I recently chatted with author Kim Harrison about her bestselling post-apocalyptic urban fantasy series The Hollows, published by HarperCollins, about a world full of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural species, and Rachel Morgan, a detective witch who battles all manner of menace. The Hollows is currently being developed into a TV show. Harrison spoke to me about her plans for The Hollows' upcoming final books, and what she intends to do when the series concludes. Read part 1 of our interview after the break.
What do you think makes The Hollows unique among today's paranormal book series?
I think it's the character of Rachel, and her friends. A lot of the ones that are out there right now are on their own. They're kind of bad-ass, they're a little harsh maybe, or they're focusing way too much on romance. Those two extremes. I feel that The Hollows has a really nice blend. It's not romance so much as it is attention to relationships. Rachel herself, even though she's out there practicing magic and she's out there kicking butt, she's very much the girl next door. I think that appeal is part of what's bringing the popularity to the series. That and she's got very interesting friends who also have their own lives and are also very developed characters on their own.
A lot of things have informed your work. Can you comment on some of your horror influences? For example, you've said your favorite author is Ray Bradbury.
Yes. But I've never seen The Hollows as horror. It has dark elements in it, but maybe it's just my perception of horror. When I think of horror I think of blood and guts and scary things jumping out at you. The Hollows, it has some of that, but that's not why people are reading it. They're reading it for the character development and the solving of the crime, not to be scared. I know that Ray Bradbury, when I read him, it was never to be scared, it was because he had interesting thoughts and ideas, and sometimes they did dip into horror.
Who are some of the other fantasists who have influenced you?
I got development of characters from Anne McCaffrey. I really enjoyed her work growing up, especially her dragon series. There is no one else that I know that can really flesh out a character with a paragraph. We may only see a paragraph, but we know what that person's like… Jack L. Chalker. I remember reading his Well World series over and over and over every summer for several years. He influenced me on how to carry a series from book to book to book. Of course in the Well World, the characters changed a whole lot, especially in the point of view. But being able to hold together a lot of plot threads throughout several years and bring them together at the end – I remember him. I can't think of anybody else off the top of my head, but I was a voracious reader of science-fiction and fantasy in the ‘70s and ‘80s. A lot of my pacing is like that, my storytelling. I think a good story has a lot of the elements that science fiction and fantasy have. You can see that in my work.
How did you conceive and develop the character of Rachel? How closely does she mirror your own personality?
Rachel was an outgrowth of my desire to take the weirdest character I could think of and still make her the girl next door. Which is kind of how I felt growing up. I was the oddest person out there. But I was still the girl next door. We do share a few things. We share a hate for bullies. We will go out of our way and be brave in order to take care of bullies. We both have a huge amount of determination. You need that when you're trying to get published. But there is no way I would ever live in a church with a vampire and solve crimes. No. I would prefer to sit in a nice cozy chair for eight hours a day, and write them. And Rachel could never do that. I do a Myers-Briggs personality test on a lot of my characters, and we are so far apart it's not funny. But we have some commonality. I think deep down our souls are pretty close.
As Rachel becomes more human throughout the series she also comes to be more in touch with her demon heritage.
Yes, that's been fun to write. When I first started the series I had no idea until about book 3 or 4 that I could go in that direction, and somehow get her to be a demon, and yet still have her be the same person she was when we first met her. That's fun, trying to work that in, and it fits, and I love where it's going. I like to touch on social issues when I can without preaching in any form or manner. Just kind of lay things out and have the reader look at it. I'm hoping to get to that a little bit. You know, the elves and demons have been fighting this was for thousands and thousands of years, and Rachel is hopefully going to be one of the ways to heal this rift between the two.
You mentioned the social-issue aspect of the series… With Perfect Blood, you're dealing with racism. How do you approach dealing with issues like that in a manner that doesn't become preachy?
I think it takes a lot of practice. Because if you don't do it right, it can sound false and it can sound preachy. I like to touch it as lightly as I can, and have the issues there and have Rachel figuring it out in her head, how she wants to deal with it. But also realize that the way she's dealing with it is not the only way to handle it, that there are other options and other ways. And that this is very much a personal journey for her, and what works for her does not necessarily work for everybody.
You've stated that the series will end at twelve or thirteen books. Is that still the plan?
Well, I have a floater book in my contract. That can be Hollows or it can be something else. I was actually supposed to write the twelfth book this fall, and I chickened out because I like to know where I'm going before I end what I'm currently working on. So I wrote the manuscript, which I hope is going to be what follows The Hollows. It's with a more mature character, which turns out to be really good, because I can take the maturity that I found in this new character and new series, and hopefully bring it over to Rachel, and use that in the last book or two that I'm writing. I don't know if it's going to be twelve or thirteen. It's definitely going to be at least twelve. I have an idea for the thirteenth, but I have not run it past my editor yet. [Laughs.] So it's very much in the air right now.
Is it too soon to discuss about books 11 and 12?
Well 11 is going to be sitting on my desk when I get home from my tour, to be rewritten. So that one is pretty much done. It's called Ever After. The twelfth book, like I said, I haven't written it yet, so…. We're looking at a book a year schedule. But I really like the last two having come out in February. I know my editor likes it too. We might shift it around a week or so, but yeah, one book a year is good. I work very far ahead of my publishing schedule, and they feel comfortable with giving me a lot of free reign.
Ever After is going to be more… I would love to do a book that takes place entirely in the place where demons live. I wasn't able to swing it, but I think the next one, Ever After, is going to take place a lot more in it. Rachel has broken the balance between reality and the Ever After, and it's starting to fall apart, even as she thinks she's fixed it. We've got to take care of that. Then there will be the climax of that floater book, which I'm still trying to decide on. So I've got it pretty well sketched out, but I never know what's going to happen until after I do the editorial rewrite.