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Kathryn Harrison's critically acclaimed first novel, Thicker Than Water (Random House, 1991), was a gripping story of incest, fatal illness and emotional deprivation. Her second novel, Exposure, just out from Random, was called "harrowing but spellbinding" in a PW boxed review (Fiction Forecasts, Nov. 30); the plot features methedrine abuse, compulsive shoplifting and parental neglect. When a former colleague from her days as an associate editor at Viking learned that Harrison's third novel would invoke the Spanish Inquisition and its aftermath, he wailed, "Oh, fine, another happy little book from Kathryn!"
In person Harrison, 32, is anything but bleak. Her favorite color and most of her attire may be black, but vivid purple socks break up the slender dark line of clothing from shoulder to foot. She laughs easily and talks with her hands. When she meets with PW in Brooklyn at her Park Slope brownstone, three-year-old daughter Sarah and eight-month-old son Walker contentedly share their mother's limelight.
Her husband, Colin Harrison, is a senior editor at Harper's magazine; they met at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1986. He is also a novelist: his first book was Break and Enter (Crown, 1990), and his second, a corporate thriller called Bodies Electric, earned a star in PW's Feb. 22 issue. Kathryn says of their relationship: "People often ask, leaning forward with a look to invite confession, 'So, what's it like to have two writers in the household?' They imagine, I guess, that we're two fragile, bloated egos, each shredding the other's manuscript pages and sabotaging the rival's word processor. Actually, we're very supportive of each other. It helps that our talents and the sorts of books we write are quite different."
In Exposure (a BOMC selection), she has written a very different book …