Ambush Bug here. Our local vampire scholar Lyzard had a chance to talk with author Kim Harrison about her new graphic novel BLOOD WORK after reading the book so instead of putting it into our review column, we figured it’d make a cool piece by itself. Lyz is going to fill you in about the book first in her review, then ask the author all about it. Enjoy!
BLOOD WORK OGNWriter: Kim Harrison
Artist: Pedro Maia
Publisher: Del Ray Comics
It seems everything is being turned into a comic these days: movies, television shows, and books. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it is nice to have stories told visually instead of purely with the written word. In BLOOD WORK, Kim Harrison takes advantage of the new medium to explore a world she knows well, but in a new way.
Harrison is the author of the HOLLOWS series, going into its ninth book. But BLOOD WORK is actually a prequel to the adventures of witch Rachel Morgan, written from the point of view of her living-vampire friend, Ivy. Forced together as partners, Morgan and Ivy come across an odd werewolf killing that has deeper implication than they ever could have imagined.
One thing I worry about, when reading comic works done by novelists, is that they become too wordy, depending way too much on dialogue. But Harrison allows the panels to speak for themselves. One of the coolest elements of the graphic novel is Ivy’s hunger shadow when she begins to lose control. The visual just pops out of the page and pulls the reader in to the world. The same goes for the depictions of magic found within the graphic novel.
For those who have followed the HOLLOWS series, they may argue about the character depiction, but will most likely enjoy the story for the character relationships. But I’m more interested in the readers who are new to Harrison’s work, like me. There is a great deal of information to give new readers, rules about the vampires (living vs. dead) and the difference between the Hollows world and our own. I never felt lost reading the graphic novel rules-wise, but some of the character relationships towards the end of the novel were not fully explored. But if you read the bonus features at the end of the book, Harrison does mention that she is working on a second graphic novel. Maybe then some of my questions will be answered.
Speaking of the bonus features, the book is put together quite nicely. There is an introduction done by Harrison, along with some artist sketches, an about the creators page, a write-up on making the graphic novel, and then a conversation with the author. It is essentially the equivalent of a behind-the-scenes on a DVD.
To be frank, the graphic novel is a bit tame for my taste. Though there is plenty of action that werewolves and vampires are involved in, don’t expect much (or any for that matter) gore. There is a bit of sex, but nothing that pushes the envelope. However, this could be done to keep her readers, who range from young to old, in familiar territory.
The best comparison I can make, for those unfamiliar with the HOLLOWS, is that it is like a feminine DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher (which also has a comic published through Del Rey). It displays urban magic and fantasy, with an emphasis on the action and mystery, instead of the romance. But be warned, if you like BLOOD WORKS, it has a different point of view than the HOLLOWS, which stars Rachel Morgan instead of Ivy. I took a look at PALE DEMON, the newest HOLLOWS novel, and did not mind the difference in focalization.
Though a prequel, I still feel that this graphic novel is meant more for those that follow the Hollows. It does work as a stand alone, but I think I missed some of the character connections or the significance of such since I haven’t been following Morgan and Ivy for the past seven years. My advice would be to pick up at least one of the Hollows books along with BLOOD WORK, reading the novel first so you can get more out of the comic.
Check out this preview of the book.
@’s by Kim Harrison on BLOOD WORK!
Lyzard here. Kim Harrison has been writing the Hollows series since 2004, following the adventures of the witch Rachel Morgan along with her living-vampire friend, Ivy. Nine books in; Harrison has taken her readers on a wild ride, full of mystery. But one mystery is about to be solved. In her first graphic novel, BLOOD WORK, Harrison reveals the beginning of Rachel and Ivy’s complicated relationship.
LYZARD (LYZ): Colleagues of yours such as Kelley Armstrong, who did a prequel comic book, and Jim Butcher has also forayed into the comic world. Why did you decide to venture into this new medium?
KIM HARRISON (KH): I wanted to try my hands at comics because I was getting tired of writing the same old way. I’ve been in the Hollows for quite a long time and you can get bored and stale. So when my agent came up to me with an opportunity to write a graphic novel I jumped at it because I’d be able to learn to write a new way, using characters I was very familiar with. That would let me really concentrate on the craft itself. That’s probably the biggest reason I wanted to, that and I’m a very visual person. With this I was able to kind of like play director a little bit and shift it up a little bit with perspectives, angles, and what not. A lot of the different, odd perspectives you see in BLOOD WORK were actually my idea. I scripted this. so that included telling what I wanted in the boxes. Most of the time Pedro would do that but if he saw a better way he’d do it his way and I’d say “ oh yeah, that’s so much better.” There was some give and take.
LYZ: How much input did you have in choosing the artist for the graphic novel?
KH: I had a great deal of input in choosing the artist. I went with Pedro because I liked the way he depicted women and he did fabulous cityscapes and both of those are things are very important to me. But what cinched it was how he drew Ivy’s hunger shadow or her losing control and that is pretty much what cinched it for me.
LYZ: How do you go about appeasing the fans?
KH: A lot of it comes down to me giving them a lot of sneak peeks in order to prep them for what they are going to see so it’s not a shock. That works to a great extent. A lot of people have never read a graphic novel but picked it up because they read my work and they didn’t like the graphic novel simply because they didn’t like the storytelling medium. It’s very different and I’ve gotten a little bit of flack from that, but for the most part I’d say 90%, maybe closer to 99%, have been very positive. They’ve liked what I’ve done, but there have been some issues with Kisten, but I’m not particularly fond of the depiction of Kisten. I couldn’t nail him down enough for Pedro to do him justice. So he’s just going to be one of those characters that everyone has their own idea what he looks like and that’s it.
LYZ: Why did you decide to do a prequel and change the point of view from previous Hollows works?
KH: Part of that was because I wanted to break out of Rachel’s voice just to have a break for myself another part was Ivy is very difficult for me to write. I’ve written her once in a novella and it was very, very difficult. But that was a couple years ago and I thought now’s my chance to try it again and it worked out real well. The fact that I was writing in a different way seems to make it easier. I didn’t have to get quite into her head as deeply as I would normally have to and I think that’s because a lot of it was visual.
LYZ: Do you view the graphic novel as a gateway into the world of the Hollow series?
KH: It could be. You could pick this up never having read a book from the Hollows and understand it because it is a beginning, it feels like a beginning, has a nice pace like a beginning. But I think a majority of my readers will be those who have already read the Hollows and for them it is going to be more of a supplemental because they have been dying to know what happened that year Rachel and Ivy interned and I keep on alluding to it in the main books but I’ve never really told them. So it goes both ways.
Lyzard: How do you go about creating the rules for your universe?
KH: I wanted my cake and eat it to. I love the Dracula vampires with no sun, just completely savage and no soul. But I didn’t want my books to take place entirely in the dark and I also like the idea of a vampire that has a soul and that you can fall in love with so you can see the real tragedy of what a vampire is. So that is why I decided to make a clean dividing line between these are the rules for the living vampires and these are the rules for the dead. It’s worked out really well; I’ve been very pleased. The readers catch their balance really quickly.
LYZ: What do you think of the current vampire craze?
KH: New York, the publishing industry, is sick of them. They are dying for anything new and exciting to come through. So if your trying to break into print, stretch out your writing muscles and come up with something different so they are more willing to take a look and take a risk on you. But I don’t think they are going to be gone by any stretch of the imagination. There will be a little bit of winnowing so to speak where the authors that have been successful with it will continue to be while others will have to find something different.
LYZ: Is that why you have your young adult series (Madison Avery), to try a different market and not go stale?
KH: Exactly. I grew up reading young adult and I thought if I could tap into that market and perhaps stretch my writing muscles and bring some new readers into the fold that it would be a great experience and it has. A lot of my readers have younger children that aren’t just ready yet for the Hollows, but they want to share their love of reading with their daughters or son and this has been a great way to do that.
LYZ: And finally, when you get a chance to, what do you read?
KH: When I get a chance, I’m usually reading a manuscript that hasn’t hit the shelves yet for a cover quote. It doesn’t happen very often because my writing schedule is very, very heavy but that’s what I read.
LYZ: Usually in the same genre?
KH: Yep. But I read outside of the genre quite a bit. I read a lot of scientific magazines and history magazines. I love National Geographic, anything with animals in it, history, maps. So I read a lot of that, so it’s more fact based than fiction.
BLOOD WORK became available on July 12, released through Del Ray Comics’. It is purchasable in at a wide range of stores, but if you can’t find it go to this page on Kim Harrison’s website, where she lists several online and in-stores options.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G