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L A U R E L L   K.   H A M I L T O N : Death & Sex
(excerpted from Locus Magazine, September 2000)

Laurell K. Hamilton
    Photo by Beth Gwinn

Laurell K. Hamilton was born Laurell Kaye Klein, February 19, 1963 in a small town near Shirley, Arkansas. She went to Marion, a Christian college in Indiana, and received degrees in English and Biology. She also met her husband, Gary Hamilton, there. They have one daughter, Trinity. They live outside St. Louis.

Her first novel, fantasy Nightseer, appeared in 1992. The next year, her long-running dark fantasy mystery series featuring vampire-killer Anita Blake began with Guilty Pleasures (1993). That series continued with The Laughing Corpse (1994), Circus of the Damned (1995), The Lunatic Café (1996), Bloody Bones (1996), The Killing Dance (1997), Burnt Offerings (1998), and Obsidian Butterfly (2000). A new series, with fey princess/sleuth Meredith nic Essus, has now started in A Kiss of Shadows (2000). She has also written several novelizations, ‘‘Star Trek’’ and ‘‘Ravenloft’’ gaming, and some short fiction.

‘‘I love genre. Now that I’m being very successful, publishers are trying to mainstream me, but I’m unabashedly genre. It’s what I like to read, what I like to write. I like conventions too. I like meeting and greeting. I’m perched on that edge where I’m getting more attention than I quite know what to do with, though.

‘‘A lot of the fans, especially, want me to be Anita Blake for them. They want me to have the same background. Anita’s from the Midwest, but she’s from a higher economic background than I am. She’s never been poor. I was raised with just my grandmother. I’m older than everyone keeps thinking I am - 37. I was born near Shirley, Arkansas. My family, for many generations, had been Scots-Irish hill people. I’m so white-bread, if you cut me I’d bleed bleached flour! I have no ethnicity to me, and I’ve always wanted some."


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Index to Locus Interviews

‘‘As far back as I can remember, I have been making up stories. I didn’t write stories until I was twelve and a half - and I know it was twelve and a half, because all my characters were exactly my age for years and years. I started off like everyone else does, slogging but having a compulsion to put words on paper. I didn’t write or read horror or fantasy, other than children’s fantasy, until I was in my teens. Then I read Robert E. Howard’s ‘Pigeons From Hell’ in a collection, and the moment I read it I knew, not only did I want to be a writer, but this was what I wanted to write."


‘‘My first book, Nightseer, was much more traditional fantasy, in the vein of Robert E. Howard meets Tolkien. It was meant to be the first of a series. That was what I wanted to do at the time. I didn’t do the first Anita Blake novel until the first summer we were in L.A. The first three books were written close together, and the first two especially have really strong heat imagery because it was one of the worst heatwaves they’d ever had, 100+ temperatures at 100+ humidity!

‘‘That was an interesting summer. When I did Guilty Pleasures, as I came to the scene in the graveyard, the first scene with the police, they found human bones in the lake at our apartment complex and brought the police in. I took my little notebook and went down to talk to the policeman keeping people away from the crime scene - very apologetically, since I had no track record. I wanted to ask him some very strange questions, because I had a ghoul attack I wanted to make as accurate as possible. The poor man was sitting there in the heat, he had nothing else to do, and I had to assure him that I was not a reporter, not doing non-fiction. Once I’d assured him of that, and promised I would never use his name, he was quite willing to answer questions. Asking about ghouls in a cemetery raiding graves, I said ‘I know that in real life that doesn’t happen,’ and he got the strangest look on his face. And he said, ‘People have teeth too.’ He had been called to cemeteries where people had raided graves and done pretty much what I was writing about, except not as thoroughly. That was the moment I realized that anything I’ll ever come up with on paper has already been done. Once you take out the magic system or the stuff that won’t work with physics as we know it, I cannot invent anything they haven’t already done. In the book, if it’s something really horrible, my rule is that it’s either something I’ve already heard or read, or it’s something that’s impossible without my magic system. Some of the strangest little throw-away items, things that have happened to victims in my books, I didn’t make up. I’d researched it."


‘‘I love my fans, because they are such wide demographics. They go from everything from teens to 50+. I have a wide romance following, and a wide following among people - especially men - who have a violent background, military or police or whatever. A lot of the men say they don’t read horror or fantasy, but they read my books.

‘‘From the very beginning, it has been a diverse fan group for me. With the new series starting up, it will be interesting to see what the fans think. I’d written five Anita books in a row, back to back. I needed to be able to just see if I could write anything else. My new heroine Merry, in A Kiss of Shadows, is older than Anita when the books start. She’s over 30, and you chill. There’s some things you don’t sweat when you’re over 30. Either that or you explode. At the rate our worlds move, I’d be using a walker by the time Anita hit 30!"


‘‘Writing ‘Anita’ has certainly made me more aware of dangers. When I go to a room, I check people out. You’ll often see me wanting to sit with my back to a wall, more cautious than I would have been. Some of the policemen call it ‘living at yellow alert.’ You can’t do that for long. It breaks you, that level of attention. But I find that when I write ‘Anita,’ I live at yellow alert. I’ve been paid a compliment more than once, ‘You think like a cop.’ No, I think like a detective. They tell me, ‘You’d have made a really bad uniform, but a good detective.’ I’m not a good follower, but I’m a good team player, as long as I’m not having to take orders that are stupid. It has certainly taken tendencies that I have in that area and solidified them, so I think much more like someone who has had a stronger background in active violence.

‘‘I have met people I never would have met, but at the same time, I’ve had to tell people, ‘Don’t show up on my doorstep.’ I’ve had to be very careful when I use real settings and homes, to make sure people can’t find them. Now I’m much more cautious about giving directions to places. I like having the books, and I like having the fans, I love sharing. But a few years ago, I had to practice this line to use with people who come to signings and things: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have sex with strangers.’ That pretty much covers everybody. I’ve been invited to more ménages à trois than anything. People read the books and assume I do what I write about. But you can research anything without doing it.’’

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