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Charlaine Harris Interview & Bibliography

True Blood / Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series (in reading order)

Anthologies: Charlaine Harris is also an editor of (and a contributor to)

LoveVampires Interview With Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris on Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris I was born in the Mississippi Delta. My father was a farmer who became a teacher and then a principal, and my mother was a librarian. Reading was the primary pastime in our house, which gave me an invaluable background. I had a very stable childhood and upbringing. Eventually, I attended Rhodes College in Memphis. I've been married for almost thirty years, and we have three children.

Charlaine Harris on Sookie Stackhouse

Sookie is a great character; I love writing her. She's very brave and very loyal, though sometimes she doesn't think things through very well. She's a reader, though she doesn't have much formal education. She struggles to do the right thing, though sometimes she has a hard time figuring out what the right thing is. Sookie's a hard worker and a church goer. She keeps her house clean and orderly and she pays her bills on time. Unfortunately, from time to time she has to kill someone.

You were already an established crime writer (Lily Bard Mysteries and Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series) before you wrote the first Southern Vampire novel. Had there always been a fantasy author inside you fighting to get out?

I'd always thought of myself as a mystery writer. I believed the fantasy and science fiction I read were just to cleanse my palate for more mysteries. Then when I reached a critical point in my career, I thought of turning that around, and I was very nervous about it. But it worked.

Was the change from writing crime to writing fantasy an easy one to make? What were the biggest challenges and obstacles that you faced in making the switch?

Dead Until Daed Cover PictureThe change as a writer was relatively easy. The change as a marketable writer was much harder. DEAD UNTIL DARK was turned down more often than any other book I've written, because it wasn't what editors expected of me and they couldn't figure out how to market it. Some editors were actually pretty insulting about the book.

When you first started writing DEAD UNTIL DARK did you ever expect that the series would achieve the commercial popularity that it has now?

Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever anticipate this.

The Sookie Stackhouse books are currently being turned into a HBO TV series called "True Blood". How much creative control, or input, have you had on the production decisions?

In a way a lot, since the series really is based on the books. And in a way none, since I'm not writing the scripts and I don't want to. That's the way it should be. Television is a completely different medium with its own requirements. So, though as I've said, the series is based on the books, there will be differences - some trivial, some significant. Luckily, with Alan Ball in charge, I know "True Blood" will be wonderful.

With the eighth Sookie novel, FROM DEAD TO WORSE, due out in May 2008 can you give us a clue about what readers can expect for Sookie to do/face next?

From Dead To Worse by Charlaine HarrisCover PictureAhhhhh . . . no. I don't know myself. Of course I have a few ideas, and I'm almost halfway through the next book, but there are so many loose ends to deal with and so many byways I could explore.

You have been contracted to write 10 Sookie books, would you see the series ending at 10 or would you like to write more?

I'll write Sookie until I feel I'm letting her down, or until I get tired of the series.

A recent article in Publishers Weekly stated vampires had had their day (or night) and that 2008 is shaping up to be the year of the zombie - do you think that zombies can replace vampires in the contemporary fantasy pecking order?

I have no idea. I have read some zombie books that I thought were great, and some that were dreck, just like the vampire genre. I don't write to catch onto the next wave. I write what I want to write, what I'm interested in at the moment. I knew when the paranormal romance/urban fantasy field began to be flooded that sooner or later there'd be a backlash. I can only hope that I'll be left standing after the tide goes out.

Why do you think that people have such an enduring interest in vampires?

Eternal life.

Which authors or novels have had the most influence on your own writing style?

Dead To The World by Charlaine Harris Cover PictureOn my early writing, definitely Elizabeth Peters. Her mysteries proved to me that light-hearted books could be excellently and intelligently written. Since then, there've been so many. There are many writers I admire intensely (among them people as diverse as Shirley Jackson, Barbara Pym, Lee Child, and Robert Crais) who don't remotely have a bearing on my work, and yet in some way they've probably influenced me.

Your latest series, the Harper Connelly Mysteries, blends some aspects of the paranormal with straight murder mystery - do you ever see yourself going back to writing non-fantasy crime mysteries? Or for that matter, writing further/different novels in the fantasy genre?

It's possible I'd write another crime novel with no fantasy elements, but not in the near future. I've already written a novella that's a sort of spinoff from the Sookie series, about the two female bodyguards that appear in ALL TOGETHER DEAD. It'll appear in a three-in-one book called MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS, but I don't have a pub date for it yet.

You are the co-editor of MANY BLOODY RETURNS, a collection of short stories on the diverse subjects of vampires and birthdays; the vampire angle is obvious, but why pick birthdays?

Toni and I didn't want an anthology of vampire stories. That was simply too broad. We wanted a theme. The fun of a themed anthology is that you get to see how every writer takes the idea and goes in a completely different direction. When the stories start coming in, every day is like Christmas (which is a whole different anthology, WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE, coming out in October).

How does being an editor (of an anthology) differ from being a contributing writer? Will you be editing any more vampire anthologies?

Many Bloody Returns Cover PictureBeing an editor is very different from simply sending in your story and depositing your check. It's a lot of responsibility; fun responsibility, but still it's serious work. And it requires a certain measure of tact and judgement. That's why it's great to have Toni L.P. Kelner sharing the load; we can check with each other to make sure we're not missing something, and we can confirm our opinions of the stories we edit. We take the job very seriously. Our next anthology, the one I mentioned earlier, is about werewolves and Christmas.

Who is your favourite fictional vampire and why?

Gosh . . . so many to pick from. I think Don Simon Ysidro from Barbara Hambly's two excellent vampire books, THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT and TRAVELLING WITH THE DEAD. Barbara is a fabulously talented writer who can write well in any genre, and Don Simon is unforgettable.

A big "thank-you" to Charlaine Harris for taking part in the author interview. In addition to writing the Sookie Stackhouse books, Charlaine Harris is also the author of Harper Connelly paranormal mysteries, Aurora Teagarden mysteries and the Lily Bard/Shakespeare mysteries. More information about Charlaine's novels can be found on Charlaine's website.
30th April 2008

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