Feb. 24 2010 12:00 AM

Kim Harrison puts Magic on the page


Author Kim Harrison, who grew up in Northern Michigan, describes herself as a “geeky girl with my nose in a book.” However, the books she read were not your typical young adult books. Harrison, who writes edgy, urbanfantasy novels with a brew of magic, vampires, witches, warlocks and other creatures, read the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Anne McCaffrey.

The influences of those literary icons show in her eight novels featuring the red-headed vampire bounty hunter, Rachael Morgan.

Now, Harrison is coming home as part of a book tour for “Black Magic Sanction,” in which Rachael tries to evade a committee of witches eager to prosecute her for consorting with demons.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time to come back to Michigan,” Harrison said. In a literary sense, she returned in her fourth series book, “Fistful of Charms,” which is set in Mackinac City and on Bois Blanc. The majority of her books are set in the fictional Cincinnati neighborhood called Hollows, which was chosen after her editor told her to pick a real city to use as a backdrop.

“I told her I’m not a city girl. I can’t write big-city.”

Harrison was wrong about that, and although she lives in South Carolina she visits Cincinnati twice a year to do research for her books. She says Cincinnati was chosen because it has a lot of ways to get into it (and out) which is important for bounty hunters; it has an underground tunnel system, which is used in her books, and it is far from the ocean.

Harrison said the distance from the ocean is important since salt causes problems with the magic that is used profusely throughout her books.

She said the most difficult part of writing for her is in keeping track of her characters history especially with eight novels in the series.

“I have to make sure my characters are not tripping over each other, especially when it comes to working with magic," she said. "You have to keep it straight.”

Harrison says her writing was “right on the cusp” of the explosion of paranormal books. She cited paranormal writers Laurell Hamilton, Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris as clearing a path for her books to be elevated to New York Times best-seller status.

Harrison’s book titles cleverly play off famous Clint Eastwood movies: “For a Few Demons More,” “A Fistful of Charms,” “The Good, the Bad and the Undead” and “Outlaw Demon Wails.”

In addition, Harrison knows how to promote her work. With each book she creates a memento to give away to fans. For her current book it is a key from Alcatraz (a location in the book); in the past she’s given away a Hollows Bus Token.

Unlike some authors, Harrison said she loves book tours. “I’m on Facebook all the time,” she said, “and I’m going to meet people I’ve been communicating with.”

Initially, Harrison said her fanbase was primarily women, but now it’s about 80/20 women to men.

“My favorite readers are mom, dad and a teenager,” she said.

 Kim Harrison
3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27
Schuler Books and Music
2820 Towne Center Blvd.