“My intention was to anchor the vampire world to the prosaic world of humanity. I thought that would make a great contrast, and it’s the source of a lot of fun to me.” -Charlaine Harris

New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris is no stranger to mystery, or the process of creating worlds.  With a career in writing that’s spanned over thirty years, she’s given us so many characters who — fantastic as they may seem — are ultimately grounded in true, raw, human nature; it’s impossible not to feel invested in their stories. 

Through Sookie Stackhouse, the focus of “The Southern Vampire Mysteries”, we’ve not only seen the darker side of the things that go ‘bump in the night’, but of humanity itself.  Prejudice, politics, oppression and corruption are all themes Charlaine has brilliantly explored, while still expanding her own passionate mythology involving witches, vampires, werewolves and fairies — to name a few.  Knowing Charlaine’s work, it isn’t surprising at all to see that Alan Ball, creator of the hit HBO show Six Feet Under, has brought her characters to life through the immensely popular show True Blood.  When you write something so alive, it comes off the pages and lives.

DarkMedia was honored to sit down with Charlaine to discuss the end of Sookie’s story, how the publication of Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire” was a groundbreaking moment in the history of vampire fiction, and what it was like to see her characters on screen for the very first time.

As you come to the end of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, which will be ending in 2013 with the thirteenth book, do you think that will be a bittersweet moment, having been with Sookie for so long?

Yes, I know I’ll have conflicted feelings. Sookie and I have lived together for many years now, and slipping into her world is second nature.

Did you always plan to write thirteen books, or was it a number that evolved as the story unfolded and people fell in love with the series?

I don’t plan much of anything, unfortunately, but I could feel that her story was winding down, or at least my will to tell it. I had a contract through the 13th book, and though I’m sure Penguin would have extended it, that just felt right to me.

As writer who weaves such amazing tales around truly mythical and magical characters, how much of yourself, and your real-life experiences, do you put into your books? Is it all creating worlds, or can we find Charlaine somewhere between the lines?

I don’t think any writer can divorce herself from her work. Every character has some trace of me, and of course the world is constructed in a way that makes sense to me and interests me. So while I’m not the characters and don’t believe everything my characters espouse, you can definitely find bits of me all over.

In a previous interview, you’ve mentioned how much you like “unexpected endings”, such as the finale to the HBO series Six Feet Under. If you don’t mind the question, would you say the ending of The Southern Vampire Mysteries will be something your readers aren’t expecting? Do you hope to surprise them with the way it all turns out?

That’s a tricky question, because after so many books in the series my readers have developed widely divergent opinions about what will constitute a surprise. I’m writing the ending I’d always planned, and I’m sure some of them will not expect it.

You’ve said what an incredible influence Anne Rice has had on you. How deeply have The Vampire Chronicles influenced you as a writer of vampire fiction? Are there any other genre authors you’ve found similarly inspiring?

Certainly. I’ve enjoyed and been energized by Laurell K. Hamilton, Barbara Hambly, Nancy Collins, Tanya Huff, and many others. Every writer brings something a little different to the vampire table, and I enjoy all the different uses these creatures of the night can serve. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was certainly a ground-breaking work, and I don’t think its influence can be underestimated.

How do you feel about having a similarly significant impact on future writers of the vampire genre? What advice would you give to them?

I still have a hard time thinking about that. I’d give them the same advice I’d give writers of any other genre: after you read and read and read, you have to shut yourself in a room, put your butt in the chair, and write. All the planning and plotting in the world won’t help you if you skip that essential step. And good luck.

You’ve created such an incredible atmosphere of “vampire politics” — from an internal vampire hierarchy, to the way in which vampires attempt to integrate into society — beginning with “The Great Revelation”. Among so many other stories that ignore these kinds of real, practical issues, it grounds your vampires in a world that’s shockingly plausible. In a way, it brings the fantasy that much closer to reality. Can you tell us a little about how and why you decided to explore this aspect of the vampire world in your novels?

My intention was to anchor the vampire world to the prosaic world of humanity. I thought that would make a great contrast, and it’s the source of a lot of fun to me. Sookie’s an insider, but also an outsider, in both worlds, because of her unique gift, so her insight is what gives the books their spark. As I thought of the vampire world, a hierarchy made sense to me; if the vampires had made the decision to “come out,’ that meant there was a structure to their world. It also made sense that not all vampires would agree with this decision. The world evolved from these basic premises.

The wildly popular HBO series True Blood, based on your Sookie Stackhouse novels, has taken a few turns from what you originally wrote. In what ways has Alan Ball surprised you? Are there any aspects of your novels, or characters, you wished they would have included or focused on a little differently?

Alan surprises me all the time, and I’m always entertained by the places he goes. I don’t compare the novels to the TV show any longer. His talented writers are going their own way, as I knew they would. I’d be bored if they were following the books slavishly, and as it is, TRUE BLOOD is a constant surprise.

What was it like to see your characters on screen for the first time?

Shocking, delightful, exciting . . . it was an amazing experience.

Who is your favorite non-vampire genre author? Are you reading anything right now?

I read all the time, and I seldom read vampire novels now. I just finished Duane Swierczynski’s FUN AND GAMES, and before that I read Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

How much research do you do on the folklore and history behind the non-human characters and magical elements to your stories? Do these things influence you as you write your stories, or do you prefer to make your own rules?

I do some basic research. It’s not extensive, because I want to feel free to use mythical creatures in the way I need them to work, rather than restrain myself with tradition.

How has your role as an editor made you a better writer?

I think wearing a different hat can be valuable. When I’m editing an anthology with my buddy Toni L.P. Kelner, it’s important to understand what the submitting writer is doing and to spot the weak points in his/her approach. Every story can be strengthened. It’s seldom we get a story that we deem perfect the first time we see it. I hope this experience is helping me spot the weak points in my own work.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us. It really is an incredible honor to interview you. What are you working on right now? Are there any new or upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?

I’m working on a graphic novel with Christopher Golden, called CEMETERY GIRL. It’ll be out next year.


Charlaine Harris is featured on DarkMediaCity, a free social network for those who like it Dark.  Whether it be literature or film, music or art, horror or sci-fi, paranormal romance or paranormal investigation, we’ve got something for you.

To learn more about Charlaine and her work, please visit her official website.

Exclusive Giveaway from DarkMedia! From now until December 15, 2011, RSVP “yes” here, and you could win a SIGNED copy of  the latest installment in The Southern Vampire Mysteries, DEAD RECKONING.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission, excepting links to the interview.)

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  1. Dark Media Interviews Charlaine Harris | ERIC AND SOOKIE LOVERS - November 17, 2011

    […] You can read the entire interview here! […]

  2. Dark Media City Interview with Charlaine Harris « House of Vampires - November 17, 2011

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