After nearly a decade and 11 novels in her best-selling urban fantasy series The Hollows, author Kim Harrison admits that the characters “almost seem real” to her. “I know them better than a lot of my neighbors,” says Harrison in a call from a hotel in Houston on her latest book tour. The author will appear at Quail Ridge Books and Music on Saturday, Feb. 2.
“I’ve spent almost 10 years with most of the characters in the books, and know what they will and won’t do—but it’s most exciting for me when they do something I wouldn’t expect, because then I have to back through the books and figure out why and flesh out their history one more layer, and that’s always fun.”
The Hollows series, which started in 2004, chronicles the adventures of witch and private investigator Rachel Morgan in an alternate universe where supernatural creatures exist alongside the human population, which was mostly wiped out by genetically-engineered tomatoes in the 1960s. The series, currently on the 11th of a projected 13 books, features plenty of action and not a little humor—and has hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
Harrison says she’s already written the end of the series: “The next book is at the publishers, and, if I’m lucky, I’ll have the edit letter waiting for me when I get home. And the final book is in rough-draft form. Everyone who survives gets their happy ending—everyone who survives, that is. I like to laugh, and I can’t end things on a sour note. Rachel would be very upset with me if I did.”
Even a decade in, Harrison says “having characters that are growing and changing” keeps the writing process from growing stale.
“A writer needs to develop a pattern in order to be productive, but that same pattern can take the joy out of writing if you’re not careful,” Harrison says. “The way I keep it fresh is that I am invested in the characters—how they’re growing, how they’re changing, how they’re learning about their place in the world and how they’re dealing with issues that come up not just in their world.”
“My main character lives in a world of magic, but she’s also a single woman living in an apartment dealing with how she’ll make it in the world, and if she wants to change her morals to be more successful. These are issues that people deal with on a daily basis, even if they can’t do magic.”
Harrison also switches pen names to keep things fresh: she’s written her supernatural books and a series of historical fantasies under her real name of Dawn Cook. “The Dawn Cook titles have a different feel to them—they’re slower-paced, they take place in pre-industrial settings, the verbiage is different and my vocabulary shifts a bit. When I sit down to write the Kim books, it’s faster-paced, the dialogue is quicker, I think much faster.”
She stops the interview briefly to ask if I can hear the increased enthusiasm in her voice. I tell her I can.
“It’s like you turn a different gear on,” she says.
Though she admits she hates saying goodbye to Morgan, she’s excited to create a new fantasy world with new rules for her next series. “One of the reasons I’m glad the series is ending is that now I get to develop a new magic system,” she says. “The one that I’ve got right now is based on ley lines, lines of power and Earth magic, and it’s fun, I enjoyed developing it — but now I get to develop something else.”
And with seemingly every fantasy series being adapted to movies and television, I have to ask her whom she’d want to play Morgan. Harrison admits she’s behind on current actors, but she still has a vision for whom she’d want to see on screen.
“Somebody who could take a fall,” she says. “Somebody who could do a nice round kick, somebody who looked good in leather. That’s my shortlist.”
Kim Harrison appears at Quail Ridge Books and Music on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. to read from and sign copies of Ever After. This is a signing line ticket event. For more information, visit www.quailridgebooks.com or call 919-828-1588.