Do vampires really exist? What really goes through the mind of Sookie Stackhouse? What makes a juicy sex scene? These were all questions we desperately wanted answered by Charlaine Harris. Who is Charlaine Harris? Only one of the greatest American mystery writers of our time. But, you probably know her specifically for bringing to birth one of the most intriguing yet endearing fictional characters of all time; Sookie Stackhouse. Not only are we die hard fans of the HBO series True Blood, which is based off of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, but we are also obsessive fans of her novels, desperately waiting for each new one to hit the bookshelves. Imagine our excitement to be able to actually interview Charlaine and find out what mysteries tick wickedly in that twisted lair of a mind. What we found was an honest to goodness, down home, wife and mother of three, who loves the craft of writing and storytelling and has had quite a success in the thirty years of her career. By the way, she just happens to be a New York Times bestselling author many times over.
Besides the Sookie Stackhouse novels, also known as the Southern Vampire Novels, she has written several other series and individual novels, all which can be found on her official website Charlaine Harris. I’m not really sure what we expected to find when interviewing her, maybe some smirks as her telepathy ran wild or china, bright fangs lurking from her smile, but instead, we found probably one of the greatest writers of our time, with a deadly imagination and otherworldly charm…
1. Your writing career has spanned more than 30 years. In that time, what has been your greatest moment of success?
Winning the Anthony for DEAD UNTIL DARK, without a doubt. Running close second is the week all the books (there were nine, then) were on the bestseller chart at the same time.
2. You have written several series circling around strong female characters. Who has been your favorite character?
They all come from different places inside me, so I simply don’t have a favorite.
3. Do you develop a strong, intimate relationship with your characters?
Sure. I don’t know how else you’d write them. But ‘strong’ and ‘intimate’ don’t always mean ‘loving.’
4. What or who inspired you to give birth to your character Sookie Stackhouse?
I decided I wanted to write about a woman who was dating a vampire. Sookie’s character and setting evolved from that first decision.
5. True Blood is an HBO series based off of your books. Have you been happy with the correlation between the books and the show?
I had to check on the definition of ‘correlation’ to make sure I was answering correctly. Yes, I am very happy. I think Alan is, too.
6. If Sookie could read into your mind on a daily basis, what would she hear?
So many petty things! I’d be part of the dreary blah-blah-blah she’s plagued with.
7. In a previous interview you have shared that some of your writing influences are Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allen Poe and Shirley Jackson. Who are some of your modern influences?
I don’t ordinarily think of contemporary writers as influences, though I’m sure that everything we read influences us to some extent. There are some scenes in Anne Rice’s vampire novels that I read over and over. There was a wonderful book by Barbara Paul called “The Fourth Wall” that I read over and over. I also read and reread the late great Adam Hall’s Quiller novels at least three times.
8. What are three books you would recommend to a close friend.
I’m not trying to be nit-picky, but that would depend on the friend. Some of my friends have a preference for mystery over fantasy, some of friends have stronger stomachs than others, and others love non-fiction.
9. What has been your favorite book to write and why?
I loved “Shakespeare’s Champion” and “All Together Dead.” Apparently, I like writing about explosions.
10. Do you ever have fans who write to you and are upset about something you’ve done with a character in a book?
Okay, I’m laughing, here. Oh, yeah, I do.
11. In your Crescent Blues interview, you discussed your character Lily Bard as a rape survivor and shared that you were a long-term rape survivor and that your perspective of people is different because of this experience. How so?
I think any first-hand experience of violence is a life-changing one. If you’d only known theoretically that people can be evil and brutal, people who don’t know you at all, being on the receiving end of that evil will alter the way you go about your life. And, of course, the way you write about life.
12. How do you utilize writing as a medium for cathartic expression and would you recommend it to other people who have experienced trauma?
I would recommend it. I do recognize that all people can’t use their experiences in a novel, put them in publishable form, but I believe that simply the act of writing, the process of picking the right words to say precisely what you mean and how you feel about you endured, can lend remarkable clarity.
13. Since you have written so many series, are you somewhat confused or frustrated that Sookie Stackhouse is the only character receiving so much personal attention because of the television show True Blood?
You’d think so . . . but actually, since Sookie has been so popular, all the books are back in print and selling better now than they ever did when they were first released. It’s literally all good.
14. What advice would you give a young writer who wanted to make a career of writing fiction?
Two words: backup plan. No, seriously, I always advise young people who want to write to read, read, read. Good stuff and bad stuff, because you need to know what makes one book good and another book hack work. Then you have to shut yourself in a room alone and write. That’s the stumbling block for most people, in my experience.
15. You write some rather juicy sex scenes. How do you define “sexy”?
To me, a good sex scene depends on a good relationship between the people involved. I don’t find clinical sex a turn-on. I think a sense of humor has to be part of it, too, and trust. And I also think the sex has to happen naturally as part of the development of the course of the book; does that make sense? I don’t have sex scenes in books if the scene doesn’t explain something about the characters or about their relationship.
16. What are three things we wouldn’t know by looking at you?
People are always surprised when they meet me. I think they expect me to look like Laurell! Instead, I look like a favorite aunt, or a grandmother. Three things you wouldn’t know by looking at me . . . I’m a regular church-goer, I’m fascinated by Egyptology and archaeology, and I can barely add and subtract.
17. You have also shared that you had a set of fangs made especially for you. Can you tell us this story and how you used your fangs?
That was very long ago. I haven’t thought of those in ages. I found a guy who made them on-line, and got my dentist to make a mold of my teeth. They’re really great-looking, but when you’re wearing them it’s pretty hard to talk! I have sympathy with the actors on the show.
18. Do you watch True Blood or have any involvement with the show? Do you feel Anna Paquin makes a suitable Sookie and are there things you would change about the show?
I do watch the show every week. Alan’s office is really good about sending me a screener before the episode is on the air, which I greatly appreciate. I don’t have any direct involvement with the show; that’s not my area of expertise. On the other hand, Alan doesn’t tell me how to write the books. It’s Alan’s show, and it would be weird if I gave him notes on it. I think Anna is great.
19. Do vampires really exist?
Not as they’re depicted in my books, no. But I’m keeping an open mind.
20. If we asked Sookie this question, how would she answer…Boxers, briefs, jockstraps…or nothing at all?(This is our standard question we ask at the end of every interview.)
Sookie would ask you which guy you were talking about, and then she’d remember that it’s none of your business.
Thanks Charlaine and your troop of literary spirits!
Be Yourself. Be Fearless. Be Your Own Unexpected Luxury.
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