True Blood: An Interview with Charlaine Harris
Since the first appearance of Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark, readers have been addicted to this exciting and charming series set in the South. But that addiction has reached fever pitch with the debut of the new HBO series by Alan Ball, True Blood, based on Harris's "Southern Vampire Mysteries" series. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to meet Harris briefly at a convention in New York, and found her to be down-to-earth, approachable, and generous to her fans.
I recently interviewed Harris about both her books and the TV series via email. She answered my questions "sitting in my office, which is across the carport from the main house. It was intended as a mother-in-law apartment. It's one large room with a bathroom and a big closet that used to be the tool shed; I had the outside door blocked and an inside door cut. It was an inadequate tool shed, anyway. My office is "decorated" with photos of New Orleans tomb art, the usual awards and stuff, and some incredible mementos. Plus, a picture of our three children, all beautiful and talented. Of course."
(Dead Until Dark, original cover and "True Blood" cover)
Amazon.com: Vampire novels have been around for a long time, obviously. It's a subject that takes particular ingenuity to make fresh. What do you think makes your books unique? And do you think of them as "vampire" novels, or something else?
Charlaine Harris: Hmmm. I think of them as adventure novels. Maybe the difference in my approach is the humor, and the fact that my protagonist has no increasing supernatural powers and has trouble paying her bills. (The telepathy? It's up in the air in the books as to where that came from.)
Amazon.com: What has surprised you about fan reaction to the books? Has that reaction made you see the books in a different way?
Charlaine Harris: I'm pleased, startled, and often taken aback by the intense fan involvement in Sookie's life and travails. That's pretty much what every writer hopes for, I think, but it's always kind of shocking when you get what you wish for. It's made me wonder how responsible I am for peoples' reaction to the material in the books.
Amazon.com: Which book is your own personal favorite, and why?
Charlaine Harris: Oooooh. Well, I like a few things very much in each book; every now and then I hit the goal I set for myself. Sometimes this extends to more of the book, rather than less.
Amazon.com: When you have a series like this, how do you stop inertia from setting in? How do you keep the books fresh for you as a writer?
Charlaine Harris: I have a large cast of characters, Sookie has a wide range of activities, and I kill people off regularly.
Amazon.com: I'm assuming you've seen the HBO series. How, in your opinion, does it differ from the books?
Charlaine Harris: There are lots of differences. The books are all told in the first person. The series can't be shot that way, for obvious reasons. So we're seeing the activities of some of the other characters that were never shown in the books. Sometimes, what they were off doing (while Sookie was front and center in my world) has really surprised me. And of course some characters have been changed to suit the needs of the show. I'm never bored when I'm watching "True Blood," because I really don't know what's going to happen.
Amazon.com: Has the HBO series given you any ideas for future books?
Charlaine Harris: I love the way "True Blood" LOOKS. It's incredibly rich visually. And I love Anna Paquin's little square-shouldered walk. But ideas for future books, no. There are some characters I'm increasing inclined not to kill because I know the actors! But I hope I can "woman up" and do the deed when it's time.
Amazon.com: Did you have a chance to meet with or talk to Alan Ball about adapting your books? What was it that drew him to your books in the first place?
Charlaine Harris: I did talk to Alan, though not exhaustively, about the books and what I intended when I wrote them. I knew after one conversation that he understood what I was doing, and that that was why he wanted to adapt the books: he too likes a mixture of blood, horror, humor, and romance.
Amazon.com: And, in closing: What are you excited about right now?
Charlaine Harris: I'm excited about my daughter graduating from high school in May.