Today we’re happy to welcome Ms. Charlaine Harris to the World Fantasy Convention 2020 blog. Charlaine is a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for forty years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. She has written six series and two stand-alone novels, in addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and graphic novels (with Christopher Golden). Her Sookie Stackhouse books have appeared in thirty different languages and on many bestseller lists. Harris now lives in Texas, and when she is not writing her own books, she reads omnivorously. Her house is full of rescue dogs.
WFC2020: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today. Your latest series, the Gunnie Rose books, are set in an alternate history of the United States, where magic is acknowledged but despised. What was the inspiration for the main character, Lizbeth Rose?
CH: Lizbeth came about when Shawn Speakman asked me for a short story for a charity anthology. I didn’t want to use one of my series characters, so I felt free to invent a character as protagonist, and eventually settled on writing about a very young woman who was really good with a gun. The world formed around that fact, and I became more and more interested in the character and that world, which evolved into a fractured America. When I completed the Midnight series, I went immediately to Lizbeth for my next book.
WFC2020: Now I want to look up that charity anthology! Many of your books have been made into TV series or movies. Which of those were truest to your original stories?
CH: Ha ha ha! Laughing, here! I learned a lot in the TV world. I learned the writers for the shows are just as proud of being writers as I am, and they have their own ideas about where the characters should go and what their development should be. I have to respect that, and enjoy the product of their work just as they (presumably) enjoyed the product of mine. I’ve learned to live with the books and the shows as separate entertainment vehicles. To me, the bottom line . . . if my credit flashes on the screen, that increases the sale of the books. And the books are my thing.
WFC2020: Books definitely are your thing. Do you have any input into the TV and movie scripts?
CH: Zero. Zilch. Nada. But in all fairness, I don’t really want to work on those. I don’t know what’s best on the screen. If I did, I’d be a screenwriter. I am content to work on my own stuff, the written word. Other writers aren’t, and want a more active role in their adaptation.
WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?
CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!
WFC2020: We love “first” stories. I think the Sookie Stackhouse books were the first of yours to be made into a TV experience. What was that like?
CH: I grew up in Tunica, Mississippi. My dad was a farmer, then a school principal. My mom was a housewife, then a librarian. When the Sookie books were so successful, I was faced with the (wonderful) prospect of choosing who should bring them to the screen. When Alan Ball is one of the options, the choice is pretty easy, but my agent insisted quite rightly that I should give each producer the chance to pitch over the phone. It was a surrealistic experience. They were players in a world I couldn’t really imagine. Of course, now I know they were probably as astonished to find themselves where they were as I was to find myself where I was. I felt an immediate connection with Alan during our conversation, and that lasted the whole time we were associated.
WFC2020: That must have been so exciting! Do you have a favorite past character that you miss writing about?
CH: No, I have a good time with whatever project I’m working on at the moment. It’s not like I can’t go back and write about them again if I want. They’re not dead and buried unless I want them to be.
WFC2020: And who knows? If you miss them enough, they might not actually stay buried! (Zombies, anyone?) But we love your new characters as much as the previous ones. What’s next for you?
CH: Interesting question. I’m about to write a proposal for more Lizbeth books, and we’ll see how that goes.
WFC2020: If readers are not familiar with your books, where would you suggest they begin?
CH: It really depends on what they like to read. If they like conventional mysteries, I have Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard. If they like mystery with a touch of paranormal, I have the Harper Connelly books. If they like urban fantasy, I have Sookie Stackhouse and the Midnight trilogy. If they like alternate American Westerns with a big dose of magic, I have the Lizbeth Rose series. I like to keep things moving.
WFC2020: Where can we find you on the internet?
CH: www.charlaineharris.com (I check it every day for questions and comments.) On Facebook, I have a professional page and I answer messages there. @realcharlaine
Charlaine is one of the people you’ll meet at this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Salt Lake City. Check out her books and see which series appeals to your literary tastes. And don’t forget to bring your books from home to have her sign them for you. Or, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find some you don’t have in the WFC Dealers’ Room.