Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rock Hill fantasy writer leads a double life

After years in the closet, urban fantasy writer Kim Harrison admitted recently that she was leading a double life.
Harrison was her pen name. The best-selling author of “White Witch, Black Curse,” known for her flowing red hair and Goth-black wardrobe, was, in reality, Dawn Cook of Rock Hill, wife and mom, diehard introvert.
As happens with many pen names, Harrison created hers so readers could distinguish her different book series. Since 2001, she’d been publishing classic fantasy, filled with kingdoms, princesses and magic, as Dawn Cook.
But in 2004, she published her first urban fantasy, “Dead Witch Walking.” The world of urban fantasy has been described as the supernatural erupting in the everyday. So the characters have computers and cell phones, just like us. But Harrison’s main character, Rachel Morgan, also happens to be a sexy bounty-hunting witch who goes after vampires, werewolves, banshees and demons.
Readers loved Rachel, propelling Harrison’s last three novels to New York Times best-seller lists. Among fantasy lovers, Harrison became a star.
It was nice. And unexpected. Dawn Cook majored in biology in college and avoided English classes. She had begun writing for fun, never imagining she’d become an author with more than 2.5 million books in print.
But fame also brings expectations. Book signings might attract 200 or more people, eager to meet Kim Harrison.
And so Cook’s pen name began to take on a life of its own.“To get me out in front of a bunch of people, I have to put on my best face,” says the 43-year-old author. When she puts on her makeup, pulls on her boots and dons a black, flowing duster, “I just draw out aspects of myself braver than the part that sits in front of the typewriter.”
“Putting on my Kim,” is what she calls it.
Over time, the Kim persona has become more subtle, evolving from leather and what Harrison refers to as “butt-kicking boots” to more sophisticated black attire. But, she says, it has always reflected a part of herself.
Harrison plans several more Rachel Morgan novels. The eighth, “Black Magic Sanction” (Eos; $25.99) is out Tuesday. The book tour will launch at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Charlotte, at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in SouthPark.
And yes. We’re not sure yet about the outfit, but Kim definitely will be there.