"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
by the Light of the Moon!
NEW! PNR Poll: We Want More............Vampire Romance!
Charlaine Harris has been writing books for the past twenty two-years. For the past three years, she's been working on three series; and boy, is she tired. Mother of three, wife of one, Charlaine rides herd on two dogs, two ferrets, and a duck. A lifelong Southerner, Charlaine has been located in rural Arkansas for the past eleven years.
is on the board of Sisters in
Crime, and also belongs to Mystery Writers of America, American Crime
Writers League, and Arkansas Mystery Writers Alliance.
An Interview with Charlaine Harris
been writing for over two decades. In the past three years youve
had three different series running. We will be discussing the Southern
Vampire series. Give us an overview of your other two series.
Charlaine H.: In my first series, my protagonist is a tiny Georgia librarian named Aurora Teagarden. Aurora is a fun character; all she wants is a conventional life, and that's what she's constantly denied, beginning with her peculiar name. There'll be new Aurora this August, LAST SCENE ALIVE. The second series is much grimmer; its central character is Lily Bard, survivor of a terrible assault that has left her an emotional cripple. The series begins (in SHAKESPEARE'S LANDLORD) with Lily's first steps back to a normal life and normal relationships. Lily is a housecleaner by trade, a bodybuilder and karate student by choice.
PNR: Your Southern Vampire series is set rural northern Louisiana in the first book DEAD UNTIL DARK, before moving to Dallas, Texas for most of book two. You are a lifelong resident of the south. Do you find bits and pieces of folks youve met, in the personalities of your characters?
Charlaine H.: Sure, especially in their reactions to any set of events. I also think that most of my characters have a little piece of me in them, whether or not they're nice people!
These stories are categorized by the publisher
as fantasy, obviously due to the paranormal elements which are vital
to the plot. I would label them paranormal romantic suspense or mystery.
How do you see them?
Charlaine H.: I usually say I have cornered the market on southern vampire romantic mystery adventures. My only problem with writing cross-genre is that bookstores don't quite seem to know where to shelve the books. Sometimes they'll be in Mystery, sometimes Horror, sometimes Fantasy. Kind of confusing for the reader.
PNR: This series contain a great deal of dark humor, beginning with the heros name. Do you think humor is an important element in suspense writing, as a balance for the darker elements such as bigotry and murder?
Charlaine H.: Not according to a lot of writers; I've read plenty of straight suspense and mystery in which humor has not played a role. When I framed this series, what I wanted was funny. I had never made a point of writing humor, and I've really enjoyed it.
PNR: The main characters, Bill and Sookie, both have disabilities of a paranormal nature. Tell us about them. What influenced you gift them with their particular traits? Where did the idea for a common mans vampire come from.
Charlaine H.: I was trying to figure out what kind of woman would date a vampire; that's a pretty outrageous thing for an unsophisticated small-town waitress to do. And the answer, of course, is that she herself is not a run-of-the-mill individual. That's part of the reason why Bill's attracted to Sookie, though he's has over a hundred years as a vampire to sample any number of women; Sookie is essentially different, since she's telepathic. When I established Sookie's character, it seemed to me that she would only date a certain kind of vampire, one that appealled to her in a down-home kind of way -- in fact, one that was the kind of fellow she could relate to, though I hate that phrase. So Bill, though he definitely has a mysterious vampire side, is really a former small-time farmer.
PNR: Ah, so familiar but with a little mystique. That would apply to both of them. What advantages and disadvantages do these disabilities have for these main characters?
Charlaine H.: Bill will never meet some of Sookie's long-cherished hopes. They can't marry legally. He can't coach PeeWee baseball. She can't call him at work and ask him to stop by the store for some milk. He can't go to church with her on Sunday, since after all, he's in the ground then. On the other hand, I have twenty-four hour coverage with the two characters, since Sookie doesn't have to sleep during the day and Bill doesn't have to sleep during the night. Sookie, though mortal, can find out things no one else can discover, since she can read minds. Bill, though very close to being immortal (at least he is very hard to kill), has inhuman abilities and power.
PNR: This series is just-around-the-bend futuristic in nature. Events have transpired in such a way that Sookie is not particularly shocked to meet a vampire? How do they meet, and what draws them to each other?
Charlaine H.: Not only is Sookie not shocked, she is DELIGHTED to meet a vampire. She just knows observing the undead will put some pizazz in her life and give her something to discuss with her grandmother. Sookie meets Bill when he comes into the bar and falls prey to some Drainers; that is, humans who make a black-market living by draining vampires and selling their blood. Sookie rescues him. After that, what separates them from the rest of the human race is what attracts them to each other.
PNR: The same evening on which Sookie and Bill have their first encounter, a woman murdered. It is just the beginning of a string of murders. Do the victims have anything in common that would suggest a common murderer? How do Sookie and Bill get involved in the investigation?
Charlaine H.: The women are all barmaids. And they all have old vampire bites on various parts of their bodies, though their deaths were caused by strangulation. Sookie worries about Bill being blamed because of the old vampires bites, and also because her own brother, Jason, has dated all the women. It would be greatly to Sookie's advantage to settle the case.
PNR: Bill is not the only vampire Sookie encounters. Compared to the others, Bill is fairly safe and normal. How does Sookie react to these encounters? How does it affect her relationship with or her view of Bill?
The other vampires are a mixed bunch: some are
more comic relief, some
Sookies disability proves useful to one of
the vampires who has more than a passing interest in some of
her other charms as well. Eric is considerably older than Bill and
therefore his superior. What kind of deal do Bill and Sookie strike
with him in order to protect their relationship? This sets the stage
Charlaine H.: Bill and Sookie make a deal with Eric; in return for his protection, Sookie will loan out her services as a telepath, provided the humans she "reads" are not harmed by the vampires. Of course, this is the lead-in for LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS. Eric loans Sookie to the vampires of Dallas when one of their nest-mates goes missing.
PNR: We dont want to spoil the plot for the readers, so suffice it to say that Fall isnt going to be any less eventful than Summer was <g>. Sookie is as headstrong as ever and gets herself into hot water more than once during the course of this investigation. Bill is just, well, Bill <g>. Other types of paranormal/mythical characters make appearances in this story. Once you accept that vampires are real, I guess that isnt much of a stretch. Does Sookie take this all in stride?
Charlaine H.: She's certainly better about it than I would be. As you point out, if you accept vampires, the door is wide open. The thing is, not all creatures want to become public, as the vampires did. In fact, they're not fond of the vampires at all.
PNR: This book brings home the point that there are worse things than vampires, and that they can dwell within the hearts and minds of everyday people. Sookie learns this in Dallas in her encounters with a cult (The Fellowship of the Sun), and also when she returns home to find that some of the residents of her town arent quite the simple, boring, folk shed thought them to be. Will this series continue? What is next for Charlaine Harris?
Charlaine H.: Actually, I am as busy as I can be. I am finishing the third Sookie, CLUB DEAD, which will be published in the spring of 2003, and Ace has signed me for a total of four after that. I have a contract with St. Martin's for another book after LAST SCENE ALIVE. And who knows what I may write in the future? Plus, on the home front, I have three children and a husband and am always busy doing the stuff any regular wife and mom has to do.
Featured in this Issue:
LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is on a streak of bad luck. First, her coworker is murdered and no one seems to care. The she's face-to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn't enjoy it).
Point is, they saved her life. So when one of the blood-suckers asks for a favor, she complies. And soon, Sookie's in Dallas using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She's suppposed to interview certain humans involved. There's just one condition: The vampires must promise to behave -- and let the humans go unharmed. Easier said than done. All it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly...
DEAD UNTIL DARK - Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Lousiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability". She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome -- and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life...
But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of -- big surprise -- murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next...
DEAD - Sookie's boyfriend has been very distant
- in another state, distant. Now she's off to Mississippi to mingle
with the underworld at Club Dead - a little haunt where the vampire
elite go to chill out. But when she finally finds Bill - caught
in an act of betrayal - she's not sure whether to save him...or
sharpen some stakes.
Real Murders (1989)
Shakespeare's Landlord (1996)
And Deadly (1980)