Bump In The Night: Hamilton talks "Anita Blake"

It's been more than a decade since author Laurell K. Hamilton introduced readers to the vampire hunter Anita Blake in her 1993 novel "Guilty Pleasures." And now, thanks to Dabel Brothers Productions and Marvel Comics, Anita's exploits are being adapted to the comic form. Hamilton spoke with CBR News about the upcoming adaptation.

"The original idea was that [Anita] was just going to raise the dead for a living, pun intended," Hamilton told CBR News. Anita does just that in the employ of Animator's Inc., a St. Louis based company that will raise the dead for the right price.

"But when she first came alive as a character, it just seemed like that wasn't going to have enough toys to keep me interested in a long-tem series," Hamilton said. This led to the creation of Anita Blake's world, a world in which the existence of vampires, werewolves and all manner of creatures that go bump in the night is not only common knowledge, but the monsters in question also enjoy the same rights as all legal citizens - as long as they follow the rules. Since incarceration is nigh impossible, vampires who exist outside the law are at the mercy of licensed vampire executioners, like Anita. "You have to get a warrant of execution, but once you do, you pretty much have carte blanche as to how to do it." As if that wasn't enough, Anita also serves as a police consultant on preternatural crime.

Though not penning the comics scripts herself, Hamilton has worked closely with writer Stacie M. Ritchie and artist Brett Booth every step of the way. "Stacie is doing a really wonderful job," Hamilton said. "She has paid me the compliment of saying that it's very easy to take my book and turn it into a script because it's very visual and very dialogue intensive."

Of all the artists Hamilton was presented with, Brett Booth seemed to have "a closer feel" for what she wanted. As far as collaboration with artists, Hamilton has found over the years that she prefers a hands-off approach. "It seems like every time an artist sits down with me and gets lots of details, the only reason we're having to do that is because our vision is very, very different." In Brett Booth's case, Hamilton could tell from his earliest sketches that he had a good handle on the material.

"It has been very, very helpful having a husband who's a comic book geek," Hamilton said. "I have a great deal of trouble seeing the script and visualizing it with the pencil sketches, and seeing how they match and how they go together. I needed a guy to explain how it's going to look."

Hamilton was not a comics fan growing up, but her husband Jonathan reintroduced her to comics within the past few years. "I had no idea how broad the comic world was. It just wasn't at all what I remembered from when I was much, much younger," Hamilton said.

She cited her own personal favorites as Dork Storm Press' "PS-238" and "Dork Tower." She tends to stay away from the darker, more adult comics, because when she gets a break from writing, the last thing she wants to do is read something that reminds her of what she's working on. Hamilton admits to a passing interest in superhero stories, though her only foray into that genre was the tongue-in-cheek Captain Housework who appeared in the 1995 anthology, "Heroes" (not to be confused with NBC's prime-time drama of the same name).

"I'm sorry," she said, "how many times in your lifetime do you really need somebody to leap a tall building, or be able to stop a meteorite strike on the Earth? But you always need to have your house clean."

Hamilton is no stranger to writing as a collaborative effort: She's been a member of a writing group called the "Alternate Historians" for the past 20 years. "When we first got together, we didn't have any sales to our names," Hamilton said. Now, between the seven of them, they've published some 60-odd books and an untold number of short stories. The group members help keep each other motivated. "Somewhere in the middle of a book, every writer I know, almost without exception, loses faith in the book," Hamilton said. "If every writer gave up at that point, there'd be no books. I love what I do, but it is not an easy business."

Currently hard at work on book 15 in the Anita Blake series, Hamilton sees no end in sight. "After all this time of playing with these imaginary friends, I still enjoy sitting down at my desk and going, 'Okay, guys, what have you been doing while I've been gone?' These characters still speak to me very strongly, and I can't imagine having a year go by without sitting down for at least one Anita book."

Even though Anita Blake lives in a fantastic world, Hamilton always strives to keep her stories as grounded in reality as possible. "When you're writing about vampires, zombies, ghouls and werewolves, you better make sure your everyday, real-life stuff is as real as you can make it, because you're asking the reader to believe fantastic things."

Hamilton is excited that the introduction of a strong female character to comics in the person of Anita Blake is attracting a lot more female readers to the medium. Across the country, comic store proprietors are saying "they've seen more women in the comic book stores in the last few months asking about this comic book than they've seen in years." And she hopes that the comic will in turn raise awareness about the novels.

For aspiring writers, Hamilton had this to say. The author is commonly asked, "When did you become a professional writer?" And Hamilton's answer is always the same: "When I got my first rejection slip," she said. "It's not about the successes, it's about when you first put yourself out there, and were willing to let people see your stuff and go, 'Eh, I don't think so.' That's when you become a professional writer."

The first issue of "Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter in Guilty Pleasures" hits stands on October 18th. And fans of the series will be happy to know that the second and third installments of the Anita Blake saga, "The Laughing Corpse" and "Circus of the Damned" are already slated for adaptation as well.

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