Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ON VAMPIRES



"Sookie Stackhouse, the series’ heroine, is just a hoot to write..."


*** Charlaine Harris in 2003



So. You've see it, right? True Blood on HBO? All of us who were fans of Charlaine Harris (and her Sookie Stackhouse, among all the other terrific characters she's created) are thrilled to see the "uniquely compelling" (as one glowing review put it) series on TV!


With Anna Pacquin as Sookie, and...well, if you haven't watched yet, do. Sunday at 9. You'll never look at a vampire the same way.


Well, you know what I mean.



And it's a true joy to read the books--she's on her eighth Sookie, with more to come next year. (Two are now on the New York Times Best seller list!)


Five Auroras--and more to come. Lily Bard. And some wonderful anthologies, including a new one for Christmas.


Charlaine was gracious enough to chat with us..probably trailing fans in her wake. She's hilarious and generous. And she says she's an overnight success--it just took 25 years. Congratulations.



HANK: You've created an amazing parallel universe in your Sookie Stackhouse world. It's so--consistent. And quite believable. Hilarious. Do hold the whole world in your head? Or are you creating it as you go?


CHARLAINE: My head's not big enough to hold the whole world, after nine books (the ninth will be out next May). I've got a contract employee who's working on the "bible" for the series, to help me keep track of what I've said. I do create as I go, which is the fun part.


HANK: But let me ask. The rules for vampires...and how they behave and what they can do. Did you think of it all at moment one? Or is that evolving? And do you have to keep track of it all, somehow?

CHARLAINE: Yes, it evolves all the time. There are some questions I'm still debating within myself, and if I can't come up with an answer that feels right, I skirt the issue in the books until I can be sure of having the right answer.


HANK: Oh, I wish I could get you to tell us about the questions. But I suppose that would ruin it. You're getting a raft of new attention now, because of the TV series, for Sookie. But many fans have been reading about your telepathic waitress for years. And before (and during) her, Lily Bard, and before (and during ) her, Aurora Teagarden. Your brain must be very crowded. How do you juggle your worlds and characters?





CHARLAINE: I have to get "into character" for each one. It can be jarring to switch from one protagonist to another. When I'm about to start a new book, very often I read the last book in that series again to get myself rolling. Since I most often write in the first person, I have to slip on a particular persona to see the action unfolding as the book progresses.





HANK: So one day, the phone rings. And it's--well, how did you learn HBO wanted to make a TV series about Sookie Stackhouse? (And by the way, how did you come up with her name? Was she ever named anything else?)


CHARLAINE: I'd had an option on the Sookie books before. When it was about to expire, there were three offers for the books. My agent described all three to me and I talked to the interested parties on the telephone before deciding Alan's was the best fit.

Sookie was the name of my grandmother's best friend. It's an old southern nickname. I found the surname "Stackhouse" in a phonebook, and it just seemed to fit.



HANK: The first time you saw the finished product of episode one, say. When was that? Where? What did you think? Can you tell us just one cool secret thing about the shooting writing editing or stars of the show? (And what book is Gran reading in episode 1? I squinted to see the cover, but couldn't make it out.)



CHARLAINE: HBO sent me a copy of the first two episodes when they were still a bit rough. I was riveted. It was so exciting seeing my characters on the screen, and every now and then there was some dialogue straight from the book! But there were enough things I HADN'T written to keep me on my toes, because I wouldn't be sure how Alan played it.



And the sex scene was startling, of course, because although I knew Jason's character, I'd never followed him into the bedroom before, since Sookie never did. Gran is reading "Last Scene Alive," one of my Aurora Teagarden books.



Secret things? I wouldn't tell secrets, but I can tell you that Anna is as lovely in person as she is on the screen, Stephen has wonderful manners, Sam is a true son of the south, Nelsan trained at Juillard, Rutina trained as a dancer and is married, and they are all happy to be working for Alan Ball.



HANK: Your family must be so proud of you--you've been such a mainstay in the mystery world. Now--is your life a lot different? What's next for you?



CHARLAINE: I don't know yet how my life will change as a result of the TV show. I hope it won't change much, because I'm very happy the way I am now. I think my family is proud of me, and I am of them. I am the most incredibly lucky person.What's next for me? Writing more books, I guess. The work is always there, just waiting to be done. I think I'm more nervous now about it than I was before. I never felt like anyone was looking, before!
(Charlaine blogs on Femmes Fatales http://femmesfatales.typepad.com)

Thanks, Charlaine! You're really quite amazing. And inspirational.Tomorrow--Charlaine agrees to take the Jungle Red quiz! And she'll let us decide which of four things about her is false! (And being a vampire is not one of them...)

8 comments:

Amy MacKinnon said...

I'm a HUGE fan! Thanks so much for this interview, Hank, it's the best one I've read yet. You should be a reporter.

Elaine Viets said...

Congratulations, Charlaine. It makes the rest of us feel better when a good writer succeeds.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thanks Amy--what an interesting career idea! How's the Tethered tour going?

Hey Elaine..so nice to see you! What do you think about Amy's job idea? Maybe reporter is your next "Dead End Job"? Okay..not really.

Jan Brogan said...

Dear Charlaine,
I have to admit I've been a big foe of vampires. I read one Anne Rice book and afterward avoided everything written or filmed that had the word vampire in it. But my husband made me watch True Blood and I was shocked how much I like it. Something about them being "out" and dealt with in the town, which is just so brilliant. I'm hooked. Like so many other viewers, I'm going to be running out to buy your books. I apologize for not knowing it was based on your work.

Congratulations!

Roberta Isleib said...

What Elaine said--we all feel so excited for Charlaine, because she's always so gracious and modest. And deserves every bit of attention she's getting.

And I'm particularly excited because she's agreed to serve on the board of directors of Sisters in Crime this year. Thank you Charlaine--you rock!

ps love Hank's questions about the vampire world. would love to hear more about how that evolves in your mind...

Hallie Ephron said...

So glad to see you on Jungle Red!

I want to know how you knew vampires and paranormal were going to be so hot? The trend certainly shows no signs of cooling down any time soon!

- Hallie

Neil Plakcy said...

Lovely interview, Charlaine. I've said on DorothyL already that what I love about the series is the chance to get to see more of the supporting characters when Sookie's not around (i.e. Jason in the bedroom, Tara with her mom) because the books are all in the first person.

Dana said...

Hey, Charlaine! I particularly liked what you said about reviewing characters and stories before you go back to them. It's hard to switch gears between books (and worlds), but it can also be very refreshing! Rock on!