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A Conversation with Laurell K. Hamilton, Continued

The author gives a one-on-one interview regarding Anita Blake and the first book in her new series, A KISS OF SHADOWS.

By Denise Dumars     December 22, 2000

[NOTE: Last week, we began our coverage of Laurell K. Hamilton with an account of her personal appearance at a book signing for her latest novel A KISS OF SHADOWS. This week, we resume with a one-on-one interview.]

After the huge line for autographs winds down, I sit down with Hamilton to talk about her two series, the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and the brand-new series featuring Merry Gentry, an exile from the high court of Faerie.

Anita Blake resides in a world just like oursexcept that vampires and were-creatures are real. She appears to have some magical powers of her own. 'Anita Blake is very tough; she does what needs to be done,' Hamilton explains. 'As far as the magical stuff goes, she's a necromancer; she raises the dead for a livingpun intended. She is also a vampire executioner, but it took us a while to realize in the series that there was a reason why she was good at it. As the stories have progressed it appears she has power over other undead creatures besides just zombies. She can also communicate with ghosts. She has abilities with all the undead. It's sort of the way that people in our own world communicate with spiritsonly what if it worked absolutely the way legend says it does? And that's what I've done with her.'

Anita Blake also has two boyfriends; the vampire, Jean-Claude, and the werewolf, Richard. She went for several books before having sex with either of themwhich is not to say that the books are not chock-full of sex of one kind or another. 'I'd like Anita to choose,' she says of the love triangle, but won't say who she should choose. 'I'd like her to have a little respite in her love life. Due to a lot of things I truly don't have a choice right now. I enjoy parts of both of the men. I think if either of them had really captured my heart then Anita would have already chosen.'

In her latest book, Obsidian Butterfly, Anita Blake travels to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, a very different area of the country for the Midwestern vampire hunter. 'I'd never been to either,' Hamilton says. 'I went there and did research. My friend sprained her ankle, and I got elevation sickness. It was one of those trips where you did what you could because you couldn't do everything. It was the most unusual part of the country I've ever visited. I got enough info on folklore while I was there to do another book! It was very interesting.'

In this book Anita leaves the vampire and werewolf boyfriends behind and deals with Edward, the hitman-bounty hunter. From the fan discussion it is clear that there are many Edward fans. 'We get to see Edward at home. It's sort of like visiting the Batcave. We find out about his personal life and some more of his background, because he's been a mystery man throughout the series.'

There are all kinds of were-creatures in the series. 'No were-hamsters,' Hamilton jokes. 'I couldn't get the mass ratio to work. Even the were-rats are the size of German shepherds.'

The Obsidian Butterfly of the title is a nightclub in the book named for an Aztec goddess, and is the name of the vampire owner of the club. Hamilton's booksthough they contain graphic horror and often sadomasochistic sexdo not appear on the horror shelf, but rather are shelved with the science fiction and fantasy. The new fey series is more in line with fantasy, but still it contains extremely graphic scenes and possibly more sex than any other book I've ever read. Who is the audience for these books?

'I think actually we have a crossover,' Hamilton maintains, stating that all her books are correctly shelved. 'I think the people who enjoy one will enjoy the other. What I've done with the fey series is what I did for vampires, monsters, and werewolves: I mainstream them. With Merry's world I have the feyall the creatures of the fey from Celtic folkloremainstreamed into society.'

Laurell writes between eight and twenty pages a day. 'Some days I keep all of it. At first, it was 70/30; I kept about 30 per cent of what I wrote. Now I keep 80-90 per cent. I write five days a weekused to be six before I had my daughter. I find that even a day away disrupts my train of thought. Before I had my daughter I would write sometimes literally 20 hours a day. Now I work normal hours: I get my daughter off to school, eat, and work. I no longer write in the evenings.'

A bookstore rep brings her an icepack for her signing arm. 'I have tennis elbow from signing books, but I've avoided carpal tunnelI think because when I write I get up to make tea, I get up to walk the dog, which is a good thing because if I didn't have a dog I might not see anything outside my office for days.'

Hamilton is amazingly prolific. Still, juggling series is hard. She had hoped that her first book would turn into a series. 'Nightseer was my first book. It is much more traditional fantasy: high fantasy with a hard edge and a religious system that is integral to the story. I can't do three series, so I won't be continuing it. I would love to go back to it, but it's been so long and I'm a different writer. The book would have to be a stand-alone in a new series. I'm not the person I was when I wrote that. I'd say the main character is me before therapy, so I don't know if I could write her anymore.'

Hamilton writes in first person. 'It's easier for me; I know for most people it's not. I found third person difficult.'

Hamilton was writing short fiction when she lived in the L.A. area. 'I do still write short stories, but not for a long time. Doing the two series there's just not time for it. There are nine books now in the Anita Blake series so I have thirteen books out.'

Kiss of Shadows starts the new series, which may go as far as eight to ten books. 'I'm not an extensive outliner,' she says. 'But I write because I want to read. I find if I outline extensively I feel like I've already written the book.'

Hamilton found a U. S. setting uniquely appropriate to her fey mythos. 'Kiss of Shadows is set in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Kehoke, Illinois. Kehoke has the largest number of Neolithic mounds in the country, if not the world. So where else would you put fairy mounds?' she asks.

Merry, the main character in the fey mythos, is 'Descended from both the high and low courts of fey. They're nature spirits, so it's really not so much good and bad as it is what you're willing to do to someone's face as compared to what you'd do behind their back that's the difference between the two,' she says of these not-so-airy fairies.

When asked if her fairies are, as in legend, afraid of men's forged iron, Hamilton replies, 'That's a killing weapon to them. They can lop each other's heads off without killing each other, but if you use cold steel or iron it's a killing weapon.'

Despite her many hours of computing per day, Hamilton calls herself a technophobe. 'Just recently my friends have dragged me kicking and screaming onto the web,' she says. 'A lot of big name SF and fantasy writers are technophobes.' She cites Asimov and Ellison. 'I don't hate it; I think it's a wonderful tool. My friends lured me on by showing me a pug rescue page!' says the proud pug owner.

A fan from the signing has reappeareda 12 year-old Japanese-American girl with her father in tow. He wants to know whether Obsidian Butterfly and Kiss of Shadows are appropriate for his daughter to read. 'How many of the Anita Blake books have you read so far?' Hamilton asks the girl.

'All of them,' she replies.

'All of them?' Hamilton goggles. 'Well, maybe you should wait until you're a little older for these...'

I smile and walk away, leaving Hamilton to counsel the girl and her father. Something tells me she's got some 'splainin' to do...

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