Written in Blood: A Conversation with ‘True Blood’ author Charlaine Harris

by Brittney Franklin on December 28, 2011

Her vampire-driven tales of drama, mystery and romance through the eyes of southern beauty Sookie Stackhouse are famous. Though producer Alan Ball brought True Blood to television, it was Mississippi native Charlaine Harris who first brought the small, fictitious Louisiana town of Bon Temps to life in the pages of her novels in the Southern Vampire Series.

“I just love the series,” says Harris of HBO’s True Blood. “Obviously it’s very different from the books, and rightly so, because what reads well on the page doesn’t necessarily look good on screen. But I love Alan, I love the actors and the crew. They’re all super talented people and I think it’s great to get a different version with the same characters. It’s been a lot of fun for me.” Though the show and the books are similar, there are enough differences between the two to still maintain an element of surprise, from arcs to characters. One character Harris would like to see appear on the Louisiana-set show is Sookie and Jason’s great-grandfather, Niall. “In the books, Sookie’s great-grandfather is a big influence and I would love to see him in the show. He’s a full-blooded fairy. But I don’t know if that’s part of Alan’s plan or not.”

Though she didn’t spend a lot of time in the state growing up, Harris has “enjoyed many visits to Louisiana.” In planning, she noticed that Southern Louisiana already had a lot of pull in the media, so she chose to focus on the North. “I found the Northern part of Louisiana is the left-handed homage to New York.” About eight books ahead of events on the show, she is bringing the stories of Bon Temps residents to a close. The thirteenth installment will be its last. “I’ve always known how the books would end and so, to me, I’m coming to what I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” she says. “Obviously readers don’t know where I’m going but I hope they’ll come along with me.”

In addition to the Southern Vampire Mysteries, Harris has written short stories and novellas featuring human and supernatural characters found within her books, a collection of which can be found in A Touch of Dead. A reference guide to the beloved series, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion was released in August. It includes interviews with Harris and Ball, recipes based on dishes served in the books, the Stackhouse family tree, a history of the fan club, a synopsis and timeline of the novels, and an original novella, Small Town Wedding. “It’s for people who love the series, definitely,” says Harris. “It’s pretty exhaustive and a lot of people have really enjoyed it as a reference book.” In September, Harris joined True Blood cast members Joe Manganiello, Jim Parrack, Kristin Bauer Van Straten and Denis O’Hare at Dragon*Con, doing three fan question-and-answer sessions over last Labor Day weekend.

Soon, the mystery writer will be joining the ranks of graphic novelists, working with fantasy novelist Christopher Golden on the three-parter, Cemetery Girl, set to be released next year. “It’s about a young woman who wakes up in a cemetery. She knows something terrible has happened to her but she’s not sure what and she doesn’t know who she is. And through the length of the books, we gradually find out who she is, why she’s there, and how she survived living by herself in a cemetery,” explains Harris. “I’ve never written a graphic novel and I’ve never collaborated so this is a big new experience for me to learn how to write a graphic novel. Chris is a very experienced writer in the graphic novel field and in novels so he’s kind of leading me through this and I hope that I learn to be good at it.”

“Graphic novels, it’s just a completely different writing process. You have to boil down pages and pages of material into a few panels per page and convey with dialogue and the picture content a lot of action that would take you a while to describe in the books. So, it’s really a whole different approach to storytelling.” Harris wrote her first book over thirty years ago and has since branched off from her mystery roots, dabbling in everything from romance to fantasy. “I pretty much covered the spectrum. I’ve written straight science fiction, I wrote one romance novella, and I write now in urban fantasies. So I’ve kind of covered the spectrum on that,” she says. Down These Strange Streets, a collection of urban fantasy short stories by Harris and others, hit shelves in October.

Season five of True Blood is prepping now with new episodes set to air on HBO next summer. Deadlocked, the twelfth book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series will be released in May 2012.