Coming to Town: Deborah Harkness for The Book of Life, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

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Coming to Town: Deborah Harkness for The Book of Life, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

Posted on 2014-07-22 at 19:8 by montsamu

Deborah Harkness was at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books on Saturday as part of her ongoing tour for The Book of Life, the highly-anticipated final installment of the bestselling All Souls Trilogy which began with A Discovery of Witches.  The sequel Shadow of Night debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and in total, over one million copies have been sold in the States with publications following in 38 countries. While we couldn’t have this interview for you prior to her reading and signing, Quail Ridge Books still has signed copies in stock, and for those elsewhere in the country, she still has tour stops in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Houston, Austin, Denver, and Scottsdale, before heading to Canada, Amsterdam, and the United Kingdom.


The Book of Life picks up right where Shadow of Night left off. After traveling through time, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, otherwise known as the Book of Life. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they re­unite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception—ready to face old enemies. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the Book of Life and its miss­ing pages takes on even more urgency. In the tril­ogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and forbidden 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.”

Interview by Sharon Stogner

SS: The last book in your All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life, released July 15. This trilogy had to be an epic undertaking. Are you going to sit back and enjoy some time off or jump right back into another series?

DH: As a matter of fact I’m going to finish up with the book tour and go straight into the classroom for spring semester! I do need a bit of a rest, too, before I commit to another project. All I can say is I have many more stories to tell and look forward to telling them.

SS: What made you want to include a romance in the All Souls Trilogy? Was that aspect harder to write than the other elements of the story?

DH: Romance is all about desire and curiosity and searching so it fit well into this particular book. We all could use a bit more romance and mystery in our lives, I think. It reminds us to be in the moment and to savor every bit of our experience. Of course the All Souls Trilogy is more about relationships than romance. I didn’t find the handling of relationships any more or less difficult than any other aspect of the story.

SS: There has been interest in adapting the All Souls Trilogy into a movie or TV. Do you think one medium would do the story justice more than the other?

DH: I think the real issue isn’t the medium but the perspective of the creative team interested in bringing the books to the screen—large or small. The trilogy is very much character driven, so there would have to be a commitment to that approach to make it work.

SS: With your love of history and libraries you must have visited countless libraries in your travels. Do you have a favorite one?

DH: Whatever library is helping me at the moment is my favorite, and I honestly have never been in a library where the staff was not superb. The list of libraries I’ve worked in is long—the British Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the Clark Library, various Oxford and Cambridge college libraries. There is a very special place in my heart for the Bodleian Library and for the Mount Holyoke College library, however, because I had my first research experiences as an undergraduate in those places. The Mt. Holyoke Library and the Bodleian made me a historian.

SS: We are so happy to have you stopping in NC during your book tour. Is there anything you would love to see or eat here if time permitted? Just so you know, we are very proud of our BBQ.

DH: I know—and deservedly so! I was a fellow at the National Humanities Center and am well acquainted with the BBQ of the area! I also have a soft spot for Mama Dip’s fried chicken in Chapel Hill, the shrimp grits at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, and the cream puffs at Guglhupf in Durham.

SS: This is one of my favorite questions to ask authors, if you could own any piece of art in the world what would it be?

DH: Duke Humfrey’s reading room in the Bodleian Library. The whole thing—books, art, architecture, and the amazing staff. That would be a treasure worth having!


Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Her publications include works on the history of science, magic, and alchemy.  Her most recent scholarly book is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She lives in Los Angeles.


Sharon Stogner is the co-creator of the quirky multi-media reviews and interviews site I Smell Sheep and a freelance editor though her Devil in the Details Editing Services. A stay at home mom for a 12 year old daughter and an 18 year old daughter (who will be going off to college in 2014) and married for 21 years, she has a BS in Biology from UNC Chapel Hill and a Masters in Microbiology from NCSU. She and her family currently live in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area of NC.

Posted in Coming to Town | Tagged deborah harkness, quail ridge books, sharon stogner