Before there was Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, former Southern US weightlifter Charlaine Harris
created three characters: Sookie Stackhouse, Bill Compton and Eric Northman. Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries series was borrowed by Alan Ball and has since become the basis for HBO’s True Blood
. If this wasn’t impressive enough, Charlaine continues to write the series today at the ripe ol' age of 60 without the aid of ‘V’, and this weekend you can meet the woman behind your slightly abnormal erotica vampire fantasies as part Tru Blood 2
. We recently chatted with Sookie Stackhouse’s ‘maker’ about how she became a supernatural sensei, what she thinks of the HBO series and if she’s ever tasted Tru Blood.
Lisa Marie Corso:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be writing supernatural fiction, in particular specialising in the world of vampires?
I was born in Mississippi, the poorest state in the union. My father was a school principal and my mother a librarian. I went to college in Memphis, Tennessee, and after a failed first marriage I married Hal, who gave me the opportunity to stay home to write full-time. That was 34 years ago, so it eventually worked out. I began writing conventional mysteries for many years, then decided to take a big break with what I'd been doing and write a cross-genre novel. At the time, that was only being done by one or two people, so it was quite hard for my agent to sell Dead Until Dark
. It was very successful right out of the gate. Actually, I feel that I'm writing more about Sookie, not the vampires.
What spurred the creation of The Southern Vampire Mysteries
and Bon Temps' Sookie Stackhouse?
I wanted to write about the problems of a young woman who was trying to date a vampire, and everything revolved around that scenario. The whole world came to life as I figured out why she would do such a thing.
The vampires featured in your series adopt more traditional vampiric tendencies (bound to darkness, can't eat food and need to be invited in before entering your home). What do you think about other vampire franchises such as The Vampire Diaries
, that divorce themselves from the vampire archetype and can ‘meet the sun’ without frying to death? I'm sure the Sanguinista wouldn't be opposed to this lifestyle, but isn't one the greatest things about a vampire's second life (as a viewer/reader) their lust for their sun and their inability to connect with it? Take this away and things could get kind of dull.
I am not going to point any fingers at writers who have found another way to use the vampire mythos. Obviously, there are plenty of people who enjoy the varying uses writers can find for vampires!
Who is your favourite character in the books and who is your favourite character in the HBO series and why?
Pam is fun to write, but I really don't have a favourite character. They are all mine, and come from my head. I feel closest to Sookie because I know her so well. I pretty much feel the same way about the television show.
Obviously your books and the television series story arcs diverge quite dramatically - for instance, Russell Edgington making the transition from book to screen as the perfect southern gentleman to Denis O'Hare as a thirsty, fairy psychopath. Are there any storylines in the books that haven't yet been explored by the television series, but you hope will be? And what are they? Or alternatively, what have been the best adaptations or leaps from the book that HBO has made in your opinion?
I try not to delve into the differences, because I don't want that to degenerate into implied criticism of Alan's choices, which is absolutely not the case. I enjoy the show as a separate entity from the books and I'm always interested in seeing where Alan is going.
What advice do you have for writers getting into supernatural fiction?
The same as for writers who want to write anything else. Read, read, read. Then shut yourself in a room and write. That's the simple version, but it's incredibly hard to do.
How much preparation goes into a series such as The Southern Vampire Mysteries
considering it's been written over the course of a decade? Has the story arc remained relatively the same from the beginning or do things come to you as you go?
No, I'm scrambling desperately to get it all together. I took so many detours, though I knew what the end would be. Book 13 is complete now, and there's no way it's going to have all the information in it to conclude your visit to Sookie's world. I'm doing the best I can.
, the second last installment of The Southern Vampire Mysteries
, was recently released with the final book, Dead Ever After
, due out early next year. Will your readers will be satisfied with the series finale? Can you reveal anything? What will become of 'Sook-eh' (as Bill passionately calls her)?
I certainly can't tell you. Really, I can't. I don't believe I could write an ending that would satisfy all my readers. I have to write the ending I've planned all along.
Completely serious, investigative journalistic question here: Have you tasted Tru Blood?! (The bottled merch version
and what did you think?)
Sure. I had it at the premiere of Season One, with a lot of alcohol in it. It was pretty good then. I've had the beverage minus alcohol since, and I thought it was a bit too sweet. It's not something I keep in my refrigerator.
Charlaine is appearing at Tru Blood 2: A Second Bite in Sydney and Melbourne, alongside stars of the TV show such as Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Michael Raymond-James (Rene Lenier), and Lindsey Haun (Sookie Stackhouse's cousin, Hadley Hale).
Lisa Marie Corso