Go to Homepage   Laurell K. Hamilton: Study in Momentum

 
Laurell K. Hamilton (photo by Roy Zipstein, courtesy Berkley/NAL)

The driving momentum of Laurell K. Hamilton's writing propels not only her first series of books featuring fan favorite Anita Blake but carries into the works she sets outside of Anita's world, such as her Merry Gentry series. You simply can't stop turning the pages, no matter where in Hamilton's career you start -- from her early appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy Magazine to such books as Nightseer, Guilty Pleasures and A Caress of Twilight to her latest novel, Cerulean Sins.

Confident in their sexuality and abilities, Hamilton's strong female protagonists never degenerate into cliché, because she surrounds them with supporting characters as memorable as her leads. Crescent Blues recently caught up with Hamilton and persuaded her to bend her famous "never explain" rule to provide our readers new insight into what makes her -- and her characters -- tick.

Crescent Blues: What preparation went into creating the world around Anita Blake? Did you research the paranormal or reread Dracula, for example?

Laurell K. Hamilton: On preparation for Anita's world, you asked if I reread Dracula. I cannot say how strongly I object to people using other people's writing as research. Research is non-fiction, especially for horror, fantasy, science fiction. Do not take your research from other people's fiction. Just don't. They may be wrong. Most people who set down to write have been reading something in the area of what they end up writing for years. We've done all the fictional background we'll ever need before we come close to the computer. I'd read nonfiction about folklore, mythology, and monsters for years. Just a hobby.

Book: Laurell k hamilton, a caress of twilight

Probably the old Hammer vampire films were as great an early influence as any book. I watched them at quite a tender age, and they are very sensual, very lush, pretty evil. But by the time I sat down to write Anita, I hadn't seen a Hammer film in years. I had almost stopped reading other people's horror. I'd actually just begun to read mysteries. Anita would be very different if I'd never picked up a hard boiled detective mystery. I actually knew more about vampires and werewolves than I was able to put in the first book. But I knew almost nothing about voodoo. That was the biggest paranormal research I had to do. Guns and police procedure were the other area I had to research. I didn't know nearly enough about either.

Crescent Blues: You've said one of your rules in writing is never explain, as it may ruin the magic. Does this make for conflict with editors who may want an explanation into things like the origin of vampires?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I have never had an editor ask me to explain anything more than was already down on the paper. I've done work for five major publishers, and countless editors, and it's never come up.

Crescent Blues: Anita Blake has come to understand the world is not simply black and white, but has shades of gray in it as well. Did you plan this from book one or did it happen as the characters matured?

I wanted someone with an easier attitude about sex.

Laurell K. Hamilton: When I first researched Anita's world I talked to policemen for the first time in depth about their job. I learned something of the cost of the job. I watched my brother-in-law go from bright and shiny to tired. As I continued to research for Anita, I talked to combat veterans and was privileged to have them share some of their experiences with me, because Anita really has a violence level that is far above most police work. I use to joke she lived in a combat zone until I did one book where she visited what amounted to a real combat zone, and she was out of her depth.

Book: laurell k hamilton, guitly pleasures

In book nine, Obsidian Butterfly, we visited Edward's world, and saw something closer to real soldiering. It was frightening. But as I talked to the men, and some women, about their lives, I realized that keeping Anita at that level of violence [would entail] a price. Part of that price is innocence, and the knowledge that the world is not black and white, and answers are not as simple as they seem. Anita had to go through this process, or it would have felt like a betrayal of those people who spoke with me, and shared their experiences.

Crescent Blues: Do you see yourself going back into the world you created for Nightseer for a follow-up to that novel?

Laurell K. Hamilton: Maybe someday I'll go back to Nightseer's world, but not soon. I'm doing two series at once now. I couldn't possibly do three.

Crescent Blues: Was breaking away from the Anita Blake series a conscious act of starting something different or was it more a matter of natural progression?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I'd written five Anita books in a row. I needed a breather. Merry was that breather.

Crescent Blues: Did you sell either series from an outline or did [each sale] come from a completed manuscript?

Book: laurell k hamilton, Cerulean sins

Laurell K. Hamilton: Guilty Pleasures was a complete manuscript. A beginning writer needs to finish a book before they try and sell it. But by the time Merry came up, I had a track record, and I was able to sell the series from an outline.

Crescent Blues: Some writers have said that they've had difficulty getting their works published unless it takes place in a particular world they created previously with success. Did you come across any problems transitioning between Anita's series and Merry's?

Laurell K. Hamilton: My second publisher was thrilled to have my new world. No problems.

Crescent Blues: The line between what is sensual and what is pornographic is thin, and varies from eye to eye. Is there a point when you write a love scene that you consciously won't go past?

It was simply an accepted fact that ghosts were real, that the dead didn't always rest easy, that things could move by themselves, and that simple things could be frightening.

Laurell K. Hamilton: I haven't found a point in love scenes that I feel is off-limits, yet. I do avoid medical terms, clinical phrases.

Crescent Blues: Merry's attitude towards sex is very matter-of-fact and positive. Was this something dictated by the character?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I wanted someone with an easier attitude about sex. Someone I wouldn't have to argue with all the time the way I do with Anita. Merry was that person. Truthfully, sometimes she's beyond my comfort zone, but that's my upbringing, not hers. Be true to your characters and they'll be true to you.

Crescent Blues: How did you come to help the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA)?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I feel that if you are blessed, or lucky enough, to be doing well, you should help others. I love animals, always have, and it seemed natural to help the ASPCA. Animals have no voice of their own, so we have to be that voice. It was my assistant Darla Cook, who first brought Granite City to my attention. She was made aware of them through a news article. We visited them, liked what we saw, and the rest, as they say, is history. I also support Pug Rescue, but that is personal, and not something I raise money for.

Crescent Blues: Do you write about things that scare you personally, or things you think will scare your readers?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I don't write about scary things. I write about what comes to me. The only time I've ever consciously tried to be scary was in Obsidian Butterfly. I had to come up with something that would scare Edward. The scene in the hospital when they first see the survivors is still the most frightening scene I've ever written. At least to me. I realized that anything that would be bad enough to frighten Edward would scare the heck out of Anita -- and me. It's the one scene that no matter how many times I read it, it just gets creepier.

Crescent Blues: Can we expect any more short stories from you any time soon?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I just don't have the time for short stories anymore. Sad but true.

Crescent Blues: As an admitted technophobe, what led to your decision to have your own website?

Book: laurell k hamilton, nightseer

Laurell K. Hamilton: You can blame my husband and Darla. They both had websites up long before I even knew what one was. This was back when my husband was just my friend, and it had never occurred to us to date. Though I am a little overwhelmed by technology, I see its uses, and its advantages. I have never written a book that wasn't on computer.

Crescent Blues: Your grandmother told you horror tales taken from the hills of Arkansas, leaving you with the thought "Rawhide and bloody bones will get you if you aren't good." Do you ever think back to those stories for influence or inspiration?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I don't really think back to my grandmother's stories for inspiration, but I think that I have absorbed those stories into the pores of my being. It was simply an accepted fact that ghosts were real, that the dead didn't always rest easy, that things could move by themselves, and that simple things could be frightening. I use to blame my family's penchant for macabre true stories and other real life tragedies for my dark turn of mind. Recently, I've had to rethink that.

My daughter is eight, and she loves mummies. Her favorite book for ages was Cinderella Skeleton, where all the characters are ghouls and such, and the main character loses a lot more than just her slipper running down the stairs. It's made me remember that long before my mother's death, when I played cowboys and cowgirls, it wasn't enough for the chairs to be tall cliffs. No, we had to have a pit of rattlesnakes at the bottom of the cliff, so we'd be bitten to death. A fall just wasn't horrible enough. My daughter's childhood is making me rethink my own. Apparently, it wasn't early tragedies that made me this way. Maybe, just maybe, it was the way I came.

Christopher DeRose

For more information:

Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton: Getting Real with Things that Go Bump in the Night

Crescent Blues Book Views:

Blue Moon

A Caress of Twilight

A Kiss of Shadows

Narcissus in Chains

Obsidian Butterfly

Readers Respond

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I have been reading the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels for a while now, and I have finally found some of Laurell K. Hamilton's other books. In one of her novels called Kiss Of Shadows she refers to a wiccan sabbat of Samhain and I was wondering if Ms. Hamilton herself was a student of the craft. I am, and I thought that was a fantastic instert in her book. I would also like to commend Ms. Hamilton on her work and how well she writes; all of her books that I have read are fantastic. Thank you again.

Jessica

Editor's note: The most complete information about Laurell K. Hamilton can be found at her official web site http://www.randomhouse.com/features/lkhamilton/.