Monday, May 4, 2009

Charlaine Harris's Vampire Empire : Q&A with the Wall Street Journal

The author releases her latest book in the bestselling Sookie Stackhouse vampire series -- the inspiration behind HBO's hit show, 'True Blood'

In Charlaine Harris's new novel, "Dead and Gone," she again puts her good-natured, telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse in harm's way. That's saying a lot in a town where vampires, werewolves and other suspicious characters drink together at the same bar.

Charlaine Harris

Vampires, at least those imagined by such writers as Stephenie Meyer, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Anne Rice, have emerged as one of the most popular genres in American fiction in recent years. Ms. Harris's Southern Gothic Sookie Stackhouse books have also been big sellers, boosted by the HBO series "True Blood" that debuted at last fall and had an average viewership of 2 million, according to Nielsen Co. A second season, which again stars Anna Paquin, is scheduled to start June 14. The show was created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay for "American Beauty" and later served as executive producer for HBO's "Six Feet Under."

Ace Books, an imprint of Pearson Plc's Penguin Group (USA), says it has issued 400,000 copies of "Dead and Gone" -- and that there are more than 8 million copies of the nine-book Sookie Stackhouse series in print.

Ms. Harris, 57 years old, has written nearly 30 novels, including three other mystery series. She lives in Magnolia, Ark., where she says there aren't any supernatural creatures "that I know of."

The Wall Street Journal: What accounts for the fascination with vampires in this country?

Charlaine Harris: America is obsessed with youth. We all want to look young forever, and vampires do. They are caught in their prime, if that's when they've been turned. And they'll be that way forever.

WSJ: How did the HBO "True Blood" series come about?

Ms. Harris: Somebody had an earlier option on the Sookie books, but it didn't come to anything. Most writers go through this once or twice in their careers. When that option expired, I had three more offers. One was from Alan Ball, who convinced me that he understood what I was doing with the books. If I wanted the spirits of the books represented as I'd written them, he said, his was the offer I should take. And I've been so happy with the choices he has made.

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