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Interview: Charlaine Harris by Gayle Surrette
Review by Gayle Surrette
SFRevu Interview  ISBN/ITEM#: 0505CHI
Date: May 2005

Links: Author's Webpage / Author's Blog / Show Official Info /

This month, we have the seventh book of the Southern Vampire series, All Together Dead. Charlaine Harris has a unique ability to create books filled with people you know -- they may have extra-ordinary talents or abilities but their personalities are fully developed and you either love 'em, hate 'em, or leave them alone. But you don't forget them. Because her backgrounds, even filled with vampires, weres and other creatures that go bump in the night, are cities, small towns, and communities that we know because we live there; you feel comfortable in her stories. So, since we get to visit with Sookie Stackhouse this month, we thought we'd take the time to ask Charlaine some questions about her writing, books, and characters.

SFRevu: Having just finished reading All Together Dead, I'm wondering what's next for Sookie. She's grown so much from the young woman cursed with telepathy in Dead Until Dark. In this current book, we see just how much she has gained in self-confidence, yet she still has so much vulnerability. Are you happy with the many changes Sookie made over the course of the books?

Charlaine Harris: Yes, I think the changes make sense. To survive Sookie has to change, and her picture of herself will change, too.

SFRevu: You've started a new series with Grave Sight and Grave Surprise, then there's the Shakespeare series, and the stand alone mysteries. How difficult is it to balance three series with all their characters and back stories? Do you have 3 ring binders with everybody listed with their foibles and strengths? How to do you move between these continuing stories and keep it all straight?

Charlaine: Yes, I do have three-ring binders. But let me point out that Shakespeare and the Aurora Teagarden books are on hiatus. Roe and Lily are taking long vacations in happy places. Right now I'm just doing Sookie and Harper and some short stories. I have a reader working on a Sookie "bible" right now, since the Sookie series has so many characters and so many events I simply can't keep it all in my head. And I like to re-use characters, if I can. It makes the books feel so much tighter woven, and it's not wasteful. Since the Harper series travels from town to town, there's not the same pressure to keep everything straight.

SFRevu: I understand that Anna Paquin has been cast as Sookie in True Blood, the HBO Series based on the books. Have you had much input into the development of that series? What's it like to see the world you created and developed being put up on the screen?

Charlaine: EEK. Well, it's scary. It would be even scarier if I wasn't dealing with Alan Ball, who is such a major talent. I have great faith in him. Of course, this series will be his vision, not mine. It'll be a whole different animal. I have no input at all, but he convinced me that he loved what I'd written, so I'll trust him to interpret it for the screen.

SFRevu: To move to our usual questions, did you always want to be a writer or was there some pivotal moment when you said to yourself, "I can do this."

Charlaine: I always wanted to be a writer and I always had faith I could do it. Call me crazy. Call me delusional. I never doubted it.

SFRevu: What's your typical work day like? Do you have a writing schedule? How does a writer manage to write and have an active family and all that involves too?

Charlaine: That's a really good question. The answer is, I don't do anything as well as I would if I dumped part of what I do. I get my husband and my daughter off for their days (our sons are out of the home) and then I go to work, usually between seven thirty and eight. I work until eleven or eleven thirty, break for lunch, run errands, come home, go back to work, quit around three thirty or four thirty and fix supper, unless it's a game day (during school) or a tournament weekend (in the summer).We're a softball family. And I often work a little on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, but just a little.

SFRevu: I just spent some time on your website and...well, is there something you're not telling us. How do you do it? You're so involved in your community activities (church, Booster Club...) and then professional writer's associations. I've always heard that to get something done you ask a busy person. Do you have a fountain of energy in your backyard?

Charlaine: I don't do any more than most working moms. Just ask around. Actually, I'm pretty lazy. Next year, I'm cutting back. Way back.

SFRevu: What has surprised you most about your readership and their response to your books?

Charlaine: Their huge loyalty to the Sookie books. In fact, some of them are so devoted it borders on obsession . . . in a good way, let me add. I never thought readers would get so involved in my universe. They get very excited about developments and pick them apart with great intensity. It makes me think twice before I put in a plot twist, I can tell you.

SFRevu: How has your life been different than what you'd imagined?

Charlaien: My life as a writer? Oh, my gosh, I'd never imagined this much popularity. I felt pretty good about my life when I was a midlist writer; and I'd still be content if that was my lot. I stuck with my career, and had a few breaks and a few good ideas, and geez louise, look at me now! My personal life has been way different, too. I've definitely had my traumas, but I'm still the luckiest woman I know.

SFRevu: What books or movies do you enjoy? What's the last 5 books you read for pleasure and entertainment? The last 5 movies?

Charlaine: I read a very wide range of books. I read mysteries, science fiction, a little romance, and lots of books that blend all the genres. The last five books I read for pleasure . . . hmmm. That's a challenge, because I'm reading for an awards committee, and I do some reading for people who want blurbs. Pleasure. Okay. Robert Crais's The Watchman. Karen Chance's Claimed by Shadow. Jim Butcher's White Knight. Susan McBride's Night of the Living Deb. And Max Brook's wonderful World War Z. Movies are easier because we don't get a chance to go as much as we used to. The 300, Babel, Blood Diamond, The Departed, and . . . okay, that's as far as I can go. I have a long list of movies I'd LIKE to see.

SFRevu: What's your next project?

Charlaine: I should do a Harper next. That's been the pattern of the last few years. Harper, Sookie, Harper, Sookie,. . . you get the drift. And I have promised a few short stories to various people. Toni LP Kelner and I have an anthology coming out in September, Many Bloody Returns, and I'm very excited about it.

SFRevu: Charlaine, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

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