Portland Book Review: How did the character and the story of Anita Blake originally come to you as an author?
Laurell K Hamilton: I read hard-boiled detective fiction for the first time after college. I found that the male detectives were allowed to cuss, have sex on stage, and kill with little remorse. The female detectives seldom cussed, either never had sex, or it was sanitized and off-stage, and if they killed someone they had to be very, very sorry about it. I thought this was unfair so I wanted to create a female protagonist that could even the playing field. I may have overcompensated just a little bit. *grin* But I thought that a straight mystery series would bore me as a writer after a while, so I put monsters and all the tropes of horror in Anita Blake’s world. I wanted it to be today, now, if we woke up tomorrow and all the monsters of myth and movies were real, and everyone knew about it. I didn’t realize that no one before me had come up with the idea that vampires were legal citizens, werewolves were just people with a disease, and if you called the police because a zombie was shambling down your street, they believed you and sent someone with a flame thrower. It seemed so natural to have it in the open that I honestly didn’t realize this was a new concept until after the first few books were out.
PBR: Did you know in the beginning that it would be a series of books?
LKH: Yes, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a standalone book idea in my life. I am a series writer. It’s what I enjoy reading and what I love to write. One book seems lonely to me. *laughs*
PBR: How many more Anita Blake books are left in the series?
LKH: It’s an open-ended series more like a straight mystery series.
PBR: What is your writing process? Do you write so many pages per day or just write while the mood strikes?
LKH: Writing only when the mood strikes doesn’t get books written. Or at least, it doesn’t get two books written a year, which is what I did for ten years. I dropped to one book, or a book and a half a year the last two years, because I was just getting run down with the schedule. I try to be at my desk between 8 and 9 AM. I take a break for lunch between 11 – 1 PM and then either an afternoon writing session or a trip to the gym. I do a minimum of three days a week at the gym, and try for five. At the beginning of a book my page goal per day is between 2 to 4 pages, as the book gains speed, I try for 4 to 8 pages per day, and near the end, or near the deadline, I aim for 8 to 10 pages a day. I will actually hit a series of 20 pages per day near the end of most books, but that is the rush at the end when the muse and I are running for the finish line and I can’t really make that a reasonable goal, though I have done it for some tight deadlines.
PBR: How do you handle the incredible fame that has come with this series?
LKH: I’m not sure I have incredible fame. *laughs* Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, have “incredible fame”. How do I handle my fame? First, I don’t buy my own hype. You are neither as good, nor as bad, as everyone else says. You have to stay grounded, and know who you are, or fame will swamp you. I’m a writer, so I didn’t honestly plan on ever being famous enough for fans to recognize me on the street, but it’s happened. It used to freak me out, but I’m more comfortable with it now, as long as everyone’s polite. Nice counts.
PBR: How do you balance your professional life and your personal life?
LKH: I’m Still working on this one. I think that working as hard as I do, and having a husband and child, plus family of choice, friends, and a life, well, it’s a constant challenge to balance it all. Two things that help me balance are a serious commitment to the gym, and my spiritual path. Making sure that body and spirit are tended to every day has helped my sense of well-being and happiness a thousand fold.
PBR: What were some of your biggest challenges as you wrote HIT LIST or even the whole series?
LKH: The biggest challenge as I wrote Hit List? Hmm. It was learning to write, at the same time that I learned how to play and relax. I’ve been working hard since I was in my late teens and twenties to establish my career, but somewhere along the way I forgot to play, or maybe I never knew how to do it. My grandmother, who raised me, said, I was born old. I am having more fun and enjoying my life and my success more now than I ever have before.
PBR: What do you enjoy doing for pleasure when you are not writing?
LKH: Spending time with my husband, our daughter, and our family of choice, friends, and all the other people we love and enjoy in our lives. Deep sea fishing, shooting, weight lifting, treadmill, hiking, white water rafting, bird watching; hoping to take up rock climbing and horseback riding this year.