Although bestselling urban fantasy writer Kim Harrison is known for her novels, she also has written short fiction"”now collected in Into
the Woods, out tomorrow in trade paperback from HarperVoyager. Some
stories contain situations and characters from her popular Hollows
series. The tales here include an original Hollows novella,
about Trent Kalamack's secret elven quest in Pale Demon; two original
short stories, "Pet Shop Boys" and "Temson Woods," that
explore what happens when humanity and the supernatural collide; and two longer
stories, "Spider Silk" and "Grace," set in new worlds of
imagination and adventure. Into the Woods also contains all of the
previously published Hollows short stories.
Harrison got her start writing stories when she decided to take a
break from trying to write novel-length fiction "to try and get some
writing credits in the short story arena." She says she "never did make
that first sale with a short story, but a few years after that the
[novel I had been working on]"”much edited, rewritten, and dived
into two manuscripts"”found publication, and I developed one of the short
stories into Dead Witch Walking, which
later became my break-out book."
For Harrison, the basics of creating compelling short stories and novels are
about the same: "interesting characters, new and logical magic systems, and an
idea that will keep me interested from anywhere from a month to a decade. "
But she acknowledges that the "short story does have a unique set of
challenges. The idea behind it has to carry ten times the weight of a novel's
idea because there's simply not enough page count to get the reader invested in
the character. Or"¦you have to work ten times harder to make that character so
recognizable and sympathetic that he or she can carry the idea alone. I like to
think that novels are about people solving problems and short stories are about
ideas working over people, but that might be my early reading of science
fiction and fantasy shorts popular in the late 70s and early 80s."
Harrison says that the vast majority of her short stories have been used to
flesh out secondary characters or introduce a chunk of interesting back story
to the Hollows. "Being able to develop three entirely new stories outside the
Hollows let me tap back into that original vein of creativity that a
long-running series can stifle. I've long believed that the short story is
where true mastery of the craft can be seen."
She had particular fun with the novellas in Into
the Woods. "I was able to bring out a few ideas that I'd been collecting
over the past ten years or so, and play with them, inventing new magic systems,
develop a new literary 'voice,' and hopefully bring a new maturity to my work
along with a new setting. 'Spider Silk' let me touch on three generations in
one short span, and I hope it has more of a psychological horror feel. 'Grace'
was my experiment to see if it was character or world that moved me more, and I
came away confident it was character. 'Pet Shop Boys' was a fun romp, trying to
find that quirky finish that I loved so much in the shorts I read growing up."
As for her favorite story in Into the
Woods, it "depends on my mood, actually. If I had to pick one, it would be
'Spider Silk'. I don't think I did it justice, but just as my favorite
character is the one who's evolving the most, my favorite story is usually the
one that is going to challenge me the hardest."