Spotlight on Charlaine Harris – Comic-con 2010


One hour. The one and only Charlaine Harris. A room packed with fans. That was the scene at Comic-con last week and as one of the people who was in that room, I can tell you Charlaine Harris is a hoot. Everything she says is laced with droll humor, and her soft Louisiana accent made me think of lazy summer evenings on a porch with a tall glass of lemonade.

Her first line of the panel: “Since Angelina Jolie is here I didn’t expect to see so many of you. But my editor says I attract a different crowd…” (Angelina was in another hall, promoting SALT.)

The moderator started the ball rolling, asking Charlaine why she decided to write about vampires. She replied she had wanted to get away from conventional mysteries so she turned to the supernatural, which led to vampires. She knew she wanted to have a blue collar woman dating a vampire, and “then I had to decide what kind of woman would do such a stupid thing.” Charlaine tried to sell the first Sookie Stackhouse book for 2 years before she finally landed at Ace, who was open to the idea of vampires as they already carried Laurell K. Hamilton.

Speaking of vampire ladies – when Charlaine first started her Facebook page, her very first message was from Anne Rice, telling her what a fan she was of the TV show. Charlaine, amused, told her she should try reading the books…

Then the audience stepped up to the mike:

Q: Where did you get the name Sookie?

Sookie is an old Southern name, and the name of Charlaine’s Grandmother’s best friend. Stackhouse Charlaine got from the phone book. “I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard for people with fangs to say.” The cast of True Blood has trouble getting the ‘S’s out around their fangs without spit flying everywhere.

Q: How Charlaine reconciles her religion with her writing

“I don’t have a problem with that.” If she can make people happy with her books, that’s good enough for her.

Q: Would she ever consider incorporating Jessica (a character created by Alan Ball for the TV spin-off, “True Blood”) into the books?

“No.” She’d rather keep the books and TV as two difference experiences, two for the price of one. Though some people have watched the show, then gone to her website to tell her how she’s gotten it wrong in the books…

Q: How much control do you have over the direction of the TV show?

Her control was who she gave the subsidiary rights too – and she felt Alan Ball was absolutely the right person.

(Charline takes a moment to note how politely people are waiting their turn for the mike, kneeling so as not to block anyone’s view. On a recent trip to Portugal, her fans actually courtesied when asking questions.)

Q: Why hasn’t Bill levitated again?

He never needed to. “I guess if you wanted him to dust high shelves…”

Q: Where did she get her inspiration?

“Inspiration is not my favorite word.” The idea isn’t all you need. Poe, Bronte, Austen, Christie, Bradbury, all are important to her.

Q: Her next books/projects?

Of the next two Sookie novellas (in her upcoming anthologies Death’s Excellent Vacation, August 2010, and The Sookie Stackhouse companion, February 2011), one story involves Sookie, Pam, and a stripper pole and the other has Sookie accompany Sam to his brother’s wedding – and Quinn shows up. The Sookie Stackhouse companion will also have interviews, including one with Alan Ball, along with recipes and more.

Q: Are you going to write more Harper Connelly books?

She doesn’t think any more Harper books are coming, but there will be a Harper graphic novel from the same company that did Laura K. Hamilton’s.

Q: New projects she might be working on?

She has a contract for 3 more Sookie novels, and several ideas for a new series. “But if I talk, I don’t do.”

Q: How can Sookie sometimes hear the thoughts of vampires?

Every now and then a vampire brain will fire correctly, which allows Sookie to hear them, but it’s by no means regular or specific to any vampire. Who she’s heard is not significant.

Q: Why did Charlaine make lemons poisonous to fairies?

She needed something poisonous for the story, and just wanted something easily accessible and totally ridiculous.

Q: Do the actors on the TV show match how you saw the characters in your mind?

Pam and Andy Bellfleur look exactly right, as far as Charlaine is concerned. Her Sookie is a bigger woman, but that wouldn’t fly in Hollywood.

Q: Does Charlaine do research?

She does do research – people in death industries love to talk, because no one is interested in knowing, usually.

Q: Do all her characters clean while stressed because that’s what she’d do?

“Yes, I am a neat freak.”

Q:  Sookie seems to be considering becoming a vampire in the last book, when thinking about her relationship with Eric…?

“Sookie will never become a vampire.”

Q: Asked if she’s team Jacob or Edward

“Okay, so you’re joking, right?”

Q: Why she chose Louisana as a setting for the books

Anne Rice – Anne wanted atmosphiric, homo-erotic, angsty, so Charlaine went for fun; Anne took southern Louisana, so Charlaine decided to take the northern part that nobody wanted.

Q: How Bubba came about

Bubba will be in the next book (and the crowd goes wild). Charlaine saw that scene in Men in Black, where you see on screen the humans who are aliens in America – it made instant sense that Elvis was a vampire: “It explained everything.” Same with Rasputin.

Q: Where does Charlaine get her inspiration for the loving scenes?

A reader told Charlaine once that whenever she gets a book, she and her husband act out all the scenes… (Charlaine’s face says it all – a little too much information…) Dead until Dark was the first explicit sex scene Charlaine has ever written – since she was about to turn 50, she thought, “if not now, when?”

Q: Why are fairies attractive to vampires?

There’s no mythological basis for it – she made up the fey attraction for vampires because she wanted tension between the two worlds, needed a reason for them to avoid each other.

Q: How does she feel about the TV show?

At first her attitude towards a TV adaptation was: “Write me a check, honey.” Then Alan Ball’s agent called – “his people called my people.” Many people wanted the books, Alan was the most impressive, and she knew he could bring the emotions to the screen because he does that so well – in some respects it was a no brainer, in others she was a nervous wreck all along the line.

On meeting the cast for the first time: “I was totally not what they were expecting.” She wasn’t sure who was more astonished, the cast  to meet her, or her to meet the cast.

Q: Niall says to Sookie ‘that vampire really loves you’ – which one did he mean, Bill or Eric?

(With a smile:) “You have to figure it out for yourself! I am not here to spell out everything for you, you lazy people!”