When the woman who brought us True Blood came to York to talk vampires and more, Alice Lavelle had to be there
It’s been quite a whirlwind of a journey for writer Charlaine Harris over the past 20 years. She published her first Sookie Stackhouse novel Dead Until Dark in 2001, and saw it transformed by HBO into global TV hit True Blood seven years later.
At the end of her UK tour it seems quite fitting that her last stop is York – known to be one of the most haunted cities in England – and it’s a healthy crowd too, that heralds her arrival at Waterstones on Coney Street.
It’s an exciting time to be a follower of Harris. After finishing her final Sookie Stackhouse book Dead After Ever in May last year, Charlaine contributed to several anthologies and collaborated with writers Christopher Golden (The Myth Hunters, Body of Evidence) and Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires, Weather Warden).
And now she has finally released Midnight Crossroad – the start of something new, and hopefully, a whole different adventure.
When Charlaine Harris steps up to the podium, it’s clear why her books and her characters are so popular – she’s warm, funny, witty and perfectly happy to answer any questions. “I will probably answer all of them,” she confides, “And probably tell the truth.”
She says she “completely changed direction” with Midnight Crossroad and there’s a reason for the book being set in the Deep South. “My Grandparents ran a small hotel in a small town in Texas and made a big impression on me as a kid.
“I told myself I couldn’t go to England unless I turned the book in. Of course, 24 hours before…”
Harris points out that she is never not writing and is currently working on the third Cemetery Girl novel in her “hotel room at odd moments.”
Someone asks whether she expected to have such a big following. It’s “weird and wonderful, but it has it’s downsides too.” True Blood meant she sold a lot of books but the TV series’ original showrunner Alan Ball “stayed true to them,” even if he did go in a different direction.
When asked whether she was disappointed about what characters went into the series and which ones didn’t, she says she would have liked to have seen John Quinn (Sookie’s were-tiger boyfriend) in the series. But she loved new characters like Jessica who weren’t originally in the books.
Harris tells us that Dead Until Dark was the book she’d always wanted to write, but hadn’t.
“My agent hated it,” she says with a smile, proceeding to regale us with the popularity of the novel and how she felt secretly pleased that she had proved him wrong.
Charlaine is honest about writing being a job as well as a dream. “I don’t get paid if I don’t work. If I don’t work, other people don’t work” she states, matter of fact.
Why date a vampire
Harris says outright that she always wanted to write a relationship between a vampire and a human. But there was one problem. “Why would an intelligent girl date a vampire?” she mused, and apparently went through many different – and bizarre – possibilities before she landed on telepathy for Sookie and Bill.
She’s quick to point out that she enjoys writing all of her characters because they are all her creations, but when pressed she uses Pam as an example because she’s “ruthless” and was a lot of fun to write.
“All my characters have a piece of me.”
Did she always want to be writer?
She jests that it was “always my secret identity, when I took off my cape in the phone booth with a big ‘W’ underneath.”
“My current husband (as I refer to him) gave me the opportunity to stay at home and write.”
When asked how she coped with the negative backlash of the ending of the Sookie Stackhouse novels she says her books and the series were two very different things, and therefore have two completely different endings. She gets sad when people think she is just writing for “the big bucks.”
“Writing is hard work. My books are a result of hours of arguing with myself, continuously writing and rewriting.”
Her best advice for wannabe writers?
“Put your butt in a chair and write a book. You have to have the discipline to write that first book. Then start doing the research to get it published.”