Thursday, June 30, 2011

Visiting the Hollows: An Interview with Kim Harrison

What does grim reapers, the fear of tomatoes, a map to a place called the Hold, and a vampire/witch/pixie team have in common? They are all parts of the books of Kim Harrison.

This New York Times Best Selling author joined with many other writers as well as publishers for this year's Romance Writers of America Convention held in the Marriott Marquis of Times Square.

I had a chance to sit down with Kim prior to the Avon Books signing session today to learn how she writes her books, why she's gone through various transformations throughout her career, plans for future releases, and more.

Please enjoy an interview with this master of fantasy writing.

How are you doing?
"I'm doing good!"

Are you enjoying the convention so far?
"I am! It's always fabulous. It's been a couple of years since I've been to the convention."

Are you enjoying the tour?
"The tour actually ended quite a while ago. I've been on hold for a couple of months actually getting some writing done. It was a fabulous tour. They had me on the road three weeks and some pretty big cities and it feels good to be back home."

How does it feel to be in New York?
"I love New York! I don't get here often as I should. Was oe're at the Marquis and I've got a room that looks down on Times Square with all the activity. Yeah, I love New York. I get a chance to see my editors and agents and I don't get here enough."

I didn't realize all your editors and agents were here.
"Oh yeah everyone is in New York. I went to see my Del Rey editor yesterday and I got to see my Harper editor today."

Who's handling the [Blood Work] graphic novel?
"The graphic novel is being done with Del Rey."

And the main series, The Hollows and Madison Avery?
"Those are with Harper. The graphic novel will be out July 12th "

By the way, thank you very much for the Hollows Insider contest.
"Oh that was a lot of fun! The pages went out already."

Did you ever find that one person who hadn't responded?
"I did! I also had two other people say they were that person."

Wow, people are that desperate to get those pages?
"Yeah two people were that desperate."

How's Pale Demon doing?
"It's doing really well. I found out from the eBook sales that they are as much as the hardcover sales so it's really really special so we're looking to see what happens with the eBooks."

How long has it been on the New York Times Best Seller List?
"I can't remember off the top of my head but it hit really high and did really well. But now they're separating, there's not just one New York Times list. It's like 6 or 7. They divide it up by eBooks then they divide it up by other books."

March 6, 2011 New York Times Best Seller Lists
Pale Demon reaches Top 10

The new book of Madison Avery came out.
"She came out in the Spring and it's a three book series and just finished the third one and it did pretty well. I don't the numbers back yet but it takes a long time for them to crunch it through."

How long does it usually take you to write one book?
"That's hard to say. It takes about 3-4 months to write a rough draft then about a month to do a rewrite. Then I do a rewrite for my editor. There's page proofs and copy edit so it takes about a year from the time I turn it in before it gets to the shelf and I spent a year on it before my editor even sees it. So, it takes about two years from when I first start it to when it's on the shelf. But it's not exactly 2 years of solid work. It's about 8, 9, or 10 months."

How much influence does your editor have on your books?
"Quite a lot. She's the first person who sees it besides me so I need a lot of tweaking and another set of eyes. I rely very heavily on her. She has wonderful ideas. My last rewrite she said fix this character, change this one, sharpen this relationship. It was a huge amount of work but I was ready to do it."

Over your career you've changed your writing styles, changed your name, changed your look.
"Yes! yes! The first book, Dead Witch Walking kind of evolved. I was trying to gain editor attention. The was before I even published the Truth books. And I wrote a short story with the most outrageous characters I could think of and I put them in a bar and to see what would happen and that was the first draft of Dead Witch Walking. So I put it aside and wrote the First Truth and finally I broke into publishing through that. When I got to the Truth books we needed something else. So, I went through and I developed the short story as a novella and that's how it all evolved."

So please tell me about changing your name from Dawn Cook to Kim Harrison.
"It was a publishing decision. The Dawn books are through Ace Fantasy, which is a completely different publishing house from the Hollows, which comes out through Harper and so to avoid legalities we decided to take the pen name. My editor picked out the name for me and I've kind of fallen in love with it. Legally I'm Dawn but I use my pen name."

The other part was the total change in looks from the picture in the Truth books to the pictures in the Madison Avery and Hollows books.
"That was partially publisher's wish as well. They wanted to break away from the Dawn image. They didn't want anyone to know it was the same person because the publishing people thought a new person would have a better shot on the shelves than someone who's already had a chance."

Image of Dawn Cook from the Truth book series

Image of Kim Harrison from the Hollows and Madison Avery series.

What's coming up next for you?
"The graphic novel is coming out in July. I have the Hollows Insider, which is coming out in October, which I am very excited about. The next main Hollows novel is going to be Perfect Blood, which will come out Spring 2012. I don't have a drop date yet for that."

Ok time for some of the usual questions:

How did you get started?
"I started off just writing for the fun of it and fell in love with the written word. I found myself a good writers critique group and worked with them for about five years. I met my agent at a writers conference much like this and he asked me to tweak my manuscript a bit and I showed I was willing to and gave it back to him very quickly. He decided to take me on and it kind of fell from there."

Have you ever written anything else besides fantasy such as poetry.
"Nope. Not really no. The First Truth was the first thing I ever really wrote and I worked on it for about 5 years."

Writer's block. How do you deal with it?
"I work very hard to avoid writer's block.I plot out everything except for relationships and that helps me keep on track."

Finally, you gave me some really great advice about concentrating on developing the characters instead of worrying about the plot. Is there any other advice you give people?
"Yes I love to tell people to write like you've already got the contract, which means intently, with purpose."

Thank you very much for your time and the interview.

Kim signs a book for one of many fans who flocked to her table at the Avon Book signing session at the conference Thursday morning.

*All images not labeled Taraka's World are from Kim Harrison's site or the back cover of her books.