Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness on A Discovery of Witches and the new book set in the All Souls universe

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Sep 18, 2018

If you haven’t heard of A Discovery of Witches by now, one might wonder what rock you’ve been living under. After all, it’s the hit first novel from the All Souls Trilogy, and it’s also now a UK television series which will be airing in the US on Shudder in the spring. The show stars Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode as main characters Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont in a forbidden love story between a witch and vampire trying to figure out their place in the world.

The series has a devoted fan following; it even has its own convention, All Souls Con. And, despite the last book in the trilogy, The Book of Life, coming out back in 2014, author Deborah Harkness isn’t finished with the universe. Today, September 18, readers will be treated to a new book, Time’s Convert, which revisits old favorite characters.

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It’s hard to call A Discovery of Witches anything but a resounding success. But for author Harkness, every moment with her fans is a gift. “It’s so moving for me that people like my imaginary friends!” she exclaimed in an interview with SYFY FANGRRLS. “I still show up at signings and hope that there will be someone there. So when there are hundreds of readers waiting, and they all love the characters and stories as much as I do, it’s a very humbling experience.”

The latest novel centers on Marcus, the vampire son of Matthew, and his own love story with Phoebe, a human who chooses to become a vampire. It not only fleshes out Marcus’s backstory, but it also moves the narrative of the universe forward, revisiting Matthew and Diana’s story. Marcus is a major character throughout the All Souls Trilogy, so focusing on him makes sense, but according to Harkness, it wasn’t really her decision to make him the subject of her next book. “It sounds a bit spooky, but really it was Marcus himself who decided,” she explained. “I have a lot of low-level character buzz in my brain all the time, and eventually one voice gets louder and I start focusing in on it to the exclusion of the others.”

As far as how it felt back to be in this uber-popular universe of her own creation? Harkness said, “It felt wonderful. After finishing The Book of Life I needed a bit of a break from the Bishops and de Clermonts. Honestly, I wasn’t sure when—or even if!—they would capture all of my attention again. It was lovely to revisit them a year after the events of the third book in the trilogy.”

But that’s not all that’s been occupying Harkness’s attention. She’s been working on the production of the A Discovery of Witches television series on Sky, the first episode of which aired in the UK on September 14. “I was deeply involved with the production, from the early days when I wrote the series overview document, to reading early script drafts, to casting, and on to the actual filming,” Harkness explained. “My role was advisory. I joke that, like the Queen of England, my power was limited and I was only asked to ‘advise, counsel, and warn.’ We had a superb cast and crew that did all the heavy lifting and brought their considerable talents to the project.”

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Image credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Fans have been waiting a long time to see the show, though in reality, Harkness points out it’s been a pretty quick process from book to screen. But she’s eager for fans to see their beloved characters on the TV. “I think I’m just excited to have readers see things they’ve imagined come to brilliant life! It has sometimes taken my breath away to see it, and I hope they feel the same.”

That can come with a lot of expectations, though. After all, people really do love these books. What if the TV show doesn’t measure up to their lofty hopes and dreams? Harkness hopes that readers will put aside pre-conceptions and give the show a chance. “It is, in my opinion, an absolutely superb television adaptation of the books—with the emphasis on adaptation,” she explained. “If you go into it expecting everything to be exactly the same as in the books, you aren’t going to have much fun. If, however, you tune in expecting a new perspective on a familiar story and cast of characters, you will truly enjoy it.”

And what about new viewers? After all, the popularity of the promo images of Matthew Goode as handsome vampire Matthew have certainly brought attention to the series. Readers have been picking up the books for the first time as they wait in anticipation for the show to come stateside in the spring. “For those who are new to the series, I say just sit back and enjoy the ride,” Harkness said. "It’s thrilling, romantic, and may make you wonder if your neighbor or co-worker just might be someone special. I’m absolutely thrilled by all the new readers in their 20s. They would have been young teens when the first book came out and their involvement with the story means the world to me.”

Really, all of the success of the All Souls Trilogy and Harkness’s incredible universe ties back to her chosen profession: teaching. “I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” she explained. “When I think of all the readers — and now viewers — who will be touched by the books it reminds me of what a privilege it is to be the custodian of this well-loved trilogy.”

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