Monday, December 31, 2012

How I got the idea for THE DEAD AND BURIED

The Dead and Buried releases officially tomorrow! So I thought now would be a good time to share how I got the idea.

Sometimes an entire book lands in your head in one daydreaming session. And sometimes a book comes together in pieces, over years and snippets written in your idea notebook. Clarity was the former. The Dead and Buried was the latter.

I always wanted to write a haunted house book. I’ve loved the genre since I was a little girl and it’s no coincidence that some of my favorite novels of all time are ghost classics. But the genre has been done to death. I didn’t want to rewrite the same story that had already been done. So I waited for inspiration, for a fresh spin. And it came to me in three parts.

1. One day I read an article in the real estate section about “stigmatized properties” (a.k.a. murder houses) and how they can be a bargain for families looking to trade up to a nice town or that dream house they always wanted. And I thought THERE IT IS. That fresh spin. My haunted house is not a traditional 100 year-old drafty monster. It’s a benevolent looking McMansion on a typical suburban street. And the ghost? She’ll be a fresh one. Someone who continues to affect the lives of the townspeople.

So now I had my house, but I still didn’t have a main character I wanted to play with.

2. Apart from any supernatural ideas, I’d also been interested in writing about, in a subtle way, the theme of educational inequality (resources in rich towns vs. poor towns) and the immense amount of competitive pressure many students find themselves under. Teen readers are very concerned about grades, homework, and college, but you don’t often find mention of this in paranormals. I wanted to include these themes in a book, but in an organic way. Not just plopped in for the sake of it.

One day, I was lunching with a friend. She grew up in a very rural area with a graduating high school class of under thirty kids. She’s brilliant and school was easy for her. Then she headed off to a highly competitive college where everyone was smart and driven like her, and it was a shock to the system. I thought…wow, creating a character with that background could help me play around with those ideas I wanted to include. But in what kind of book?

And then I thought…the ghost book.

My main character could be a fish out of water, taken from a town where school was easy to her and placed in a highly competitive high school full of academic pressures. How would her family afford to uproot themselves and move to this wealthy suburb? By purchasing a murder house, of course. One where the Queen Bee of the high school lived until her untimely death last year. And my little fish out of water, Jade, now finds herself in the dead girl’s house and school, surrounded by the dead girl’s old friends…and boyfriend.

3. The last piece was essential. I needed my main character’s motivation. Why would she care about this ghost girl? Why risk her life to investigate her death?

What happens on page 127 (my favorite scene in the book) was inspired by a real-life middle of the night scare with my son. I can’t go into details because it would spoil what I consider a big turning point in the book. But when it happened in real life, it had a non-supernatural reason. (After you read the scene, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.) Nonetheless, it FREAKED ME OUT. But a writer’s mind always plays the “what if” game. So I thought…what if it hadn’t been [harmless thing it really was]…what if it had been [thing that happens on page 127]?

And then I had my motivation.

Three ideas, spread across months of time, finally clicked together to create The Dead and Buried. So when people ask me how I came up with the book, I say, “It’s kind of a long story.” Sometimes you just have to wait for things to come together.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dead and Buried Contest

This contest is over. The winner is Lena!

So a few days ago I got my very own hardcover copy of The Dead and Buried in the mail, hot off the press!
And then I decided to VANDALIZE IT FOR YOU.

I did this with Clarity and people seemed to like the idea, so I’m doing it again. I spent the weekend re-reading the book and marking it up. It's now one of a kind and full of notes and secrets. Where character names came from. What scene was written last and for what reason. The true-life scary story behind that scene on page 127. What the original ending was before I changed it. And lots more. Now it's ready to be signed/personalized and mailed to one winner!

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below. However, you can earn additional entries by:

+1 tweeting this: Enter to win a signed/marked up hardcover of THE DEAD AND BURIED by @Kim_Harrington! Please RT!

+1 sharing a link to this blog post on your Facebook

+1 adding The Dead and Buried to your Goodreads shelf

+4 writing about this contest on your blog

Please let me know everything you did in your comment so I’ll know how many points to assign to you! Giveaway ends Sunday, 12/16/12. International is fine. I'll choose a winner from

Thanks! :)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Teaser #2

THE DEAD AND BURIED has started to come in stock early in a few places! *dances*

As promised, here's teaser #2:

     The air held a mixture of almost-nauseous foreboding and palpable excitement. A few kids backed away, shaking their heads. But even more stepped forward, eyes wide with anticipation.
     “No, you don’t mess with those things,” a guy said, pointing at the Ouija board like it was on fire. “My grandmother told me stories. Those things can open doorways.”
     “It’s made from Hasbro,” Faye snapped. “Grow a pair.”

For the first teaser, click here

If you'd like to order or pre-order the book, you can do that here:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Clare vs Jade

The title makes it sound like this is a main character smack-down. But it's not. It's about leaving someone behind...and learning someone new.

The Dead and Buried was the first book I wrote after Clarity and Perception. (The Sleuth or Dare books, even though they came out first, were actually written after The Dead and Buried). In my first draft, I had a hard time letting Clare’s voice go. Jade would slip into Clare now and then, and I had to get a handle on how to make Jade's voice her very own. So, to fix it, I intentionally made Jade very different from Clare.

And I’m not talking just superficially. Yes, they look different. Have different families (and troubles). Have different interests. But I’m talking more about who they are inside.

When we meet Clare at the start of Clarity, she’s already strong. She’s snarky, tough, and defensive (because she has to be). When we meet Jade, she’s extremely non-confrontational and more, um, kind. (I feel bad, like I’m calling Clare unkind. She’s not. She’s just…Clare.) They’re both funny. Though Clare’s humor is often at the expense of others while Jade’s is more self-deprecating. But the biggest difference to me, is that while Clare is brave from the start, Jade has to become brave.

And what do they have in common? They both have family that they will do anything to protect.

Once I found Jade’s voice, I loved her, and she became real to me. I miss Clare. I always will. But the two of them have become my children in that I love them equally.

And I hope you will too!

I can’t wait for you to meet Jade. She’s waiting…not long now. :)

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Dead and Buried Reviews

I'm delighted with Publishers Weekly's review of The Dead and Buried and happy to share it with you guys!

Having moved from rural western Massachusetts to an upscale Boston suburb, 17-year-old Jade Kelley thinks her biggest problems will be making new friends and putting up with her stepmother. She didn’t count on being haunted by the ghost of Kayla, the popular mean girl who died in Jade’s new house under suspicious circumstances earlier in the year (that’s why the house was a steal). Jade ends up in the middle of a romantic triangle with two boys tied to the dead teen, but the real race is to figure out what really happened to Kayla before the impatient and vengeful ghost takes out her anger on Jade’s family. As she did in Clarity and Perception, Harrington continues to demonstrate her gift for threading paranormal elements into thrilling mysteries—haunted old estates are a dime a dozen, but there’s something especially creepy about ghosts lingering in suburban cul-de-sacs and McMansions. Harrington’s crisp prose, humor, and fluid storytelling serve the mystery well, and coded diary entries from the deceased Kayla let readers play detective along with Jade.

Kirkus also gave it a great review, calling it "spine-chilling" and "lively and fast-paced." Kirkus says readers "will keep trying to guess the real murderer until the final pages. Downright, satisfyingly creepy."


Also, don't forget to read the first teaser from the book, posted here on the blog yesterday, and come back every Sunday until release for a new teaser.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Dead and Buried Teaser #1

THE DEAD AND BURIED will be out in less than a month! *happy flails*

I'm going to post a teaser every Sunday until release and here's #1:

     An icy breeze traveled past me, slightly lifting my hair. I glanced at the window. It was closed. But there was definitely a draft coming in from somewhere. Goose bumps rose on my skin, but I couldn’t stop now. I felt something urging me on. 
     My shaky fingers opened the folder. The feeling in the room changed slightly, from anticipation to satisfaction, as I saw the paper on top. The title, DISCLOSURE STATEMENT, glared up at me in all caps. Exactly what that girl Faye had told me to look for. 
     And there, at the bottom, was what she had wanted me to find. 
     Death by unnatural causes. 
     I was living in a murder house.

What do you think? I'm so excited for this book to be out in the world!

Here's a tip. If you know that you want THE DEAD AND BURIED, please pre-order it from your favorite bookstore. That way, the book will be waiting for you on release day (most likely before then). No wasted trips, no disappointments. It just takes one quick phone call or online order. And it really, really helps.

Here are links to store finders to help you get the phone number to your favorite store:

Or here are links to pre-order online:

Thank you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tropes and the Unexpected

Last week, I blogged about how I think "The Walking Dead" does an amazing job subverting tropes. Today I’m sharing how I attempted to do the same while writing The Dead and Buried.

Sonia Gensler did a post a while back on “Bulletproof Kinks.” Which isn’t as dirty as it sounds. It actually just refers to any kind of plot, setting, character, etc. that you are consistently drawn to. For me, it’s always been haunted houses. When I was a little girl, if there was a ghost story in the Scholastic Book Club flyer, that would be the book I wanted. The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were awesome for me because almost every publisher had a horror line in mass market paperback and they were churning those things out like crazy. I spent all my babysitting cash on haunted house books. And even now, whenever I see a book about a ghost or haunting, I’m like HERE’S MY WALLET. TAKE MY MONEY, BOOKSTORE.

So obviously I’ve always wanted to write my own haunted house book. But the problem is, when you’ve read that many, every idea seems like it’s been done to death. There’s only so much you can do with a ghost story. I wanted to put my own spin on it. So I made a conscious effort to take a look at haunted house tropes and clichés…and turn them on their heads.


1. The house itself. When you think “haunted house,” you think of a big, scary looking home. Probably old. Maybe isolated. Maybe even with hidden staircases and rooms behind bookcases. I love reading about those houses. But I didn’t want to write one. I thought…what if my haunted house was…ordinary? What if it was a typical new-ish McMansion in a well-to-do suburb? A house you can picture yourself in. A house you might actually live in. A house that feels familiar. A hundred-year-old Victorian haunted by a ghost is expected. The supernatural disturbing a new colonial? Unexpected.

2. The ghost. Many haunted houses have old ghosts. Spirits that have driven out occupants for years and years. A legend old townspeople whisper about. So I made mine a fresh death. A girl who died only months before. A girl whose effect on others is still seen and felt.

3. Is the house haunted? Another trope has the reader wondering, sometimes for the entire length of the novel, whether or not the house is actually haunted. (Example: The Turn of the Screw. Sidenote: I’ve read two YA retellings of The Turn of the Screw this year and, really, I could read one of these a month. I love them. I want MOAR TURN OF THE SCREW RETELLINGS.) Again, as much as I love to read books like this, I didn’t want to write one. Whether or not the house is haunted is not my plot. I made it straight-up obvious that the ghost is real from a certain scene on and that’s where my book morphs from ghost story to murder mystery.

4. Just leave, dude! How many times have you read a haunted house book or watched a movie and thought, DUDE JUST LEAVE! GET OUT! Yeah, me too. So I needed to have a reason for my main character to stay and “no one believes me” isn’t good enough. There has to be something more. So I gave her a big, huge motivation. It’s a spoiler, so I won’t tell you what that reason is. But it was key to creating the book.

Lastly, I also worked hard on character tropes and bringing out the unexpected in seemingly familiar characters. But I can’t give you specifics because, well, spoiler city. I just hope you enjoy the read. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To The People Who Suck

This post is for any writer who thinks he or she sucks. Unpublished, self-published, mid-list published, mega-successfully published, there’s something we all have in common: Suck Days.

A friend of mine who’s trying NaNoWriMo told me the biggest obstacle she has right now is self-doubt and how it must be nice for me to be beyond that.

*cue maniacal laughter*

Here’s my writing history.

1 – unpublished
2 – never to be seen
3 – agented, but never sold
4 – Clarity
5 – Perception
6 – Sleuth or Dare #1
7 – Sleuth or Dare #2
8 – Sleuth or Dare #3
9 – The Dead and Buried
10 – secret
11 – my current work-in-progress

Eleven books. Do you know what they all have in common? While writing each one of them, I had days where I thought I WAS THE WORST WRITER IN THE WORLD AND I SHOULD JUST QUIT AND HIDE MY SUCKY WRITER HEAD IN SHAME.

It never goes away. Actually, I’m having one of these days today.

Granted, not every day is a Suck Day. Some days are Rainbows of Glitter Days when you’re high on writer euphoria. Most days are somewhere in between. And the causes run the gamut.

Suck Day Causes:
- I didn’t write.
- I didn’t write enough.
- The scene I wrote didn’t work.
- I’m stuck and don’t know what comes next.
- I got a bad review sent to me and chose to read it. (I don’t go searching for these.)
- Something disappointing happened on the publishing end. (Bad sales, book rejected, got a cover you don’t like, etc.)
- The jealousy monster decided to come out and play. (Why is that author getting all the marketing/conferences/love/shiny things.)

Rainbows of Glitter Days:
- I wrote a lot and feel like the book’s working, and I know what comes next.
- I got a fan letter/email that really touched me.
- I got a great review. (I don’t go searching, but I’m happy when someone sends me these.)
- Something good happened on the publishing end. (Exciting marketing news, got a cover you love, happy-making email from your editor, etc.)
- The jealousy monster stayed in the closet where he belongs.

Notice that many of these reasons are shared. Somewhere out there, a first-time writer and a multi-published NYT bestseller are both having Suck Days because they hate the scene they just wrote and they know they have to delete it and start over. Hundreds of writers are having Suck Days. Right now. Apart, but together. It’s something we have in common. Published and unpublished. Adult literary, middle grade sci-fi, erotica, picture books. Every writer I know is her own worst critic.

But here’s the thing. I’m not going to talk you out of it. I’m going to suggest that maybe thinking we suck is not such a bad thing. Maybe that inner voice that tells us YOU ARE THE WORST is what drives us to make each project better than the last. To fix that scene. To work harder. To improve.

So here’s to the people who suck.

I’m one of them. Join the club.

In the comments:
What do you think?
Do you have more causes for Suck Days and Rainbows of Glitter Days?
What do you do to get out of a Suck Day funk?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Foreign Covers

I always update the Book Covers album on my Facebook page with foreign covers as soon as I get them, but today I thought I'd share a few here, too.

This is CLARITY in the UK. I adore this cover. It came out from Scholastic UK this past summer.

And here's the sequel! PERCEPTION, coming from Scholastic UK on March 4th, 2013.

My standalone, THE DEAD AND BURIED, will also be making the trip across the pond! Scholastic UK will release it in October 2013 under the title THE KILLING OF KAYLA SLOANE. Check out this amazing cover!

CLARITY released in Germany this month. The title translates to I SEE YOUR SECRET.

And here are the French covers of CLARITY and PERCEPTION (already released).

Which foreign cover is your favorite?

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Dead and Buried Giveaway & New Cover Alert!

The Dead and Buried comes out three months from today! Yay! I’m so excited for my new baby to head out into the world. It’s part murder mystery, part ghost story, with a dash of romance, and new characters that I hope you’ll adore as much as I do. (For the official summary and some hot blurb action, click here.) To celebrate, I’m having a giveaway. But before we get to that…I’m also sharing its new cover. Yes, as sometimes happens in publishing for marketing/sales reasons, The Dead and Buried has been given a fancy new cover. (This will be for the hardcover releasing January 1st, 2013. The ARC will have the old cover.)

You ready?

Here we go…

(clicky clicky for bigger size)

I think it’s stunning and eye catching! Feel free to post it on your blog, FB, or anywhere you like. (I would really love this—share, share, share!)

Now, back to the contest. I’m giving away a signed ARC, a $10 iTunes gift card to go along with my ghostly playlist, and a Jade necklace (which will mean a lot more after you read the book). Cool, right?


All you have to do to enter is post a comment below.

However, you can get additional entries for:
+1 tweeting this: RT @Kim_Harrington THE DEAD AND BURIED Giveaway & New Cover: Please RT!
+1 “liking” me on Facebook.
+1 sharing a link to this blog post on your Facebook (or you can just hit the share button at the bottom of this post).
+5 featuring the new cover in a post on your blog

Please let me know everything you did in your comment so I’ll know how many points to assign to you!

The last day to enter is Sunday, 10/14/12. I’ll go through all the entries, use, and choose a winner on Monday, 10/15/12. International is okay!

You can add The Dead and Buried to your Goodreads shelf here.

And if you'd like to pre-order the hardcover, you can do that now and I will love you forever!
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Thanks and good luck!

Friday, May 25, 2012

In which I get nostalgic about Star Wars

Thirty-five years ago today, "Star Wars: Episode IV" opened in theaters.

I don’t remember the first time I saw "Episode IV," though my parents did take me to see it in the theater. I was only two or three so the memory didn’t stick. But one of my clearest childhood memories was seeing "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back." Dad said we were going into Boston to see it. That was exciting in and of itself. Most movies, we saw at the theater at the mall. We only went into Boston for the important ones. The theater had long, red velvet drapes, and I remember thinking it was so fancy. And when the movie started and the drapes opened, I was awed. The music, the characters, the world—all of it—was so epic. I didn’t know how to read yet, so as the backstory scrolled on the screen my dad whispered the words into my ear. I barely understood them. Rebel forces? Imperial Starfleet? All I knew was that this was AWESOME. And to this day I can point to the original Star Wars trilogy as a huge influence on my creative life.

Let’s talk Princess Leia. Here was a princess…a PRINCESS…who was also a rebel. She was tough and smart. She took charge when she needed to. She was sarcastic and always ready with a funny comeback. She had long brown hair like me. I WANTED TO BE HER SO BAD.

Darth Vader, man. DARTH VADER. My favorite villain of all time. He was fascinating. Why the suit? Why the breathing? Why is he so angry? And, people can say what they want about the new trilogy, but—Jar Jar aside—I enjoy those movies, too. They’re necessary because they show Anakin’s full story. His ultimate redemption in "Episode VI" is more meaningful after watching his descent into the dark side.

"Star Wars" was also my first experience with fandom. I collected all the figurines and played "Star Wars" constantly—by myself, with kids in the neighborhood, etc. My dad bought "Episode IV" on 8mm, and I watched it over and over on a cheap pull-down screen in my musty basement. I dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween. Many years later, all grown up, buzz about "Episode I" started to hit. I went to the theater to see a movie I didn’t care about just so I could watch "Episode I's" preview on the big screen. When the music cued up, the theater exploded with cheers. And when I saw that line "Every saga has a beginning...," tears filled my eyes. TEARS. I saw all three movies on opening night. Even "Attack of the Clones," when I was about to give birth in two weeks. Uncomfortable and enormous, I sat on the ground waiting in line and needed two people to help me up. I theorized with friends over who is the true Chosen One: Anakin or Luke. (My answer: Anakin. I will argue to the death over this.)

Generations & Family:
Though family, secrets, identity are all big themes in the films, here I’m talking about real families. One of my happiest moments in life was introducing "Star Wars" to my son at age five. (Original trilogy first, of course.) And all of a sudden I found myself playing with "Star Wars" figurines, having light saber battles in the yard, all these same things I did at that age. I didn't grow up with the cool things his generation has—Xbox, Internet, cell phones, etc. But here—"Star Wars"—this was something that hadn’t changed. It was something our childhoods actually had in common. A passed down, shared experience.

I only hope my grandchild in 2040 is a fan, too.

Happy Birthday, Star Wars.
May the force be with you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's time! It's time! *dances* I can finally share all the details about my next YA release. It's a standalone. It's coming out in January 2013 from Scholastic/Point. And I love the cover so much that I screamed and clapped when I saw it.





(clicky clicky to make bigger)

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school -- until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?

"Deliciously spooky and ridiculously fun, THE DEAD AND BURIED reminded me why Kim Harrington is one of my favorite authors." – Rachel Hawkins, NYT Bestselling Author of Hex Hall

"A perfect blend of mystery, horror and romance. THE DEAD AND BURIED both terrifies and seduces. I gasped at the scary parts and cried buckets at the end - I loved it!" – Sophie Jordan, NYT Bestselling Author of Firelight

"Look out Mary Downing Hahn. I've not been this spooked since Wait Till Helen Comes. Kim Harrington skillfully blends the uncertainty of moving to a new town and figuring out how to fit in with dead on humor, sweet romance, and spooky spectres. THE DEAD AND BURIED is a perfect, classical ghost story with a decidedly modern feel. I adored it." – Myra McEntire, Hourglass and Timepiece

"THE DEAD AND BURIED is a clever, fast-paced thriller that grips from first page to last. Jade Kelley is a formidable heroine who attacks problems with intelligence and sheer force of will. The tangible paranormal menace, tangle of clues and suspects, and delicious undercurrent of romantic tension all work to make this novel impossible to put down." – Sonia Gensler, The Revenant

“Kim Harrington has crafted a deliciously eerie mystery that kept me guessing from the first line to the last.” – Leigh Fallon, Carrier of the Mark

I AM SO EXCITED! I had a lot of fun writing this book. And I love the cover LIKE WHOA. It's spooky and mysterious. It says, THIS IS A HAUNTED HOUSE BOOK, YO. No confusion. And it's also one of those covers that ties in very well with the book. When you read it, you'll understand why.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments!
You can add The Dead And Buried to your Goodreads shelf here.

Contest is closed. Winners: Lena, bookittyblog, Jennifer @ Bawdy

And to celebrate, I'm doing a giveaway! Spread the cover far and wide and you could win a signed book from me–Clarity, Perception, Sleuth or Dare #1, Sleuth or Dare #2, or the French Clarity. Whichever one you want! Three winners! Anywhere in the world.

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below. However, you can get additional entries for:

+1 tweeting this: RT @Kim_Harrington THE DEAD AND BURIED Reveal & Giveaway! Please RT!
+1 adding The Dead And Buried to your Goodreads shelf.
+1 sharing a link to this blog post on Facebook (or you can just hit the share button at the bottom of this post).
+1 sharing the cover on Tumblr
+8 featuring The Dead And Buried on your blog (Waiting on Wednesday or something like that)

Please let me know everything you did in your comment so I’ll know how many points to assign to you!

The last day to enter is Tuesday, 6/5/12. I’ll go through all the entries, use, and announce the winners here on Wednesday, 6/6/12. Thanks!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why I Wrote Sleuth or Dare

Well, it’s not why I wrote the series. I write because when I don’t my brain gets itchy, but that’s a whole other post. I’m specifically talking about why I created the characters of Norah and Darcy. And that’s kind of personal.

When I set out to write Sleuth or Dare, my middle grade mystery series, I thought about myself at age 10 and what kind of book I would’ve wanted to read. Growing up, I was a voracious reader and loved anything suspenseful or spooky. But I was also very interested in math and science. To be blunt, I was a nerd. And, despite the many books I read, it was hard for me to find characters that reminded me of myself.

Let's get to know ten-year-old Kim, using my old copy of My Book About Me by Dr. Seuss that my parents kept all these years.
My penmanship wasn't spectacular, but I practiced!

Ah, irony. It's not that I didn't like writing. I didn't like writing in school. They wanted me to write a theme about how I spent my summer vacation, and I wanted to make up stories about monsters and psycho killers. But, yes, I loved math.

I was also, apparently, a liar. I had not traveled 100,000,000,000 miles by plane. But lying came in handy with the whole writing thing. 

So that's who I was. Now that I’m a grown-up and a parent, I’m very sensitive to gender stereotypes. I think everyone has a few THINGS that make their heads EXPLODE. For me, it’s the message that math and science are for boys. Like the “I’m too pretty to do homework” T-shirt debacle or the doll who complained “Math class is tough” when her string was pulled. This is my head when I see these things:
Photo credit: Mr. Masterson

So when creating the heroines of my Sleuth or Dare books, I knew right away who they would be.

My main characters, Norah and Darcy, are nerds and proud of it. They excel in math and science. They have their own interests and hobbies that they unapologetically geek out over. Norah’s biggest aspiration isn’t to become one of the popular girls. It’s to be an astronomer. In her spare time, she stargazes through her telescope and checks her favorite astronomy blog. And Darcy is a tech guru and spy gadget lover. They work together to solve mysteries for their detective agency, Partners in Crime.

When people ask me what message I want kids to get from my books, I like to say that I write only to entertain. But, if I’m honest, I’m also writing for myself. For that ten-year-old nerd who had trouble finding herself in a book. If kids, especially girls, take anything away from Sleuth or Dare, I want it to be that they are awesome. They can accomplish anything they set their minds to. And that nerds…are heroes.
Ten-year-old Kim with her glittery purple sweater, purple corduroys, and purple glasses says HI!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sleuth or Dare #1: Partners in Crime Releases Today!

Sleuth or Dare #1: Partners in Crime is officially out in bookstores today! *throws confetti*
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon


When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it's a perfect fit.

But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it's up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there's someone else out there who doesn't want the two detectives stirring up any trouble....

With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time?

This book is the first in a series of three. Sleuth or Dare #2: Sleepover Stakeout comes out 6/1/12 and Sleuth or Dare #3: Framed & Dangerous releases on 7/1/12. These are middle grade books for ages 8-12. They have mystery, suspense, humor, and friendship drama, and I love them LIKE WHOA. More details on why they're so close to my heart to come in a separate post.

But right now, to celebrate #1 being released into the wild, I'm giving away TWO signed finished copies. Enter below and thanks so much for passing on the word about my new series!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fun with the news

So last year I did a post about getting book ideas from various places, including news stories. Now I'm in the mood to play again. I’m not going to use any of these. I just like to show how you can play the “what if” game with daily headlines. So let’s get some book ideas from the news!

These are all stories from today only!

Attack of the Killer Fungi
Summary: A killer fungus is posing a rising threat and worrying scientists. It is killing amphibians, bats, sea turtles, coral, and bee colonies. And it's threatening humans by attacking crops.

Ideas: Okay, clearly we have the beginning of an apocalyptic novel here, or the backstory of a dystopian. You could also have an environmental thriller if a government/crazy scientist created the fungus on purpose and the “good guys” are in a race to find a way to stop it before it spreads. Or even a military/terrorism thriller. These are always more interesting when the basis is true science.

Newborn Alive After Being Declared Dead
Summary: A newborn baby in Argentina was found alive in the morgue 12 hours after being declared dead.

Okay, there are lots of directions you can take with this one.

Paranormal/horror: The baby is a (changeling/vampire/something new), but the parents see only a miracle. Or the mother made a “deal” to save her baby, but as the baby grows up the child is evil/taken back/etc.

Contemporary: A morgue worker has always wanted a baby of her own. She lives a lonely life, she’s gone past childbearing age, and has given up hope. But then one day she hears a cry. A baby the doctors had declared dead is actually alive. She could walk right out with it and no one would ever know the baby had lived. She could raise the baby as her own...

Suspense: The contemporary story above except the mother always felt in her heart that her baby hadn’t died. And one day she sees a child who looks just like her younger self. She begins to research that day in the hospital and realizes her baby may be alive after all…

Author's Fictional Titan
Summary: Fourteen years before the Titanic sank, an author wrote a novella about a ship named Titan that was hailed unsinkable, but sank after striking an iceberg in mid-April.

This has been played with before in various ways (Early Edition, Stranger Than Fiction) but immediately some ideas come to mind.

Paranormal: A writer predicts the future in his books. First, only small events. Then one day he writes about (big scary incident). No one believes him except (the ex-wife he still loves/the best friend he knows will die/a beautiful rogue cop/etc.). And together they must figure out if the future can be changed and how.

Horror: A writer who can make things happen by first writing them takes revenge on his enemies. The death scenes could be really creative!

You could even do a contemporary spin on this for a comedy or romance.

British Man Allegedly Fathered 600 children Through Sperm Bank Donations.
First, eww. Now, on to some ideas.

Contemporary: There are many tales here—search for siblings, true love thwarted by unintended incest (eww, but hey, just brainstorming).

Sci-Fi/Horror: What if unintended incest caused a gene mutation?

Paranormal: The man had a “gift” (paranormal being, psychic ability) that was now spreading through his broad fathering of children.

I just wrote this post up in about ten minutes after reading the morning news, so clearly most of the ideas are crap. But I think it's a great game. It stretches the writer muscle and gets the creative juices flowing. I recommend it. Read the news and let your writer brain have some fun!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Writer’s (Not So) Small Choices Part 2

Today we’re continuing our exploration of the (not so) small choices a writer makes in developing characters. Yesterday, we focused on names. Today…appearances!

I did not give Clare long, red, beautiful curls because I wanted a stunning redheaded model to be on the cover of my book. Though that was a pretty side effect. No, the reason I gave Clarity red hair was because she’s a girl who wants to blend into the background, so I had to make her stand out in every way. She’s the town psychic, the freak, the one others point at and whisper about. So I wanted her to attract attention physically, too. And it helps that her fiery red hair matches her equally fierce temperament.

For the rest of the Fern family, I could’ve had Clare look like her missing father and Perry look like their mother. But it served my purposes in the story to have it the other way around. Perry, a young man who looks just like his father, is a constant reminder to Starla of her long-gone husband. And Starla, looking like an older version of her daughter, makes Clare think about her own future and whether she wants to be giving readings to tourists thirty years from now. The characters' looks add to their internal conflicts.

I put a great deal of thought into a character's appearance. Before we really get to know a character, what makes them tick and motivates them, we generally get that first glimpse, just like in real life. You see someone and you form your first impression. That first impression is probably way off, but when writing, you need to lead the reader in the right general direction.

How my characters look is a sneak peek at what makes them tick. For instance, in CARRIER OF THE MARK, I gave Rían slightly long, unruly hair, he has dark eyes that burn into you, he always has his motorcycle helmet and leather jacket. His protective clothing sort of emulate his desire to protect the world from his power, while also using them as a screen to hide his more vulnerable side from the world.

Dawn Metcalf, LUMINOUS
I was very clear on what Consuela looked like in this world and in the world of the Flow. She was short, fat and curvaceous with a wide, broad smile and dark skin. Early descriptions of her were that she had "cantaloupe breasts" and a "big, bubble butt" that she flaunted in the changing room mirror. As a skeleton, I wanted her to be beautiful and not scary, which is why her bones were pearly and almost hypnotic, glowing and luminescent. I thought about it being a slightly pinkish mother-of-pearl or abalone sheen. She wasn't a Halloween prop, she was the Lady of the Dead ala Dia de los Muertos: beautiful and powerful and otherworldly.

Brigid Kemmerer, STORM: Book 1 of the Elemental Series
Hunter, one of the male leads from STORM, has a white streak in his hair that's natural. I totally got the idea from a girl I went to high school with who had a birthmark on her head, which led to a naturally different colored streak through her blond hair.

Leah Cypess, MISTWOOD
In the original version of MISTWOOD, Isabel's hair was brown. I chose brown deliberately, because it seems like a neutral, unremarkable color, and contrasted so well with the blond color she chose to shift her hair into when she wanted to make an impression. But then somewhere between revisions 3 and 4, I was talking to my editor, and she said, "Oh, we've found a picture for the cover, and the girl has reddish-brown hair. I don't think it matters, because Isabel's a shapeshifter, but if you want you could change the color of her hair throughout."

I thought it mattered, and I did go and change her hair color. But it wasn't as simple as search-and-replace, because auburn is a more specific color than brown; whenever I used it, I felt it drew attention more than "brown" had. As a result, I removed the color description from Isabel's hair in many places, so that it wouldn't feel overemphasized. And also because, in at least one place, I felt it would be a too-significant clue to a crucial plot point. (Those who have read the book might be able to guess what I'm talking about; it's on page 248.)

I loved collecting these writer secrets and I hoped you enjoyed reading them! Share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Writer’s (Not So) Small Choices

Have you ever wondered why an author chose a particular character name? Or why that character is short/tall/blonde/freckled? Today and tomorrow, you can take a peek into the writer's mind. (It's not that scary of a place.) We're focusing on the (not so) small choices a writer makes when developing their characters. The things that may seem simple on the outside—like the color of a character’s hair—that were actually a conscious choice we spent a bit of time on!

Today, we’re spilling secrets on character names.

The surname Fern was deliberately chosen. I wanted my main character’s last name to be short and punchy—like her. I went with Fern because, like the plant, she looks delicate but is actually quite hardy.

Part of the Ferns’ family dynamic is that Starla, the mother, leans toward the strange and her kids sometimes just want to be normal. So it made sense to me that Starla would give them unusual first names, and they’d just go by more “normal” nicknames. The boy was always Periwinkle “Perry” Fern. I worked backward with this one. I picked the nickname first—Perry—and searched for an unusual name that could be a longer version of that. My main character, however, was originally called Andromeda “Andie” Fern. ("Andromeda" because I’m an astronomy buff and I like the name. "Andie" because I think it's a girl's name that's both cute and tough at the same time.) But with a title change came a name change to Clarity and Clare was a natural nickname for that. And now I can’t imagine her as anyone else.

Dawn Metcalf, LUMINOUS
I deliberately choose a lot of character names (and nicknames) that reflect not only something about the character's "character" but also a hint about their purpose in the story. In LUMINOUS, I always wanted to use the Spanish name "Consuela," which means "solace" or "comfort," something very much in tune with her character and role in both of her worlds, and her last name was changed from "Bones" to "Chavez," which means "keys," fitting nicely with her ability to walk between worlds.

"Tender" was a fun play on words since he was about as "tender" as a ball of spikes, and "Sissy" wasn't very confident in herself, but her last name--Gardner--hinted at her guardianship responsibilities that she took seriously. I wanted Wish to personify hope and longing and occupy a somewhat lesser status vis-a-vis Tender, which is why his last name is "Squires." And while Joseph Crow could really become a crow, I didn't actually choose his name for that reason; it was more to do with his tribe and its importance and it conveniently made his initials "J.C." which was more than a little hint about what were my bigger plans for his character.

Jenny O'Connell, RICH BOYS
I love the name Winnie, but that's not why I chose Winnie for the main character's name in RICH BOYS. Winnie is actually short for Winifred, which sounds so old-fashioned and mature (and hopefully demonstrates that we all have to grow up and deal with adult issues). Naturally her friends and family call her Winnie. But... when she meets Jay he asks what her real name is. And she asks him what his is (nobody is really named Jay, right?). Turns out Jay's "real" name is Herbert James Barclay III. It's a family name, she learns, and she also quickly gets why he goes by Jay. He is equally understanding about Winifred. From then on Winnie and Jay call each other Fred and Herb. It's only something they do in private, and not something they share with anyone else. I liked the idea of these two very different people sharing nicknames for one another, and that it shows they have a sense of humor and intimacy with each other that they don't share with anyone else.

Leah Cypess, MISTWOOD
When I got my first revision letter for MISTWOOD, one of the first things my editor said was, "You have to change the names of a lot of the male characters." These were the names in the version I sent her: Dykan, Damin, Krigan, Kaer. You see the problem. I'm not entirely sure how I didn't see the problem, but trust me, this is just one of the reasons writers need editors.

So I set out to make up new names. Since I write fantasy, I get to choose names based entirely on how they sound. I start out with the letter I want the character's name to start with. That part usually comes to me pretty easily (though obviously, sometimes my instinct will go bonkers and fixate on the letters "d" and "k"). Then I fill a page, or sometimes more than a page, with a string of syllable-combinations starting with that letter. Some sound more right to me than others, and lead me in the direction I want to go, and finally I come up with a few that sound best. I then go away from my list for at least a few hours, and when I come back, it's pretty clear to me which of the fantasy names I've invented fit which character. Which is how I came up with: Owain, Ven, Albin, Kaer. Much better, no?

When it came to naming my MC in CARRIER OF THE MARK, Megan was the first one I thought of. Firstly, it’s my daughters name and I love using family names in my books. Secondly, it’s a name that crosses borders in the English speaking world, readily known by all, kind of girl-next-doorish. So, while Megan would struggle with all the Irish names around her, all her new schoolmates wouldn’t bat an eyelid at hers. It subtly compounds the duck out of water feeling that sets the scene at the beginning of Carrier.

Sonia Gensler, THE REVENANT
Many have asked how I chose names for the Cherokee characters in THE REVENANT, and people seem particularly intrigued by Eli Sevenstar. It's a pretty awesome name, isn't it? Well, I didn't just make it up. During my research I was fortunate to discover school catalogs from 1896 for the Cherokee Female and Male Seminaries. These catalogs listed the names of each enrolled student from the seniors all the way down to the primary department, as well as almunae dating back to before the Civil War. What a wealth of wonderful and historically/culturally appropriate names! I could mix and match, confident that at one time or another there really was a seminary student with that first or last name. As you might imagine, Sevenstar jumped out at me right away. It was mysterious and alluring, just like the character. I chose Eli for his first name because it seemed more accessible and down-to-earth. (Did I just make a pun?) Now I can't imagine him with any other name, and it's my favorite name for any character I've created so far.

Brigid Kemmerer, STORM: Book 1 of the Elemental Series
I have four brothers in my story, named Michael, Gabriel, Nicholas, and Christopher. My husband's name is Michael, and my son's name is Nicholas. A lot of people think I named the characters after people in my family. They're wrong. I first wrote about these four brothers back when I was in high school, and these are the same four names they had then. One of my favorite male names is Michael, and I always swore I would marry a man named Michael. (Sheer luck, I swear.) When I got pregnant with my first son, I wanted to name him Christopher (the lead character in my first book), but Christopher Kemmerer just has too many -ers going on. So my first son was named Nicholas.

Fascinating, right? Share your thoughts in the comments and check back tomorrow for insights into character appearances!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Perception: Behind the Scenes

No Spoilers! In this post, I’ll talk a bit about the creation of Perception, but don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet. There will be no spoilers. Also, please no spoilers in the comments.

Reminder: The Perception Mega Giveaway is still going on! Check it out!

(Imagine that VH1’s Behind the Music theme is playing now.) Presenting…Perception: Behind the Scenes!

On themes:
The theme of Clarity is family loyalty and the two sides of that protective instinct. Similarly, the theme of Perception is consequences. Everything that happens in Perception is a result of the events of Clarity. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to read Clarity first, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of the characters if you do.

On change:
I didn’t want Clarity to be one of those series where Crazy! Things! Happen! and then the next book picks up where that left off but the characters haven’t changed at all. I mean, catching a killer and nearly getting killed in the process has got have an effect on a person. What that effect is…now that’s something you can play with. But there have to be consequences.

On trauma:
I was also interested in the idea that two people can go through a similar traumatic experience and react in completely different ways. In writing the book, I played with this in an obvious way and in a subtler one.

Other insider info:
- Mallory’s last name is a hat tip to one of my all-time favorite hockey players.

- Perry’s struggle in this book is, in part, taken from past personal experience. Though I won’t discuss it other than that one sentence there. :)

- One of the challenges of writing a sequel is reintroducing the characters in an interesting way, using your main character’s voice rather than a boring info dump. My favorite character reintroduction in Perception is the third paragraph on page 16.

- My favorite scenes to write are Clare and Perry scenes.

- The short-cut Clare takes home from school was inspired by the short-cut I used to take back in the day. Yep, through the woods. And I used to listen to my Walkman (definition: early ‘90s iPod) and walk alone. Basically completely unaware of my surroundings. *facepalm*

I ran home twice. Once when a snake crossed my path and I jumped and stepped into a brook. That was a soggy afternoon. The second time was just like the opening pages of chapter 23. Which, in turn, inspired the cover of Perception. Which is all very weird for me to think about.

When I was a fourteen-year-old wannabe writer who ran home with her heart pounding, if you’d told me the experience I’d just had would one day help inspire a scene in a real book that would be published…I would’ve called you crazy. But there you go. Hold on to your memories. Especially the scary ones. They can all be inspiring.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Perception Release Contest

Perception is officially out in the world! *dances*

You can read more about Perception here.

You can buy Perception at your local independent bookstore or here:
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

If you’re in New England, consider attending one of my signings. If you can’t get to one of those, but would still like your book signed, you can get a bookplate!

And now, I'd like to thank you with a big ol' contest!

How to enter:

Buy Perception and forward your receipt (or a photo of your receipt) to me at And that's it, you're entered! Hardcover, e-book, international, pre-orders, they all count.

I've been collecting prizes for this contest here and there for...pretty much the whole year. There will be five winners. And here are the prize packs!

1. Dress like Clare
- A Fern Family Readings T-shirt. (There are only a handful of these in existence!)
- A Clarity bracelet. "Genuine Semi-Precious Gemstones, Snowflake Obsidian, for Clarity, compassion and strength."

2. Work like Clare
- The Psychic Box includes an "authentic" crystal ball, set of Zener cards, and a 336-page book on discovering your clairvoyant potential.
- Tiny Tarot tarot card set.
- Fortune Teller Miracle Fish
(I bought all the above at a woo woo store in Salem, MA.)

3. Live like Clare
- Bottle of Cape Cod Air
- Sailor Knot Bracelet
- Cape Cod themed sailboat coasters
(I bought all the above at cheesy tourist shops on the Cape.)

4. Listen like Clare
- A copy of the Perception playlist. (A list of songs I found inspiring during the writing process, what scene(s) in the book the songs apply to, and my thoughts on the song and how it fits in.)
- A $10 iTunes gift card to buy your favorites.

5. Read like Clare
- Hardcover of Abandon by Meg Cabot
- Hardcover of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
- A $20 gift card to your favorite bookstore!

Fun, right? Plus, all prize packs will also include signed bookmarks and bookplates.

Enter away, and please pass on the word about the contest. The last day to enter is 3/15/12. The winners will be chosen by on 3/16/12.

I truly appreciate everyone who has passed on the word about the book on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. Word of mouth is really the best, and I wish I could hug every one of you. (Except the ones who hate hugs. I'd give you fist bumps.) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And I hope you enjoy Perception!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Perception Reviews

Perception is officially out this week! People who pre-ordered have started to get their copies. It's...out there!
IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

So I thought I'd share some of the exciting reviews that have been coming in!

"...the believable characterizations, the suspense and the well-crafted plot twists score. A smart, paranormal mystery ride. – Kirkus Reviews

Clare “is a strong female lead who, throughout the story, gains confidence and depth. A fast-paced psy-chick mystery.” – School Library Journal

“Sometimes sequels are just okay. PERCEPTION, the follow up to CLARITY is anything but okay . . . it’s amazing, thrilling, an absolute run out and buy and read in the same day book. Chapter one grabs you and doesn’t let go until you’re finished.” – The Readiacs

“Perception is an exciting, fast paced read and one I highly recommend picking up. It's one fans of mystery, romance and realistic YA reads will enjoy.” – Mundie Moms

“Wow, can a book be perfect? Kim Harrington is back with a powerhouse of a sequel… Perception is a must read book for 2012.” – Justin’s Book Blog

“Perception is one of those rare sequels that blows the first book out of the water!” – Literary Exploration

“I loved this story! Harrington managed to keep me guessing till the end yet again and she always grabs my attention with those prologues! I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” – The Story Siren

“Ms. Harrington writes with a fluid grace, characters and events combining and conflicting with an ease that most likely defies the amount of time spent carefully crafting each sentence, and we find ourselves laughing, sighing, and holding our breath as we sit back and thoroughly enjoy the telling of a good story.” – Supernatural Snark

“Perception has only whet my appetite once again for this series. If you haven't read Clarity yet, now you have the opportunity to read both these great stories back to back soon!” – YA Librarian Tales

“I love this series! Perception was just as good as Clarity, if not better! From the characters to the storyline, it all blends wonderfully into an addictive read that I really enjoyed.” – The Reader Bee

“Perception is an immensely entertaining story, a captivating mystery and a thoroughly enjoyable one-sit-read. This incredibly fast-paced sequel, with characters that are exciting and either lovable, detestable or somewhere in between, is utterly engaging and has such an easy flow.” – Fiktshun

“This sequel to Clarity was another amazing murder mystery story that I could NOT put down! Kim Harrington will keep you guessing till the very end, and you'll still be laughing the entire time. I love this series!” – LC’s Adventures in Libraryland

“This is an amazing sequel! It had everything I wanted in the book and more. A great plot line, amazing characters and a stalker that makes your hair crawl.” – Books With Bite

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Perception ARC Giveaway

Perception comes out in less than TWO MONTHS! To celebrate, I’m parting with my Perception ARC. She’s been to various places with me and now she’ll go home with one of you.

It’s giveaway time! How does 20 winners sound?

One grand-prize winner will receive my Perception ARC (signed), some Clarity/Perception bookmarks (signed), the Perception playlist* that I’m not sharing publicly yet (because it’s spoilery), plus a $10 iTunes Gift Card in case you want to buy some of those songs.
*A list of songs I found inspiring during the writing process, what scene(s) in the book the songs apply to, and my thoughts on the song and how it fits in.

NINETEEN other winners will receive signed bookmarks and bookplates.

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below.

However, you can get additional entries for:
+1 tweeting this: RT @Kim_Harrington Signed PERCEPTION ARC & Swag Giveaway: Please RT!
+1 “liking” me on Facebook.
+1 sharing a link to this blog post on your Facebook (or you can just hit the share button at the bottom of this post).
+1 linking to this post on your blog
+5 putting my Perception widget (see it on the right) on your blog

Please let me know everything you did in your comment so I’ll know how many points to assign to you!

The last day to enter is Tuesday, 1/17/12. I’ll go through all the entries, use, and announce the winners here on Wednesday, 1/18/12. US only for this one. Sorry!

And check back because I’ll be having another big contest around 2/1/12 to celebrate Clarity’s paperback release. And the biggest contest will be on 3/1/12 to celebrate the release of Perception. (Hint: If you pre-order or purchase Perception, keep your receipt!)

Thanks and good luck!