Deborah Harkness Bibliography & Interview
All Souls trilogy (in reading order)
LoveVampires Interview with Deborah Harkness
Deborah Harkness on Deborah Harkness – tell us a little about yourself
Wow. Where do you start? I’m a historian by education, a teacher by profession, a wine-lover by avocation, and a writer because I can’t help myself.
Now tell us a something about yourself that’s not in your standard bio!
I have a low boredom threshold and though I live in Los Angeles I feel most at home in London.
Tell us about your debut fictional novel – A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES
It’s the story of a 30-something historian named Diana Bishop—who just happens to be the last living descendent of the first American woman executed for witchcraft. Diana makes an unexpected discovery in Oxford’s Bodleian Library that draws the unwanted attention of all sorts of creatures, including a very old, very beautiful, and very secretive scientist named Matthew Clairmont—who also happens to be a vampire. The book follows their efforts to understand Diana’s discovery and their growing understand of who they are both singly and together.
Is it easier to write fiction or non-fiction? What are the biggest challenges of writing fiction rather than non-fiction?
Neither one is easy, and they have similar challenges. In non-fiction, sometimes the evidence refuses to behave. You have an argument, it’s all going swimmingly, then a single piece of evidence can’t be fit into the neat story you’re trying to tell. In fiction, the characters are constantly doing things that you never imagined they would do. Whatever you’re writing, an author learns very early on that she is not entirely in charge.
A Discovery of Witches is clearly influenced by your experiences and work as a historian of science and a popular wine blogger – where did the inspiration for vampires, witches and daemons come from?
I was in Mexico on holiday and started thinking about the current craze for vampires. The story literally began with me wondering “if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?” I didn’t believe they could all be working as detectives and in hospitals! With whom did vampires spend time? Did they laugh at the silly stories humans tell about them? Pretty soon I had a novel in my head. And the first thing I wrote down in the notebook I bought in the hotel gift shop to record my ideas was the name “Diana Bishop.”
A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls trilogy. Can you give readers a clue about what will happen in the next part of the story?
Not without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t read it! My standard line is that the next book picks up exactly where A Discovery of Witches left off. Readers can expect more history, more mystery, and to follow the relationship between Diana and Matthew as it progresses from “love at first sight” to something that will last.
According to your Twitter profile you are a “history professor by day, wine blogger in the evening, novelist at night.” When do you sleep? Seriously, how long does it take to write a novel with a substantial word count like A Discovery of Witches?
I began the book in the middle of September 2008 and submitted it to publishers a year later. During that time, I didn’t sleep all that much. I got up around 6 AM, wrote for a few hours, worked all day as a historian, and then wrote again each night. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing for the first month for fear it was terrible—and I was having too much fun to stop. After I’d been writing for two months I told my agent, who represented my nonfiction writing, that I was writing a novel. The first draft of the novel was 1100 pages. Even though it is a big book, it is significantly shorter that it once was.
A Discovery of Witches hasn’t been released yet but translation rights have already been sold in 32 countries. Were you surprised by the level of interest that publishers have shown in your book?
Nobody expects that response, so yes, I was surprised. Actually, that’s a huge understatement. Gobsmacked would be more accurate. Even people who claimed they were tired of witches and vampires liked the book. We all still read fiction about humans, even though there are millions of titles on that subject. I’m glad editors and publishers had a sense that my novel would be a welcome addition to the stories already on the shelves.
There are some great choices and descriptions of wine throughout A Discovery of Witches, what is the perfect wine for sipping of an evening while reading this book?
Something red, I think! Matthew is very fond of wines from the Rhone, and red wines from the Languedoc.
Which authors/books have had the most influence on your writing style?
Everybody says JK Rowling, and I’m going to be hugely unoriginal and follow suit. JK Rowling has the most amazing ability to evoke a scene or a character with a few beautifully chosen words. And she reminded adults as well as children that you should always leave a little room for magic in your life.
What book have you most enjoyed reading lately?
Gail Carriger’s Soulless. What a fun book! I love the central female character, Alexia, who is always brandishing her parasol at other creatures and falls in love with a werewolf. Plus I enjoy the blend of Victorian history-that-never-was and 19th-century English science and technology.
Vampire, witch or daemon? If you had to pick one which would you choose to be?
I’d love to be a vampire, simply because they live such long lives. That is pretty hard not to envy if you are a historian. I’m pretty daemonic when I write, however!
Who is your favourite fictional vampire character?
Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without question. I love his bad-boy character, his mocking humour, and of course the fact that he is utterly transformed by falling in love with a woman who can outfight and outthink him. Who doesn’t admire that?
A big "thank-you" to Deborah Harkness for taking part in the author interview. To find out more about the A Discovery of Witches visit Deborah Harkness’s website.
7th January 2011