Friday, August 22, 2014

An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author, Deborah Harkness

When I had the immense pleasure of meeting Ms Harkness last month at Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, I asked her if it was at all possible for her to honor my blog with an interview about her All Souls Trilogy books.

She said yes.

My friends, I truly cannot tell you how much of an honor this is. Deborah Harkness is one of the kindest, most caring authors I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. 

I hope you enjoy this little conversation between the wonderful Deborah Harkness and myself! 

Goodness knows I had a blast setting it up.


The Literary Connoisseur: Deborah, thank you so much for stopping by The Literary Connoisseur, and for answering some questions for me, your fans, and my blog. If you're ready, let's begin. Let's start with a few questions about yourself first. Have you always wanted to be a writer? 

Deborah Harkness: Not at all. I wanted to be a dancer, or an actress, or an archaeologist LONG before I wanted to be anything else.

The Literary Connoisseur: What made you fall in love with history? 

Deborah Harkness: I’ve loved history ever since I was a small child. My parents took us to historical sites every vacation—battlefields, historic houses, Colonial Williamsburg, English castles. I’ve been fascinated with the past ever since.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have a favorite place to sit down and write? Outside? A writing desk, perhaps?

Deborah Harkness: Airplanes. My second favorite place is hotel rooms. I tend to be easily distracted when I write at home. And it’s much too sunny to write outside in southern California!

The Literary Connoisseur: Countries other than America are very common in your books... Where are some of your favorite places to see when you travel? 

Deborah Harkness: Whenever I’m traveling, I try to visit museums. I especially love art museums. When I was on Houston on book tour I was able to spend an hour there visiting their special exhibition on the English Country House. It was fantastic.

The Literary Connoisseur: You've recently been traveling for The Book of Life, your final book in the All Souls Trilogy. How has it been for you on the road so far? Are you having fun?

Deborah Harkness: I always have fun meeting readers, and talking with them about their experiences with the trilogy. I only wish I had ruby slippers so I could magically go from my hotel to the airplane with no hours of waiting in airports.  

The Literary Connoisseur: Which of your All Souls Trilogy characters has been the most fun to write so far? Diana? Matthew? Ysabeau? Marcus, perhaps? 

Deborah Harkness: Gallowglass is the most fun to write, without question. Miriam is pretty entertaining, too. I never know what she’s going to say next.

The Literary Connoisseur: Family is a key theme in your books. Please tell us about the importance of family when writing such beautiful stories. 

Deborah Harkness: My families are traditional families, in the sense that they are not about blood or marriage but include all the people you scoop up along the way who need some love and compassion and a soft place to land. You hear a lot of misinformed commentary on “traditional” families these days. Historically speaking, families have always been blended and they’ve never been limited to blood relatives. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Now that you've finished writing the All Souls Trilogy, what would you say you're going to miss about Diana and Matthew the most? 

Deborah Harkness: Everything. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you planning on taking a long vacation after your book tour is over? Or is a "staycation" more on your "to do" list? 

Deborah Harkness: No vacations for me! I am touring for most of the autumn, and then am back in the classroom in January. Next summer I’ll be out promoting the paperback. So additional travel doesn’t seem very attractive as a leisure pursuit!

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have your next writing project all planned out? If so, would you like to give your readers a hint as to what they'll be reading about in the future? 

Deborah Harkness: I’m deliberately not making any future plans at the moment. After the paperback tour, when I’m back in the classroom for fall semester 2015, I’ll begin to think about it. Until then, I’m just going to focus on recharging my creative batteries.

Deborah's Books:

A Discovery of Witches

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.
For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.
Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

Book                               ebook

Shadow of Night

A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.
Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.
Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past.

Book                                ebook

The Book of Life

 After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

Book                               ebook

About the Author

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and have lived in western Massachusetts, the Chicago area, Northern California, upstate New York, and Southern California. In other words, I’ve lived in three out of five time zones in the US! I’ve also lived in the United Kingdom in the cities of Oxford and London.
For the past twenty-eight years I’ve been a student and scholar of history, and received degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Davis. During that time I researched the history of magic and science in Europe, especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. The libraries I’ve worked in include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the All Souls College Library at Oxford, the British Library, London’s Guildhall Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library—proving that I know my way around a card catalogue or the computerized equivalent. These experiences have given me a deep and abiding love of libraries and a deep respect for librarians. Currently, I teach European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
My previous books include two works of non-fiction: John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature(Cambridge University Press, 1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (Yale University Press, 2007). It has been my privilege to receive fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Humanities Center. And I was honored to receive accolades for my historical work from the History of Science Society, the North American Conference on British Studies, and the Longman’s/History Today Prize Committee.
In 2006, I took up my keyboard and entered the world of blogging and Twitter. My wine blog, Good Wine Under $20, is an online record of my search for the best, most affordable wines. These efforts have been applauded by the American Wine Blog Awards, Saveur.comWine & Spirits magazine, and Food & Wine magazine. My wine writing has also appeared on the website Serious Eats and in Wine & Spirits magazine.
My career in fiction began in September 2008 when I began to wonder “if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?” A Discovery of Witches is the unexpected answer to that question. The book debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and was also a bestseller in the UK, France, and Germany. Thirty-eight foreign editions and translations will be published. The story of Diana and Matthew continues in Shadow of Night(published in 2012, it debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  and coming on July 15, 2014, The Book of Life,  the third book of the All Souls Trilogy.

For more on Deborah Harkness, check out her website here!

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