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Laurell K. Hamilton
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Laurell K. Hamilton   Laurell K. Hamilton is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, which now totals 17 books and several Marvel comic books. Anita Blake has been greenlighted to become a TV series on The Independent Film Channel this coming summer. Laurell has also written the Meredith Gentry series, which is about a private investigator who happens to be a faerie princess. In all, she’s got over 7 million books in print in 16 languages.

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Anita Blake Marvel Comics

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This episode originally aired on 11/19/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Laurell K. Hamilton

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Matthew Peterson: My next guest is Laurell K. Hamilton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, which now totals 17 books and several Marvel comic books. Anita Blake has been greenlighted to become a TV series on The Independent Film Channel this coming summer. Laurell has also written the Meredith Gentry series, which is about a private investigator who happens to be a faerie princess. In all, she’s got over 7 million books in print in 16 languages. Thanks for being on the show today, Laurell.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Thanks for having me here, Matthew.

Matthew Peterson: Since this is a vampire episode, let’s talk first about your Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. What got you interested in writing about vampires and supernatural creatures?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I’ve been interested in monsters since I can remember. I remember at five begging my grandmother to let me stay up late and watch the Creature Feature Hour on our local television station and staying up in the dark by myself until it got too scary and I’d have to run and jump into the covers.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Laurell K. Hamilton: I’ve always been attracted to monsters and frightening things. I don’t know why.

Matthew Peterson: And you started Guilty Pleasures back in 1993. Had you written anything before that or was this your first book?

Laurell K. Hamilton: Actually my first novel was Night Seer and it was a more traditional fantasy, sort of Tolkien meets Robert E. Howard with elves and dwarves and dragons and things like that. But the bottom fell out of the fantasy market and I had this little short story called, Those Who Seek Forgiveness, with a character named Anita Blake in it. She raised the dead. And I had never seen anybody else do anything like this, so I thought, “Well, I’ll try something different.” And so I set down to try to write a book, which turned out to be Guilty Pleasures. It would end up being the third book that got published of mine, because I did a Star Trek book in there too.

The short story, everyone loved it, all the editors loved it, they even recommended other markets for it. But no one could buy it because they didn’t know what it was. Was it mystery? Was it a science fiction? Was it horror? Was it fantasy? Mixed genre didn’t sell back when I was trying to sell this book. Nobody knew that vampires were hot. I had editors tell me the vampire genre was dead. They have since come to me and said, “Oh, you know, I wish we’d had a chance at your series.” ‘Cause of course, vampires are incredibly hot right now.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah. And your main character, Anita Blake, I couldn’t help but notice that she looks like you, at least in the comic books. Was that just a coincidence?

Laurell K. Hamilton: I made her my height because I do fight scenes and I do weaponry and guns and so I made it so that my hand would be the one I was trying to fit for weapons and my body would be the size I was trying to get out of the fight scenes for her. Otherwise I’d have to go borrow tall friends all the time.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] See, I’m a second degree black belt in karate. I did a fight scene in one of my books [Paraworld Zero] and I’m like trying to get my wife to help and she doesn’t do karate or anything at all and it was very difficult. And I’m like, “Man I sure wish I had someone else that could do this.” So, I totally understand what you’re saying.

Laurell K. Hamilton: And I like my hair and since this is a series where she solves murders and there’s all sorts of vampires and werewolves and everything, I figured since I’m going to make her life hard, I’d give her something I like, so I gave her my hair. I’ve actually lightened my hair recently and I get much less fan confusion now. I couldn’t change her hair, so I changed mine.

Matthew Peterson: Does anybody ever call you Anita Blake by accident?

Laurell K. Hamilton: Oh yeah.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Laurell K. Hamilton: Oh yeah. I get a certain percentage. Some people catch themselves and they get embarrassed and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Some people never get themselves, and they will do an entire conversation calling me Anita.

Matthew Peterson: How funny. That is hilarious. Well, Anita is a very strong character. She’s a vampire hunter. The latest book Skin Trade came out earlier this year. Tell us a little bit about this book.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Skin Trade is the book where I had to do the most research into tactical teams, SWAT, Las Vegas Metro SWAT, one of the most prestigious or impressive, amazing SWAT units that we have in this country. I mean they are one of the top. And I was very privileged to be able to go and visit and talk to people and ask questions. It’s always intimidating to me in a book when I know I’m going to have to use some detailed police work or whatever, because I’ve never been a policeman. And I’ve never been in the military, so I always feel like I’m a little behind the eight ball. And Skin Trade is where Anita gets to go to Vegas. Vegas is so much a city that cries out for vampires.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Because you can be in a casino and never know what time of day or night it is. It would be very easy with night shifts and never have your neighbors know. Of course, in my world you can be a legal vampire and it’s fine. But Vegas is just such a city that comes alive at night. So Anita goes and there is a serial killer who has sent her, and in the opening paragraph, sent her a human head, packed in ice in a box, mailed to her, with a note saying that he’s in Vegas waiting for her.

Matthew Peterson: Waiting for her.

Laurell K. Hamilton: He’s the only serial killer that ever got away from Anita.

Matthew Peterson: Ah, interesting concept there.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Well, he got away because police that had helped with research and police that were just fans had one complaint. They said, “You solve the mystery in one book and it’s done.” And they all said, “Real police work doesn’t work like that. You can’t solve it in an hour show and you can’t solve it in one book. It takes much longer.”

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Laurell K. Hamilton: So, I actually let the bad guy get away in one book, for the policemen and women who were saying, you know, “You made it too simple”. But I knew we would go back and track him down again.

Matthew Peterson: And you’re doing more books. You have the 18th installment coming out, Flirt. Is that continuing on with this last one, or is this completely different?

Laurell K. Hamilton: Anita is organized like a mystery series, so that each book stands alone, you solve the mystery and you move on. You get character development from book to book, but each book is a whole meal in and of itself. As much as possible. It’s hard. Eighteen books into a series, it’s really hard to give enough information for new readers, but not give so much information to people who’ve read every book so like they’re, you know, “I know all this already”.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, you have to come up with new angles to the whole mystery thing. And Anita Blake, I mean, the character itself has kind of created a life of her own. She’s now on comic books. There’s going to be a TV series. So she’s larger than life now. I went to Marvel’s website this morning and I’m like, “Whoa, wait a second! There’s Wolverine fighting Anita Blake?”

Laurell K. Hamilton: That was a very fun cover.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] I was like, “You have to be kidding me.” Is Anita going to duke it out with Wolverine? Or is that just a funny little cover they put on there?

Laurell K. Hamilton: It was done for the movie. They pick some of their bigger sellers and “We’re going to put Wolverine on the cover with the main character.” And Wolverine’s always been a favorite of mine because he’s short. I know that the actor who portrayed him is like over six feet, but in the comic books he’s about my size; he’s about 5'3" and I’ve always loved that because most of the comic book heros are very tall and I am not. So it was very fun when they wanted to put Wolverine and Anita on the cover together. [hear more about this in the extras]

Matthew Peterson: And it’s moving on also to television. Everything in the entertainment business is a little shaky right now, but I hear it was green-lighted.

Laurell K. Hamilton: It was green-lighted and that’s about all I’m allowed to say.

Matthew Peterson: Oh! Okay.

Laurell K. Hamilton: I will say that the more I know about how the industry works, television and movies, I’m just amazed that anything gets done because of how many people have to be involved with everything. [hear more about this in the extras]

Matthew Peterson: Oh, I know. And you have another popular series that deals with dark magical faeries and mystery. I guess not the vampires, but I know you have a new book coming out, too, Divine Misdemeanors. Tell us a little bit about Meredith Gentry.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Meredith Gentry, Merry Gentry, she is a P.I. in Los Angeles, but she’s also one of the only fae princess born on American soil because Thomas Jefferson, he was a faery-phile, just like he was a francophile, and he let them come into this country and they have their own society within ours. She’s escaped from fairy because everybody was trying to kill her. Being heir to a throne was always dangerous, if you read real history. Being an heir to the throne, if you don’t have any political clout to back you up, usually you got assassinated.

Matthew Peterson: Oh yeah. And you’d never want a sibling.

Laurell K. Hamilton: No.

Matthew Peterson: ‘Cause it might be the sibling who does the assassination.

Laurell K. Hamilton: So she is a P.I. and she has her P.I. license in California, but she is also dragged back to faery to contest for the throne and we go through seven books to find the answer to that question of: Will she? Won’t she? Can she? Can everybody survive long enough? And she falls in love along the way, and everything that she loves and values gets threatened and is about to be destroyed. And it’s another strong character who has to do things that she might not want to do, but you do what you do to save people you love.

Matthew Peterson: Well, I know people will be continuing to read these. You do have a nice fan base, and with a possibility of a TV series and the continuing comic books, those type of things will definitely increase interest.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Well, that is one of the things. Somebody sees one episode of a television show, not even one of the top television shows, you can have more viewers in one night than even the best-selling book series.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It does make a huge difference, and it also can introduce people to a series that they’ve never heard of before.

Laurell K. Hamilton: That’s very true, and also, vampires have become mainstream. It’s the weirdest phenomena. I’ve been doing this for, you know, since ‘93, and I never thought I would see it. But thanks to--oh, dare I say it?--thanks to Twilight, that feeding frenzy of everything and thanks to Charlaine Harris on HBO and everything. Thanks to my own contribution too, and now you have The Vampire Diaries on CW and everything. I actually saw a little girl about 12, wearing a t-shirt the other day that said, “Every girl needs her vampire.”

Matthew Peterson: Oh. [laughs]

Laurell K. Hamilton: These were mainstream family, mom, dad, brother, sister kind of thing. So, I never thought I would see it. With as hard as I fought to get my series, and everybody said vampires were dead. And now here we have, we have. . . vampires have become the new prince charming.

Matthew Peterson: When I was a child, vampires were absolutely evil and you didn’t want to even be near them; they’re going to kill you. And really the trick is that you’ve, in a sense, humanized them to the point where you could fall in love with them and they’re not going to kill you. You know, they actually could be pleasant to be around, maybe a little dangerous, though. And in that sense they’ve not become the monster that we’re scared of; now they are this intriguing creature.

Laurell K. Hamilton: They’re the bad boy.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Yeah. And that has helped. That’s made, I think, all the difference.

Laurell K. Hamilton: I think you’re right. The vampire is the new bad boy and most of them are handsome and very sexy and they fall in love with you and sweep you off your feet. Mine don’t, so much. Anita doesn’t really want to be swept off her feet. Merry would be fine with being swept off her feet, but there just hasn’t been time between assassination attempts and solving mysteries to really be much swept off her feet.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. I understand. Well, we’re coming up to a commercial break. I’ve been speaking with Laurell K. Hamilton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and the Meredith Gentry series. Thank you for being on the show today, Laurell.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Well, thank you very much for having me, Matthew.

Matthew Peterson: It’s been a great pleasure.

Alright, don't forget to visit after the show to listen to the bonus questions. Stick around. I've got the author of The Vampire Diaries, L. J. Smith, coming up next.

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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