Rey instead of my usual publisher, and I’ve been enjoying working with a different editor. There is a second volume following it, and we’re working on it right now. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a real learning experience for me because I like to write with brevity even though I’m very rich on dialogue; the comic book has forced me to be very, very brief. I’ve enjoyed it though because it has let me out of the first person perspective and I can look at it from a different person’s perspective. I can have things going on that the main character doesn’t’ realize and I can bring that in and impact the main character. This comic is from Ivy’s point of view, and this is the year that Rachel and Ivy intern together, so we get the chance to see Kisten again which is nice. I have not been able to bring in some of the old standbys – like Jenks isn’t there and that’s been kind of hard to deal with.
AX: Did you always intend to do a single story graphic novel?
HARRISON: I never wanted to do piece-meal. For me it was all or nothing with my schedule. I can devote two months to it right here and right now, but I can’t devote two weeks here, and then two weeks over here, and two weeks here. So for me it was a choice of this is my schedule, this is how we’re going to have to do it. Fortunately there was a big enough interest from Del Rey that we could go ahead and jump right into it.
AX: You have very popular books and you have an upcoming graphic novel. Has Hollywood come knocking yet?
HARRISON: We’ve got some nibbles, but my agent is holding very tightly to the rights until we have some kind of assurance that if we sell the rights, they will be acted on and not just shoved into a drawer.
AX: If it did happen, have you thought about who might play the characters?
HARRISON: [Laughs] I have favorite actors, yes, but I’m not a real big TV watcher. My readers come to me with suggestions in such numbers that I’ve had to devote pages to on the website, where they can go and put their pics up. When they come to me with suggestions, I’ve never heard of these people because I never watch TV. Sigourney Weaver would be a perfect Rachel’s mom, but I know that’s not going to happen. I have ideas for actresses for Rachel, but by the time this thing ever gets made, they’re not going to be in their twenties or thirties anymore. So I’ve given up for now, besides I might not even get a say.
AX: On your website, how did you decide what merchandise to put out there for fans to buy?
HARRISON: The Vampiric Charms store is my husband – I do not have the time to man that website. We come up with the merchandise together. He’s a big merchandise guy, and he’ll come to me with ideas, and I’ll say yes or no or even throw out ideas of my own. We’re trying not to keep a whole lot of things to choose from. In fact I’d like to see that narrowed down a bit more. We don’t go through Café Press for this. If it’s on the website, it’s come through my kitchen basically. I’m very hands on. Some of the artwork I’ll do myself. We actually have a guy who comes up with the designs for the tour tees. You can see the change where we handed that over to him; they got a whole lot better! [Laughs] Every year we do a freebie for the books. Developing that, I’ll sit down and write it and design it, and I’ll work my art program and lay it out and try to get it printer ready. We’ll send it out and get it back and then send it back and get it fixed. [Laughs] I love the merchandise for the books especially the freebies, because that’s my chance to give to the reader a piece of “The Hollows” that makes it more real.
AX: You said you have book eleven written in a rough draft format. How many books do you think “The Hollows” will be?
HARRISON: It can’t go on indefinitely. [Laughs] Rachel wants her happy ending and I am ready to give it to her. As much as I love working with her and her environment, as a writer I feel like I need to write in a different way and stretch my abilities towards something else. I can’t do that with Rachel. Rachel is so much first person, bright, cheerful, desperate, never-say die. I need to work with completely different characters in a completely different world in order to stretch my writing to the next level. So as much as I hate saying goodbye to Rachel, I’m excited about the possibility of working with new characters and writing in a different way. I’m seeing one possibly two more books, so twelve or thirteen. It depends on what I need to do to wrap the story up.
AX: Is there anything else coming up that I haven’t asked you about?
HARRISON: I have a world book that comes out in November.
AX: Is that like an encyclopedia?
HARRISON: No! It’s a lot more fun. [Laughs] This is a hardcover and it’s like a normal world book where you are bringing all of the facts from all of the books into one place, but I’ve structured it around a story. It’s kind of a DINOTOPIA sort of feel. I’m a poor man’s DINOTOPIA, let’s put it that way. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half and I’m just now doing the last tweaks on it, and I’m trying to get it in before I go out on tour. I’m having so much fun with it. It wasn’t supposed to have a storyline, but I can’t do this without telling a story. So that comes out in November. My last young adult book, SOMETHING DEADLY THIS WAY COMES is out in late May or early June. So that’s four releases I have this year. I look back it and say no wonder I didn’t get any sleep last year.