SciFiChick: Underground releases this August. Can you give us a brief synopsis?
Kat Richardson: Harper’s friend Quinton asks her to look into the mysterious deaths and disappearances of homeless people around Seattle’s Pioneer Square when he fears he may be implicated in some of the deaths. As Harper investigates, she discovers ghosts, zombies, and that the deaths are all connected to the underground city that lies beneath Pioneer Square–Seattle’s original downtown. The deaths are not just freak accidents, but may be the work of a monster of ancient legend. Harper and Quinton will have to delve deep into the city’s past and some of its current unpleasant reality to solve the crimes and prevent more deaths while Seattle suffers in the grip of its coldest winter on record.
SFC: This 3rd installment will be the first in the series to go to hardback. How did you take that news?
KR: At first, my reaction was “Oh really? That’s nice.” About two days later I started jumping up and down and ran out on the deck of my boat and yelled “I”m going to be in hardback!” Which probably confused my neighbors. A lot. I’m still excited about it, when I’m not terrified.
SFC: How did you come up with the idea for the “The Grey”?
KR: That’s a little complicated. I’d had the rough idea about a detective who had a special connection to the realm of ghosts and the unseen, but I wasn’t quite sure of the rules. About the time I started writing Greywalker, I was reading a lot of particle physics, quantum physics and metaphysics books and I mixed that up with some more traditional ideas about ghosts and magical energy and the Grey was what emerged.
SFC: I read that you have 5 books total planned for the Greywalker series. Is that still true?
KR: Yes and no. It’s currently 6 or more. Originally I had a five-book arc with a possible open end planned. The original contract was for three books, but I still thought I might get to do the complete set of five. When Roc renewed the contract last August, they wanted 3three more, with the opportunity to do more beyond that, so I’ll get to do the original five-book arc and at least one more beyond that. Right now, I plan to write book six as a plain series book, without a longer underlying arc, but with many of the same characters returning and leaving the series open for more, if the publisher wants them.
SFC: Urban fantasy novels are popular and widespread right now. What different about your series that sets it apart from the others?
KR: Well, I think it’s the plot structure. I write detective novels, at heart. Many UF novels put the fantasy elements and personal lives of the characters at the center of the story. I put the detective story at the center and use the fantasy elements to give it a new spin. I’m not much of a romance writer, so I never put that element in the limelight; it’s just a feature and complication of the detective’s life. My first love is Mysteries, so I tend to return to that tradition when I’m working.
SFC: You have numerous paranormal characters, from vampires to ghosts, are yours different than the traditional monsters that we know?
KR: Some are, some aren’t. My vampires aren’t very far from the traditional–but they aren’t much like a lot of the current vampire fiction that casts them as sympathetic and very human; they’re monsters. I use a lot of different ghosts, but most are drawn from one tradition or another, not just made up whole cloth. I do mix and match though. In Underground, I got to bring in zombies–which are very non-traditional types–and some monsters that I pulled out of research but which don’t get much air-time. In the future, I expect to pull up some completely new monsters and do a few interesting things with ghosts. Should be lots of fun.
SFC: Harper Blaine is a fantastic, female detective with a certain noir quality. Where did you get your inspiration for her character?
KR: I’m a huge fan of the original “hardboiled” detectives of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as their later descendants in the genre. I really like Sarah Paretski’s V. I. Warshawski, as well, and since I didn’t want to write a guy–not being one I wasn’t sure I wanted to start a writing career with something as tough as writing the opposite gender from a first-person POV–I decided to write the same type of hardboiled character Hammett and Chandler had gone after, but allow her to be female in the strong positive manner that Paretski had used with V. I. Harper’s also got a touch of the old-style tongue-in-cheek humor buried in the angst, though. And I just love it when fans get that side of her.
SFC: Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in a movie adaptation of Greywalker, if they gave you free reign?
KR: That’s a hard question for me. I actually had my step-sister in mind when I wrote her–a tall, thin, athletic young woman who wasn’t beautiful in the traditional way. I’m always tempted to say “Rita Hayworth” because she was also a brunette and a dancer, or “Kate Beckinsale” since she’s almost perfect when she’s dressed down a bit. But I can’t imagine Harper in a latex corset or 6-inch stilletto heel boots, so that always fails. Maybe Katherine Hegel, though she’s about 5 inches shorter than Harper.
I’ve never really tried to cast any of the other characters in my head–maybe because I watch so little TV and film these days, I just don’t know who’s out there any more.
SFC: What’s next for you, besides this series? Any other stories on the horizon?
KR: I have a short werewolf story in the upcoming Wolfsbane and Mistletoe anthology this Christmas. I’ve just completed a Harper Blaine novella for a four-man anthology of gritty Urban Fantasy for Roc/Ace–it’s tentatively titled Mean Streets and features Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Tom Sniegoski as well, but I don’t know the publication date for it yet. And I’ve got an SF police/detective thriller boiling on the back burner. Of course, I’d like to write some lighter books, but they’ll have to wait a little longer….
SFC: Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.
KR: My dad was an English teacher, so I guess this was kind of in the blood. I have a degree in journalism and used to be a magazine editor before I branched into other areas of writing and editing. I’ve done some odd writing jobs: I wrote the screenplay for a short horror spoof film, developed the characters and scenarios for a fan-designed computer game, wrote a game manual about elves, and used to write about precious metals and diamonds for a jeweler’s training school.
I’m kind of the curious George type and I like to discover new things, and weird historical facts, so I go poking around in all kinds of books and interesting places to find more. Then I use them.
Right now I live on a sailboat, which is both fun and very cramped.
SFC: What inspires you?
KR: The odd. If it’s just an odd fact or an odd building, or something that makes me go “hmmm…” my brain starts churning. I like history a lot, too and there’s plenty of odd stuff there.
When I’m having trouble writing, though, I like to take walks and see what strange things might pop up to inspire me next.
SFC: Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?
KR: Hammett and Chandler, obviously, Richard K. Morgan, Neal Stephenson, Sean Chercover, Charlaine Harris, but also people who handled the language and people with excellence like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, William Gibson. And there are those writers of my youth who I love to this day: Kenneth Graham, Madeline L’Engle, A. A. Milne, and Patricia McKillip.
SFC: What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?
KR: Spare time? Writers have that? No, seriously, I am thinking about writing all the time, even when I’m “off.” If I’m sailing, or shooting, or running, or riding the motorcycle, things still get into my head and come out to play later. I like to travel, I like to go outdoors and run around (not that I have much recently), I like to play with my ferrets, I like to take photos and read books on strange topics like physics and history as well as Mysteries and SF/F.
SFC: Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KR: I’d just like to add that I think I have the best job in the world. Even the worst day writing is better than any other work day I’ve have in any other job. Some days it’s hard, or frustrating, or sad, but the end result is so wonderful, I can’t believe I get to do it.
Thanks for the chance to chat–it was fun!