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A Conversation With Charlaine Harris
An interview with Alisa McCune
April 2004

© Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is the author of three previous Sookie Stackhouse novels; Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead. She is also the author of two popular mystery novel series, the Aurora Tegarden series and the Lily Bard Shakespeare series.

Charlaine Harris Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dead to the World
SF Site Review: Dead to the World

Dead to the World
Dead Until Dark
Club Dead
Living Dead in Dallas

For over twenty years, mystery readers have been thrilled with Charlaine Harris. In 2001, Dead Until Dark was published and Harris transcended genres to find herself being compared to Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff.

The Southern Vampire series tells the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, a blonde, buxom barmaid with psychic abilities. Sookie lives in Bon Temps, Louisiana, a small, backwater town with not much in the way of entertainment. Rednecks are frequently seen with guns, pick-ups, and dead animals.

Sookie is not your average girl. She can read the minds of others and considers this a disability. She was raised with a certain southern grace and a strong sense of right and wrong. In her world, vampires have only been seen on television. That is until Bill shows up at Merlotte's, the bar where Sookie works. This encounter changes everything about Sookie and her life. Bon Temps will never be the same.

Charlaine Harris is the author of four novels in the Southern Vampire series; Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, and Dead to the World. She is also the author of two popular mystery novel series, the Aurora Tegarden series and the Lily Bard Shakespeare series.

Charlaine was kind enough to answer the following questions for SFSite.

What is your background? How does it impact on your writing?

I was the child of readers, which has had the biggest impact on my writing you can imagine. My brother and I became readers too, naturally, and from reading sprang a love of the language and a love of the written word. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, which is about as southern as you can get; this provided another major influence.

How did you become a writer?
It was all I ever wanted to be, from the age of ten or eleven on up. In my mind, there was no 'becoming.' I WAS a writer. I had been writing all my life, but my husband (along with the electric typewriter, at that time the latest thing in technology) offered me the choice of staying home to write full time. That's what made the difference to me.

What are you currently working on?
Right now, I'm working on the fifth Sookie Stackhouse, and I'm also proposing a new series. The fifth Sookie doesn't have a title yet. Well, it does, but my editor and my agent hate it. I don't want to talk about the new series, yet.

Sookie is such an amazing character. She is strong, feisty, and very likeable. And yet she is also very naïve and trusting. Sookie seems to be finding her voice and growing stronger as the series progresses. Is this struggle intentional? Will we be enjoying Sookie for many years to come?
Oh, yes, the struggle is intentional. That's how we grow and develop our potential. I certainly hope Sookie will be around for years.

Vampire Bill is a brooding, romantic, creation. Why did you choose the Vampire Bill as Sookie's love interest? What about Erik, the Viking vampire and Alcide, the werewolf?
Bill seemed like the quintessential romantic hero, as you point out. Why isn't it going to work out between V[ampire] B[ill] and Sookie? Because he also carries a lot of baggage. So do the other men in Sookie's life. Like men in real life, they don't come perfect. I think working through this is interesting.

Did something specific inspire the Southern Vampire series?
People told me for years that I was funny in person; why didn't I put that in my books? I decided it was time to try something different, and I combined my favorite things, humor and the supernatural.

Why did you switch from writing mystery to horror? Why did you create a series about vampire, werewolves, and other psychic talents?
All the Sookie books are mysteries, too. I never think of them as horror, and I'm always astonished when they're shelved with horror, though kind of flattered. (That way I get to be by Laurell [Hamilton].) I just wanted to constantly throw in the unexpected.

What kind of research did you do for the series?
I've read some scholarly books about various supernatural creatures, and I've read lot of fiction using supernatural characters. I guess I just picked what I wanted from the mix.

Is Bon Temps, Louisiana a real place or a figment of your imagination?
A figment, based on lots of experience with southern small towns.

One of my favorite characters is Bubba with his cat fancy. The entire series has a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it. I am always surprised by how funny Sookie and her adventures can be. Is this intentional and how do you keep a straight face during the writing process?
Oh, sure, the humor is intentional. I don't keep a straight face at all. I laugh all the time while I'm working, and I am highly flattered when people tell me they laugh out loud when they're reading.

Did you have trouble getting Dead Until Dark published?
Oh, yes! My agent wasn't crazy about it, to start with. But I told him I thought it was the best thing I'd ever written, and he wouldn't be sorry if he could find a place for it. Then it started getting turned down, and in a few instances, quite unflatteringly. But like the good agent he is, he persevered, and after many rejections John Morgan at Ace accepted it. That was almost two years, or even more, after I'd written it. It felt like an old book to me when it finally saw the light of day.

I particularly like the cover art for the Southern Vampire series. Who is the artist and how did you find him/her?
The artist is Lisa Desimini. Ace found her, and I think she is just great. She also did the cover of Berkley's re-issue of my Lily Bard mystery, Shakespeare's Trollop, and it's equally interesting.

Have you ever used any of yourself, family and/or friends for inspiration?
Oh, I grab a character trait here, a character trait there.

What are you currently reading and why?
I'm re-reading Kelley Armstrong's Bitten right now, because I want to enjoy it again.

What inspires you to write?
Actually, I just want to entertain people. If they get my agenda, great; if not, that's okay, too.

Do you attend any writing groups? If so, how did your participation enhance your writing?
Not too many writers in southern Arkansas. Sometimes I think I'd like a critique group; and sometimes, recently, I've asked a friend (Toni Kelner, another mystery writer) to read over what I've written and give me some feedback.

What made you a science fiction, fantasy, and horror fan? What are your favorites and why?
That's just what appeals to me. I like to escape the boundaries of the everyday world from time to time. In that field, I enjoy reading Jim Butcher, Simon Green, Tanya Huff, Susan Sizemore, Kelley Armstrong, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Robin McKinley. That's just off the top of my head.

Are you planning on attending any conventions in the near future?
Oh, yes. I'll be at Malice Domestic the last weekend of April, RocKon in Little Rock in June, Mystery Writers of America in Houston June 19, ArmadilloCon in Austin August 13-15, and NorEasCon in Boston the first weekend in September. For my full schedule, see my website

What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Reading. Also, I have three children and a husband, three dogs, a ferret, and a duck. Lots of friends, a church, and all the usual stuff. I love the movies, too.

Any movies you particularly enjoyed?
I like a wide range of movies. This past year, I loved The Return of the King, Master and Commander, and Seabiscuit. I also liked the somewhat less talked-about The Last Samurai.

Have the movie/television rights been sold for the Southern Vampire series?  Who would you pick to portray Sookie, the Vampire Bill, Erik, Sam, Alcide, Jason, Bubba, and Tara?
Yes, the movie rights to Club Dead have been optioned. There was a guy in the movie The Thirteenth Warrior who would make a great Eric; not too surprisingly, he plays a Viking chieftain in the movie. I really haven't thought too much about it. Naturally, I would accept Hugh Jackman in any part he chose to accept.

Copyright © 2004 Alisa McCune

Alisa discovered science fiction at the tender age of eight. She devoured The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and never looked back. She lives in Chicago with her husband, cat, and 5000 books. For more information please visit her website at

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