Local author Laurell K. Hamilton has just released the 26th Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel. Serpentine, published by Penguin Random-House on August 7th, finds Anita in Florida on a vacation…but Anita never really gets a vacation, does she?
With 40 novels and numerous other novellas, graphic novels, and short stories to her credit, Ms. Hamilton is a formidable presence in the fantasy fiction world. At times releasing up to four books a year, she has more than six million books in print—and that’s just the Anita Blake books. Anita Blake is a smart, strong, badass lead character who led the way in the vampire/werewolf literary trend.
Ms. Hamilton was nice enough to answer some questions for us about her career, her beloved character, and what the future has in store for her.
The Art STL: Congratulations on the life of Anita Blake! 25 years is fantastic. Are there any shifts in her story that took you completely by surprise?
Laurell K. Hamilton: I never planned on there being any romance in the series. Jean-Claude walked onto stage and totally derailed where I’d planned on going with Anita.
How do you sustain such a prolific writing schedule?
I’m lucky that I’m happiest when I’m busy creatively, so the schedule suits me most of the time. But I also treat my writing like a job and have long before I sold a word. I’m at my desk on a regular basis applying butt to chair, because that’s how books get written.
How was writing Serpentine different from any of the other Anita Blake novels?
I’m usually a morning writer, but Serpentine just refused to write in the morning. The book didn’t start flowing until after dinner, or dusk. It was almost as night fell my muse woke up, which is opposite of my usual writing habits. Usually the book wakes me up at dawn eager to write, but not this book. Usually if I’m writing very late I listen to harder music—Disturbed, Drowning Pool, Godsmack—but Serpentine had to be different even on this. For the first time I ever I was able to write, and even wrote better with movies playing, usually I’m too distracted by them. It had to be movies I’d watched before, nothing brand new. I ended up watching, Draft Day with Kevin Costner, The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, Hercules with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and some episodes of Sex in the City.
Several books into Anita Blake’s series, the sex scenes became pretty intense. Was this a conscious decision, or character-driven? I ask because these scenes are definitely noteworthy to readers. (When friends have recommended the series to me, they have called out these scenes in particular!)
I’d spent five books writing detailed crime scenes where I didn’t shrink away from violence, but when Anita was about to have her first love scene with someone she cared about I wanted to go to the 1950’s pan to the sky. What did it say about me as a writer and as a person that I was more comfortable with murder and violence than with romantic sex? Well, it said I was very American in my attitude, for one thing. But I didn’t want to be the kind of writer that fed into this idea that violence is okay, but sex isn’t—it just seems backwards. Shouldn’t something that’s so life affirming that the human race would die out without it be more important than killing people on paper? So I made the conscious choice that I would give romance and everything that included as much time, attention, and detail as I gave to my mystery and crime busting.
Anita has grown and changed quite a bit since the series began 25 years ago. Which change(s) do you see as most significant?
Anita was twenty-four when I started writing her stories. Now she’s in her thirties. She, like most of us, saw the world in black and white, good and evil, in her early twenties, and, like most of us, in her thirties the world began to look more gray. Most significant is probably that she went from thinking the monsters were truly monsters and that executing them wasn’t murder. It was saving the lives of their future victims. She loudly declared to Jean-Claude in the first book, Guilty Pleasures, “I don’t date vampires, I kill them.” But she met humans that were as dangerous and evil as any vampire or werewolf and it began to make her rethink her definition of monster. Once you no longer believe the people you’re killing are soulless monsters, then killing them even with a legal warrant of execution is a lot harder on the conscience. She’s now romantically involved exclusively with vampires and shapeshifters. Being in love with the very type of person she’s supposed to execute makes her question herself and her job now.
The other significant change is that Anita started out convinced that she would find Mr. Right and have that white picket fence life with the 2.5 kids and a normal life. Anita gave up on a “normal life,” whatever that means, years ago. She raises zombies as her day job for Animators Inc., and she’s a U.S. Marshal for the Preternatural Branch, which means she hunts rogue vampires and shapeshifters. She embraced the fact that, with that as her day-to-day life, “normal” was never going to happen for her. It led her to looking outside the box for the rest of her life, including romantically. She went from trying to be happy and monogamous to being polyamorous, which means to love more. It’s a type of non-monogamy that is predicated on dating or being in serious relationships with multiple people at the same time. Everyone knows everyone, has met, talked, and agreed to dating parameters. Poly is the anti-cheating way to date, because it’s based on utter transparency and communicating until you almost want to beg for no more “couple” talks. Yes, I am speaking from experience. Anita started dating more before I did, but poly is my lifestyle.
I read in another interview recently that you are excited to see what being an 80-year-old writer would be like. Do you see Anita as an 80-year-old ass-kicker, as well?
Because of Anita’s ties to Jean-Claude and her own growing abilities I’m pretty sure that she won’t age human normal, which means she might be able to kick ass at 80. I plan to be kicking ass and taking names when I’m 80, but unless medical technology can do the same for me that the supernatural can do for Anita, I might have to compromise my ass-kicking a little more than she will. | Melissa Cynova
For more information or to read a brief excerpt,visit https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/308294/serpentine-by-laurell-k-hamilton/9780425255681/