In the SDCC spotlight – Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison

Comic-con 2011 was once again a mad whirlwind of Fangirl delight – and it just so happened that this year two of my all time favorite UF authors, Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison, were featured guests of the Con!

The Patricia Briggs spotlight panel was a lovely way to kick off my Con on Thursday – and it was only fitting when Patty admitted right off the bat that her love of werewolves began with Marvel’s Werewolf by Night comics. When it comes to writing, Patty confirms that she is a pantser: “I don’t plan my books out, they just happen as they happen.” Of all the books she’s written, Cry Wolf was the toughest for her  to write – trying to write a book based on a novella without retelling the novella but still somehow having it all make sense to people picking up the book who haven’t read the novella… And Patty swears naming her VW mechanic Mercedes was an accidental irony –  she just wanted to give her heroine a somewhat unusual name (she couldn’t help it – she blames the fantasy writing).

Dan Dos Santos, the artist behind all the covers of Patricia’s urban fantasy books, has definitely added his touch to the series – the Hunting Ground cover was completed before Patty finished the book, so she put it up on the wall for inspiration while she was writing. Dan actually gave Anna her freckles and Mercy her paw-print tattoo – and yes, aside from the paw-print, all the tattoos Mercy wears on the various covers are not actually in the books, but it turns out they represent the events of each book – i.e. on the Moon Called cover, Mercy’s tattoos are werewolves, for Blood Bound, vamps, and for Iron Kissed, Celtic symbols that came out kind of Aztec-y (which Patty loves).

As for what’s coming up next, Patty is working on her latest Alpha and Omega book, Fair Game (out 2/12/2012), which takes place in Boston. Anna and Charles will tackle werewolves, the fey, a new agency created to deal with the problems of having fey and werewolves in a post 9/11 world, and a serial killer. Plus the end of the book includes some world changing events that Patty promises will also rock Mercy’s world. And that’s all Patty was saying about that – though she did admit that for research purposes, she took the Boston graveyard tour and visited the Boston FBI field office…

As for whether or not Patty will ever head back to Sianim, the world of her early fantasy books, Patty thinks she might play with short story ideas, but she won’t write another novel – she’s too aware of the logic inconsistencies she left lurking in the corners of her first books.

In response to a question about whether it will be hard to keep the sizzle alive, now that the main couples of her books are married, Patty replied: “I take great comfort in the J.D. Robb books.” (There are currently 33 of them.)

As for whether or not any of Patty’s books will ever be made into movies – the rights to the Mercy Thompson series are currently being held by a company that is working on developing an animated feature based on Homecoming (the Mercy graphic novel prequel), for release on gaming system platforms (yes, it’s a strange new media world).

So as if listening to, chatting with, and getting books signed by Patricia Briggs wasn’t enough to make my Con – none other than Kim Harrison herself was also in the building! And I’ll admit, when I first joined the line for Kim Harrison’s spotlight panel, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the amount of guys waiting in line – and as we filed into and filled up the room, it turned out to be a pretty darned even audience gender split. Who knew?

Well, of course Kim Harrison did! Kim recalled fondly how no one was quite sure how to market her series when it first came out – Laurell K. Hamilton was the one making waves, with her sexy Vampire Hunter moniker, whereas Kim’s tagline “was going to be Vampire roommate.” If you take a look at the covers of the first few Hollows books, you can tell the marketing team decided magic was the thing to sell – but it didn’t take long for the marketing to take a turn for the sexy leg. So I guess it’s no surprise that by the time For A Few Demons More came out, Kim started getting emails from guys, “in a good way.” Her reader demographic proves once and for all – guys do like the urban fantasy!

Next, it had to be asked – why a tomato? Why bring about a massive, world shattering plague via the happy red vegetable? Kim admits there were several reasons – yes, it was a nod to Attack of The Killer Tomatoes, but it was also due in part to the fact that the first bio-engineered tomato spectacularly flopped. And also, well, she can’t grow the darned things. She admitted she might be holding just an itty bitty grudge…

Kim also freely admited her propensity for having small, winged, smart mouthed characters in her books – and she actually patterned her Hollows pixies on hummingbirds. As for her vamps, Kim went for both living and dead vampires because, well, she wanted to have her cake and eat it too. With the dead, Kim got to have the Dracula style vamp, and with the living she could still write a novel that didn’t take place entirely at night. And if you happened to notice how much of the aforementioned vampire mythology Kim managed to cram into The Good, The Bad, and the Undead – well, at the time she only had a three book contract, so she had to smoosh as much as she possibly could into one book.

And which of her many books is her favorite? Fistful of Charms was, right up until Pale Demon came along.

As for her famous red-headed leading lady, Kim is the first to admit: “Rachel sucks dishwater at detecting. She is so not good.” And yes, Rachel is going to have that demon smut forever.

Kim does have an end firmly in mind for her series – and as for what’s coming up next, A Perfect Blood will be Hollows #10 (out 2/21/11), and Kim right now plans for the series to end at #12 (though depending on how things go, there’s a possibility there might be too much story to pack into two books, and we just might be lucky enough to get a #13).

As for what A Perfect Blood is about – mum was the word, though I did find this delicious tidbit online:

Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth — a would-be creator is determined to make his (or her) own demons. But it can’t be done without Rachel’s blood.

As a bounty hunter, Rachel has battled vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more. But humanity itself might be her toughest challenge.

There will also be a second Hollows graphic novel – and I had the chance to ask Kim if her graphic novels would ever include that infamous Rachel/Ivy moment that Rachel once fondly recalled (where Rachel ties Ivy up and paints her fingernails). Kim told me it didn’t make graphic novel number two – there would have to be a third graphic novel for that!

As for Kim’s other series, her YA starring Madison Avery, Kim admits she likes working with Madison “because Madison is a lot more grown up than Rachel in a lot of ways.”

And finally, Kim’s advice for aspiring authors: “Write like you’ve already got the darn contract.”

So needless to say, it was a fantastic year to be an urban fantasy fan at Comic-con – and we all have a lot to look forward to come February 2012!