Deborah Harkness

Literary Birthday – 5 April – Deborah Harkness

Happy Birthday, Deborah Harkness, born 5 April 1965.


  1. I definitely see my historical work as a process of detection. Historians fit pieces of evidence together and hope that they eventually form a coherent picture. Often, a historian’s most compelling questions—and the most difficult to answer—concern personal motivations and why something happened the way it did. These are questions we have in common with detectives.
  2. Fiction is more like alchemy, though. You take a little of this, a little of that, combine it, and hope that something wonderful occurs so that your creation is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Novelists, like the alchemists of old, know that true creation takes time and patience, and that it’s likely you will have many disasters and failures before you achieve success.
  3. There were no vampires of note in Western literature until about the 18th century. But they tell us where we park our anxieties, whether its over-powerful women, death, or damnation. We make our own monsters.
  4. I’m a storyteller, and I have really good material to work with: I’ve been studying magic and the occult since about 1983.
  5. It is a blessing as well as a burden to love so much that you can hurt so badly when love is gone.
  6. I knew what some of the high points were and how the plot moved towards the conclusion, but there were some significant changes during the revision process. This was especially true for Shadow of Night, although most of those changes involved moving specific pieces of the plot forward or back to improve the momentum and flow.
  7. All that children need is love, a grown-up to take responsibility for them, and a soft place to land.
  8. A lot of our assumptions of the world are fairly cynical, fairly negative, and assume the worst. What our reading tastes show – in this rush to fantasy, romance, whatever – is that we actually still want to believe in a world of possibility, in a world of mystery.
  9. The strongest distinguishing characteristic of humans is their power of denial.
  10. ‘Say yes.’ The world is asking you to try new things, have fresh experiences, meet people, see foreign places, and learn things. Most of the time we say no. Say yes. Go for it. Try. Live. Dream. Refuse to be negative. Be generous with your own time and gifts. See what happens then.
  11. Just because something seems impossible doesn’t make it untrue.
  12. As fast as I can tell there are only two emotions that keep the world spinning year after year… One is fear. The other is desire.

Deborah Harkness  is an American scholar and novelist. She is best known as the author of best selling novels A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life.

Source for image: Author’s website Photo by © Scarlett Freund

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 5th April 2015