Message From The Author

Author's Message

THE WITCH NEXT DOOR
AFTER BEWITCHING AUDIENCES WITH HER DEBUT FANTASY NOVEL,
KIM HARRISON CASTS ANOTHER SPELL WITH
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNDEAD

By Lauren Spielberg

Kim Harrison gave new meaning to the phrase "dead-end job" when she kicked, elbowed and bloodied her way into the fantasy genre with Dead Witch Walking (HarperTorch, 2004). The witch
in question, brash, frizzy-haired Rachel Morgan, gave her two weeks' notice as runner for Inderland Security (think NYPD for the otherworldly) to catch bad ghouls as a free agent. Of course, in Harrison's world of witches, vampires, werewolves, pixies and the occasional human, no one in Inderland's history has ever survived long enough after quitting to interview for, much less work, another job.

Suffice it to say, The Good, the Bad, and the Undead,
the second in a possible six-book series from HarperTorch, is
a clear indication that the leather-clad, spell-casting heroine survives. Now self-employed, she's coping with
past screw-ups while trying to lengthen an ever-dwindling life expectancy. Despite her proclivity for magic, Rachel must still make ends meet—a task made considerably more arduous now that she's her own boss. She lives in an abandoned church with her business associates, vampire aristocrat Ivy Tamwood
and the pixy Jenks.

In addition to the fact that she's living—and working—with a non-practicing vampire, Rachel's dealing with the demon mark, a nasty reminder of her this-close brush with death, and Trent Kalamack, the influential businessman who held her captive and who now walks free despite his many illegal pursuits. After all this, dating a human should be a snap.… And it would be, if her boyfriend Nick wasn't so knowledgeable about black magic.

"I wrote the original short story [of Dead Witch Walking] with the intent to meld the most bizarre characters I could think of," Harrison says of her extremely
well-received debut. "What I got was Rachel Morgan, and after the short story made the rounds and was reluctantly shoved into a drawer as a no-sale, I realized that the reason it didn't sell was because the story wasn't over yet. The three characters—a belligerent street-wise pixy, a sexy vampire with an abundance of emotional baggage and a down-on-her-luck witch—were too interesting to just drop."

With no hesitation, Harrison ventured further into the Hollows, a murky, fictionalized part of Cincinnati, to tell her 400-plus-page story. "I chose Cincinnati and the adjacent area across the Ohio River in Kentucky to set my world in," she says. "[It] may seem like an unlikely area to set a dark fantasy, but I love it."

Although Harrison says readers might recognize certain Ohio landmarks, such as Carew Tower, the riverboats and Edden Park, that's where the similarities end. "Dead Witch Walking takes place in a universe that skewed from ours in the early '40s, so don't expect more than a surface resemblance," the author warns.

In this second installment, Harrison was eager to find
out if her three very diverse characters—on top of the danger inherent in their crime-solving lifestyles—could share the same space without killing one another. Ivy, who's sworn off blood, considers Rachel a friend, not food. But lately her unpredictable behavior has Jenks, Nick and Rachel concerned that she'll snap and revert back to her old blood-drinking ways. Rachel soon learns that, as she fears, Ivy's blood urges are becoming stronger—and harder to resist—every day.

Although the idea that Ivy would embrace her vampiric roots in subsequent books may have been evident to readers, Harrison throws plenty of additional curve balls. In The Good, the Bad, and the Undead, more of Rachel's personal history is divulged, and her mother, Alice, is introduced.

(Alice meets "the boyfriend" for the first time.) Revelations are made about Rachel's deceased father, which unexpectedly put him in alliance with a character from Harrison's first book—the villainous
Trent Kalamack.

"I had an inkling that Trent was going to be a linchpin in Rachel's troubles, just not how," the author says coyly. This inkling turned into another unlikely alliance: Trent hires Rachel to help prove he's not behind the mass-murdering of a specific sect of witches, and she, surprisingly, accepts. Already immersed in this case and working against her will with human detectives, Rachel is sent back to school to monitor—and enroll in—suspected killer Dr. Anders' magic class.

Perhaps the reason behind Harrison's sending her tough-talking witch, who's more likely to resort to fisticuffs than invoke charms, back to school is that she herself grew up in a "small Midwestern
village just outside of a college town." Education was a must for the author;
she has a technological degree and
says that her scientific background
greatly influenced how the magic in
her books operates.

As for her personal life, she offers,
"I have a deceptively relaxed life with family and precious few, jealously guarded friendships. One would never know
by seeing me walk down the street that
vampires and witches haunt my days—even though I think my neighbors are starting to wonder."

The days since Harrison was an undiscovered talent writing in South Carolina
are no more. Still ensconced within her writers group, she now writes full-time, plugging away for six to 10 hours at a time. "It still amazes me in hindsight that it happened at all," Harrison says. "I had
no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up that No. 2 pencil
and a [notebook] I found in the back
of a cupboard.

"My guess is my saving grace was that
I went into it blind, with no idea of the huge odds against me. I just kept hammering at the door, fully expecting that eventually someone would answer it."


Read Book Review ›