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Photo: © Sigrid Estrada
Charlaine Harris is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight, Texas, fantasy/mystery series and the Aurora Teagarden, Harper Connelly, and Lily Bard mystery series. Her books have inspired HBO’s True Blood, NBC’s Midnight, Texas, and the Aurora Teagarden movies for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. She has lived in the South her entire life.
Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood
A Harper Connelly Mystery
A Novel of Midnight, Texas
Harper Connelly Graphic Novel
We left Sookie in a pretty sad place at the end of Dead and Gone, and I think all your readers are hoping that she will pull through her awful experiences and come back as the same spunky telepath we all love. Does she get any time to recuperate in Dead in the Family? What’s in store for Sookie in this book?
Sookie goes through her physical recuperation at the beginning of the book, and I think she’s recovering mentally through the book. But of course, life and death keep happening around her. Bless her heart.
To whose family, or families, does the title of Dead in the Family refer? Any surprises?
I certainly hope there are a lot of surprises. There are several families included in the story; Bill’s family, Eric’s family, Sookie’s family. I think some of the family members will startle the readers.
Amelia, Sookie’s roommate, who thinks more of her powers as a witch than perhaps she should, has a lot of fans. Can you tell us anything about her future?
Amelia, as the beginning of the book makes clear, is returning to New Orleans to try to restart her life there. She’s left too many loose ends to stay in Bon Temps. She’ll recur in Sookie’s life.
And so does Bill, although he and Sookie have been broken up for most of the series at this point. A lot of people—myself included—keep hoping they’ll end up together again. Are we just being naive fangirls, or is there any hope left for Sookie and Bill?
There’s always hope.
The Fellowship of the Sun, a vampire-hating cult, is full of such believable and diabolical villains. Will we see them again?
Sure. I love a good villain, and the Fellowship is full of ’em.
The HBO series True Blood is delectable, but it certainly differs from your novels in parts of the plot and some characterizations. When you watch the show, what representations most pleased you, and what most surprised you?
I love the show, too, and I’m glad it’s different from the books. That way I don’t get bored. I’m happy with ALL the casting, there’s not a one I would change. I was very surprised about the plot change that resulted in Jessica’s being brought over, but I think she’s a great character.
As you said, it’s more of a mystery based series, with a dash of the supernatural. The Harper Connelly books are travelling books. Harper and her companion Tolliver go to a new town in every book. Harper, while trying to solve the current murder in each book, is also anxious to find out what happened to her sister, who disappeared years before. And she’s struggling to make a life for herself despite the terrible upbringing she and Tolliver, her stepbrother, endured.
In fact, you were published as a mystery writer for more than 20 years before you began the Sookie series. Would your advice to an aspiring author looking to break into publishing differ depending on the genre they wanted to write?
No. If you want to be the best writer you can be—and who doesn’t?—you need to read, read, read, and then sit down, take a deep breath, and write. At first it won’t be good. It’s hard work to become the writer you want to be.
You just had your first book tour through Europe! Can you share some of your favorite moments? What did fans of Sookie from across the pond seem to most want to know?
Actually, my fans in other countries wanted to know exactly the same things my fans here want to know! My favorite moment came in Poland, when some of my younger fans curtsied to me. I loved it. And meeting some wonderful journalists and a great radio personality, Rosaria Renna, in Italy, I enjoyed that. In Portugal, my publishers took me to Sintra, which was amazing. And England—well, I just loved being in England.
Any final thoughts to share with your readers?
I hope you all enjoy the continuation of Sookie’s adventures, and I look forward to seeing you on tour and hearing from you on the website when the book is out.
Short stories are magical. Short story collections more so.
The short story is a powerful form of writing, able to do so many things. A short story can be a stand alone tale. A short story can help an author more fully realize a previously-wrought world, a perfect place to grow the world without needing an entire novel to do it. And sometimes a short story can be fertile ground for an author to attempt a new world filled with new characters.
When I invited Charlaine Harris to write a short story for Unfettered II, I knew the power that should would wield. I have loved her Sookie short stories and I knew she’d turn in a great tale. For the anthology, I gave her no direction. She could write anything she wanted. She could write something in Sookie’s world; she could write something entirely new. She chose something new. And that Unfettered II short story is an amazing story, one you will read more about it in the interview below.
For a long time, I had been considering tracking down and buying all the various anthologies that held the Sookie short stories. I’m happy I waited. Because Harris worked with her publisher to create a Sookie short story collection that compiles all of them in one place. The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories is the result, a collection available tomorrow!
Below is Harris talking about Sookie, the power of the short story, and some advice for new urban fantasy writers.
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE: The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories is published now and just in time for the holiday season! It contains ten Sookie stories. Why is this collection an important book for Sookie fans?
Charlaine Harris: If you’re a completist and you must have every book in the series, The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories is a must. The Sookie stories were scattered through many anthologies, and bringing them all together for the reader — with the placement of where they occur in the timeline of the books — was a great idea. Even if you’ve tracked down a lot of the stories, this way you can be sure you’ve read them all.
PRH: I rank Sookie up there with some of the best characters in our genre. What is it about Sookie and her story that resonated with readers? Maybe more importantly, what about her resonates with her author?
CH: Thanks, Shawn. Sookie was an incredible amount of fun to write. I am not sure what made her catch on, but I do know that she is brave and determined to live a full life despite her many problems. I think that can resonate with anyone. I certainly loved that about her. And I am so glad she had a true moral compass . . . and that she made mistakes, and paid for them.
PRH: You have written many short stories. What is it about the format that you love? And how does it differ from writing a novel?
CH: I have written a lot of short stories, but am still lagging behind many of my friends. A short story is incredibly hard to bring off, because you have to make every word count, and you have to deliver the punch at the end. I find writing short fiction to be EXTREMELY challenging, and though I dread starting one, I know it’s good for me as a writer. It freshens up your writing habits.
PRH: The short story anthology Unfettered II features a Charlaine Harris tale that you are expanding into a novel. Did you use the short story to test the viability of the novel’s idea? Or was it something more than that and what else can you tell us about this new novel?
CH: Shawn, since I was writing the story for a charity anthology and was not bound to use any series character, I felt free to experiment. I had no idea that story was in me, but after I finished it, I was so happy with the result and anxious to explore Lizbeth’s world at more length. Very fortunately, Saga editor Joe Monti felt the same way. I was really astonished to find I had written an alternate-American-history story with a very young female gunslinger as the protagonist, and now that the first book, An Easy Death, has been turned in (October 30, 2018) and I’m on the second one, I’m having great fun.
PRH: Urban fantasy and paranormal romance have spent over ten years evolving and changing. What sage advice would you give writers who want to write urban fantasy right now?
CH: Those offshoots of science fiction have been around long enough now to establish tropes which have gotten really tired. I would suggest, if you want to write in those fields, you need to be confident you have a fresh approach to the material which will make your writing vital and exciting. Everyone wants to read a good story . . . no one wants to read recycled plots and characters.
The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris is in fine bookstores tomorrow!
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