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WesternSFA
A Chat With Kim Harrison
by Catherine Book
January 2015
Kim came to town (Phoenix, AZ) last September and I was fortunate enough to snag an interview with her.

The first question had to be:  Why did she end The Hollows series?  She related that she felt she’d done just about all she wanted to do with Rachel and the gang; but the bigger reason was that she has so many other ideas she wants to work on.  While it’s been wonderful to write about the same people in the same world for ten years, she wants to write in a different way, reach a different audience that might not have liked her urban fantasy.  She wants to make it very clear that she did not get tired of Rachel; she enjoyed writing about Rachel all the way up to the last paragraph.  She even churned out a short story right away.  I asked her when she actually planned for the end.  She said the end shifted and changed a lot; she always had an idea where the series was going although each book tended to also shift.  She actually didn’t know how the last chapter would end until she wrote it since she threw out the outline.  She said she really wrote that last chapter “by the seat of my pants.”  Kim had thought the series would end with twelve books but as she started book eleven, she realized that she needed more time to finish the romance between Trenton and Rachel, and then there was the story about Ivy and her soul.  And that’s how she ended up with thirteen.

I also wanted to know about the wonderfully funny book titles.  All the book titles are a take-off of a movie that either starred or was directed or produced by Clint Eastwood….except for the first one.  After the third one, Kim and her editor saw they had a good thing going; readers had reported they picked up the book due to the title.  So when the fourth book came along, the publisher wasn’t watching real closely so Kim and her editor decided to stick with the trend.  By then, the title formula was rather set in stone.

Humor plays a large part in her books, I wondered if humor was difficult to write.  Not at all, she assured me.  It comes pretty naturally.  Kim confessed she has a very dry sense of humor that occasionally gets her into trouble when people take her too seriously.  She loves to laugh and really feels that she needs to add humor to soften the real bad stuff that happens.  She says she actually has a harder time writing with no humor.  Even real life lows don’t seem to inhibit Kim’s flow of humor.

The Hollows series has two graphic novels but Kim doesn’t think she’ll do another.  She related that she had a great time scripting them; but since Kim relies heavily on her dialogue, it was hard to do a story where she could only write about 130 words per page.  With time, she speculated, she might learn more about how to write in that medium but decided she’d rather stick with novels.

Her very first published title was under her real name, Dawn Cook, titled “First Truth.”  She remembered that she wrote and rewrote that book for about five years before it found a buyer.  So why change her name?  She changed both her publishing house and the genre and due to legalities and a desire to separate her new books from the more traditional fantasy that Dawn wrote; it just seemed easier to take a pen name.

How important is social media to her success?  Oh, tremendous, she replied.  She’s a huge social media bug.  She spends at least an hour each day on her website, her blog, Facebook and Twitter.  She’s her own web mistress.  It really works for her.  A good blog, she explained, will take her about an hour to write.  It’s a nice way to wake up and start her day.  The one thing she doesn’t do is respond to personal email; she talks to fans on Facebook.

So, how does the writing actually occur?  A special environment, maybe?  She says she doesn’t really need her office; she’s written everywhere from a sailboat to a park to a coffeeshop but she does do her best work in her own office.  If she’s working on a rough draft she tries for a dozen pages a day but mostly she writes until she feels she’s accomplished something.  Her day goes from about 8am to 6pm.  It takes her about three to four months to create a rough draft.  She tends to say that it takes about a year to write a book because after the draft, she rewrites it for herself and then she rewrites it again for her editor.  But she’ll keep busy in-between rewrites by starting the next rough draft.

What’s the most important element?  Setting, characters, dialogue?  She says she’s been trying to figure that out.  Does the setting come first or the characters?  She just can’t decide.  Dialogue is hugely important but the story evolves from her characters interacting with the environment and then the dialogue becomes the backbone of the story.  Dialogue flows very quickly and she doesn’t plan the jokes, they either happen or not.  The humor has to be natural and not forced.

Is there any one piece of which she’s most proud?  Yes, The Hollows Insider she enthused.  It’s a wonderful compendium of all things Hollows up to about book eleven.  It has birth and death certificates, wedding invites, emails, letters and it has a mystery that carries the reader from book to book. It even glows in the dark.

What’s she working on now?  She’s got a manuscript ready to send to her editor but she’s already moved on to the second book.  She describes it as “Bourne Identity meets Minority Report.”  It’s fast-paced, more of a thriller but without the urban fantasy elements.  There is an element of “accelerated science” where the science is so advanced as to seem magical.  I, for one, am really looking forward to it.

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