by Lorie Ham
I interviewed horror/suspense author Charlaine Harris, well-known author of the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels upon which the HBO TV series True Blood is based, late last year. At that time her book, Grave Secret, which is from her other series published by Ace and Berkley, had just been released. That series features Harper Connelly. A Touch of Dead, a compilation of previously published Sookie Stackhouse stories, was later released on Oct. 6, 2009. True Blood is in the middle of its third season on HBO. For a list of all of Charlaine’s books, including the most recent Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead In The Family, visit her website.
KRL: Can you tell us a little about the new book, Grave Secret?
Charlaine: In this book, Harper finds out the truth about her family.
KRL: When did your first book come out?
Charlaine: My first book was published 26 years ago, and it was a mystery titled Sweet and Deadly.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries?
Charlaine: I’ve written mysteries and urban fantasy.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your series? Tell me a little about the setting and main characters.
Charlaine: My Sookie Stackhouse series is set in northern Louisiana, which I picked because Anne Rice has southern Louisiana. The Harper Connelly books are a traveling series. Sookie is a telepathic waitress who dates a vampire. Harper has been struck by lightning and can detect the dead. She dates her “stepbrother.”
KRL: Are you writing any books other than these series now?
Charlaine: I’m thinking of doing a standalone.
KRL: What is the main reason you write?
Charlaine: Because it’s the only thing I can do well.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Charlaine: I have an agenda.
KRL: Do you follow a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Charlaine: I have a schedule. I write every morning from 8 to 11:30, then in the afternoon from 12:30 or 1:00 until 3:30.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in each book when you are writing it?
Charlaine: I don’t outline, but I’m not proud of that. I use Post-It notes and a spiral bound notebook to keep track, plus I have a couple of ardent readers I can email; they know the books better than I do.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Charlaine: I’m writing at the perfect time of day for me.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Charlaine: I was taking a creative writing class the one year we lived in St. Louis. The woman who taught the class was Shannon Ravenel, who’d just finished working at Houghton Mifflin. She’s just retired from her position at Algonquin Press now. She recommended what I wrote in the class to a colleague at Houghton Mifflin, and HM published the book.
KRL: Wow, that’s awesome! What kind of promotion do you find most affective?
Charlaine: If you have the right temperament for it, I think meeting people in person — readers, bookstore workers, publicists — can be very effective.
KRL: What’s your most interesting book-signing story, in a bookstore or other venue.
Charlaine: Probably at a big chain bookstore in Metairie when it re-opened after Katrina.
KRL: That must have been incredible. What do you think has made this series so popular?
Charlaine: I hope the Sookie books are popular at least in part because they’re well-written. And I think they touch on a lot of themes that readers can identify with.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Charlaine: I’m always trying to write a better book.
Charlaine: My mother is a hero of mine. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends, whose quick action saved her family from death.
KRL: Those are great heroes. What person you would most like to meet dead or alive?
Charlaine: Possibly, you should rephrase that? I have an image of shaking hands with a corpse. I’d like to meet — oh, gosh — Shirley Jackson.
KRL: LOL, now I have a visual of that as well. What do you read?
Charlaine: I read a lot, and I read a wide variety of books: urban fantasy, mystery, science fiction, a little romance, a little non-fiction.
KRL: What are your hobbies?
Charlaine: Well, reading. I don’t do too much besides read and write nowadays.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Charlaine: True Blood, of course. I also like Project Runway and Lost. Dexter too. I just saw Area 9 and thought it was really refreshingly different.
KRL: I keep wanting to try Dexter. Do you have any pets?
Charlaine: Three dogs and a goose.
KRL: Wow, I think you are our first goose owner. Family?
Charlaine: A husband, two sons, and a daughter.
KRL: What part of the country/world do you live in?
Charlaine: The South.
KRL: That must make research easier. Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Charlaine: Read as much as you can and then sit down and write. There’s no one correct way to do this.
KRL: Can you tell us a little about how True Blood the TV show came about?
Charlaine: Alan Ball’s agent approached my agent and, after some thought, I accepted his offer over the others I had on the table.
KRL: How are you involved, how much control do you have, and how do you feel about the show?
Charlaine: I’m not involved at all, though I’m in touch with Alan and his staff many times a year, especially during the season. I put my books in the right hands, so I didn’t mind surrendering control. I love the show.
KRL: How does it differ from the books?
Charlaine: True Blood is different in several ways. The books are told from the first person, which obviously won’t work for the screen, so the other characters are far more developed in Alan’s world.
KRL: Are you excited about how popular it has become?
Charlaine: Of course I’m excited.
KRL: How has this changed your life and your writing?
Charlaine: It’s changed my life quite a lot; my writing, not so much.
Thanks so much for joining us here at Kings River Life, Charlaine!
Watch for a review of True Blood in August.