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 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.

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 clich├ęs…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. :)

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?

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!

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