Kim Harrison, dark urban fantasy author of the New York Times best selling EVER AFTER, was born and raised in the upper Midwest. After gaining her bachelors in the sciences, she moved to South Carolina, where she remained until recently returning to Michigan because she missed the snow. She’s currently developing what comes after the Hollows between working on the Hollows books. When not at her desk, Kim is most likely to be found landscaping her new/old Victorian home, in the garden, or out on the links.
Kim was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the new Hollows novel, THE UNDEAD POOL, and much more!
Kristin Centorcelli: Kim, congrats on the release of THE UNDEAD POOL, the 12th, and penultimate, book in the HOLLOWS series! DEAD WITCH WALKING started the series strong, and you’ve certainly kept it going, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background and what inspired you to begin writing fiction?
Kim Harrison: Thank you! I’m really excited about THE UNDEAD POOL finally making print. Even this far into the series, it gives me a quiet sense of peace when something I’ve worked on for a year or more is finally done.
I hate to tell people that being a writer was never anything I ever aspired to while growing up, but it’s the truth. I was a voracious reader, but my spelling was so profoundly bad that I never considered it. I focused on the sciences even through college, taking the most basic, bare minimum of English classes to graduate with a four-year degree in science and technology. But I never stopped reading, perhaps drowning my hidden desire in absorbing what I thought I could never have. The nuances of character development, plot, pacing, and even vocabulary I all attribute to the SF/fantasy authors popular in the 70s and 80s rather than “book learning,” and you can see their influences if you pick my style apart. I was in my late 20s before I wrote my first story after my eldest son, five at the time, asked me to tell him a story that wasn’t on his shelves. I spent the better part of a decade rewriting it and learning the basics of the craft until it found publication. (First Truth)
KH: Sweet ever-loving pixy dust, as Jenks would say. THE UNDEAD POOL is full of surprises. I’ve had the hardest time not spilling anything these last few months. I will say that there will probably be a big happy sigh from most of my readers revolving around a certain scene in the church’s kitchen, because when you bake cookies, elves are sure to show up. That Trent and Rachel find an accord is almost a forgone conclusion at this point, and I’m not going to cheat the reader after this long of a tease. That wouldn’t be fair. Besides, the fallout from their new understanding is far more interesting to watch unfold.
KC: The HOLLOWS novels are very intricate and meticulously structured. What is your writing process like?
KH: Most of the time I find it more comfortable to spend a week or so developing a two-page synopsis that evolves into a thirty page, chapter by chapter outline. I never stick to it, and usually by page 100 or so I have to rewrite my remaining chapter outlines to adjust for the changes I’ve made. By page 300, I throw my outlines away and do it again. For all my love of structure, I appreciate following my instincts more, and I have no problem dropping or adapting a story thread to take in some new idea. Daily? I’m in my office by eight, morning internet work done by ten, and then the rest of the day is mine to spend at the keyboard and I’m out by five.
Much of the interweaving of plots and foreshadowing in the Hollows series is because of how far I work ahead of my submission schedule rather than me planning things out in advance. I’ve been known to drop back as much as two books from the one I’m working on to drop a sentence of foreshadowing into a book currently at copy edit.
KC: You’ve written traditional fantasy as Dawn Cook as well as the HOLLOWS series and the YA MADISON AVERY series. What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned as a published author?
KH: The most interesting thing I’ve learned as a published author is that the sad truth is it’s not just the story, but how you’re able to present yourself that gets your novel noticed. I was lucky to have come into this career when the PR machine was just starting to tap into the internet, allowing me to grow my PR skills along with the technology. I built and still maintain my own website, something I’d never do now if I was just starting out. I man my blog with a new post almost every work day, and FB is a great tool—if you know how to work it. I’m always looking for the next new way to interact with readers in such a way that it doesn’t eat up my writing time. I know I’m lacking buckets when it comes to the new area of self-publication, and I thank my stars that my work has enough clout that I don’t have to go that way, because even though I like working on my own, I enjoy being part of a large, multi-talented team—and self-publication lacks that.
KC: For readers who are interested in Urban Fantasy, but haven’t dipped their toes in yet, where would you suggest they start (besides the HOLLOWS series, of course)?
KH: There’s a lot of fantastic series out there right now. I’ve always been partial to the way that Patricia Briggs tells a story, but Vicki Pettersson or Jocelynn Drake have great series going as well. Brom is wildly different, and Richard Kadrey has that gritty feel that I adore.
KC: What was one of your favorite books of 2013?
KH: I don’t really have a favorite. Sorry. Books are like children to me in that I can’t pick favorites.
KC: What are you reading now?
KH: I’ve not read anything for pleasure in almost three months, and it’s awful! My hours are pretty full with the PR associated with the upcoming THE UNDEAD POOL tour, and after adding on a 9-5 day spent at the keyboard, the thought of looking at paper and words tires me out.
KC: When you manage to find some free time between writing and touring, how do you like to spend it?
KH: Okay, I’m laughing at the thought of actually having free time, but I do, thanks to a supportive spouse. Because my day job is so sedentary, I relax by landscaping my soil-tired city lot: moving rocks, planting trees, weeding. Golf is my new “dragon needing slaying,” and I’ve gotten passably good. When it’s too cold or wet to be outside, I like warming the house up by baking, and right now, I’m fixated on soft sculpture with yarn where I can use my imagination with color, texture, and design.
KC: What’s next for you in 2014 and beyond?
KH: Right now, I’m finishing up the last editing for the final, as yet unnamed HOLLOWS book, but terrified at the thought of it ending, I have hammered out two other manuscripts for possibly what comes next, and they take their share of time. I’m not saying much about my works in progress yet as it will be forever until even one sees the light of day, but short and sweet, think Bourne Identity meets Paycheck. I’ve written traditional fantasy with dragons, modern young adult with angels, and helped define urban fantasy with the HOLLOWS. I’ve got an awful itch to write something new that pulls on all three, something distinctly different but recognizable “Kim Harrison.”