Q&A: Sookie Stackhouse Writer Charlaine Harris

Fans of HBO's True Blood may be interested to know that Charlaine Harris' Southern drawl sounds almost as soft and sweet as that of Sookie Stackhouse, as played by Anna Paquin.

Of course, that could be because Harris is the creator of Stackhouse, the telepathic Louisiana barmaid who has a knack for falling in love with vampires.

True Blood, which enters its fourth season this summer, is based on Harris' series of novels that imagine a world in which vampires have metaphorically come out of the dark after the advent of commercial synthetic blood sales. Vampires battle for legal rights and battle each other and battle other supernatural creatures, like werewolves and fairies and demons—and, a lot of the time, just battle over Sookie.

When Harris' first Stackhouse novel, Dead Until Dark, came out back in 2001, Joss Whedon's vampires were the only ones on television. But over the past decade the series has gone from a cult readership to topping the best-seller lists, helped along by the current pop-culture obsession with everything vampirical.

Harris' new book, Dead Reckoning, is the 11th in the series, and she'll be in Knoxville on Saturday promoting it (although it's doubtful to need much help). Still, fans might want to catch her now, as Harris says she will end the series in 2013 with the release of the 13th book.

In Dead Reckoning we learn for the first time about the existence of elves. Are there even more paranormal creatures yet to come?

Probably not. I'm working on book 12 now, and I've got to start concluding everything. That's why I needed to know early on what I wanted to do. But it's going to take me forever to get everything concluded.

The end of the book leaves Sookie's romantic life in limbo. Any hints as to what will happen next?

Nope! I don't answer questions about future books.

True Blood follows somewhat closely to the mythologies you've created in your books, but it takes a number of liberties with the storyline. Do you watch the show? Do the changes ever make you cringe?

I do watch the show. They're really good about sending me episodes in advance. I'm always watching it in amazement because Alan [Ball, the creator of the show] and his story team—it amazes me where they go. They've done some things I've admired so much, where I think, I wish back seven books ago, I would have done that.

Like what?

Like Jessica—Jessica's just brilliant. I wish I had thought of that.

So if you're wrapping up the Sookie books in 2013, do you know what's next yet? Or are you just going to take a break for a while?

I'm so excited! There are so many projects I haven't been able to get to. I'm working on a graphic novel with Christopher Golden right now—I've never collaborated with anyone on the writing of anything before. … It will have a touch of the paranormal. It's something we've been talking about for a long time and decided to plunge in.

In Dead Reckoning, you briefly mention the Body Farm. You're going to be speaking at your event in Knoxville with Dr. Bill Bass, who's the guy behind it—any plans for him to take you out and give you a tour?

I don't know if I'll have time, but I have been a fan of his for years. He's a real hero of mine. That's the coolest thing about being a writer, is getting to meet other writers whose work you admire.

The Louisiana landscape plays such a big part in the series. Do you think the South just lends itself to weird, creepy stories, or are you just writing about what you know?

I think you can find weird, creepy stories anywhere, but the South is so atmospheric. And you have this tradition of that, with the Southern Gothic, which does influence it in a way. But I do think the series could have taken place in any part of the country.

Are you going to miss writing about Sookie? Has she become one of your favorite characters after so many books?

It's hard to say which characters are my favorite—it's like picking which of my babies was the prettiest. Some are closer in personality to me ... Sookie is so much braver than I am.

I have to say, reading Dead Reckoning kind of made me feel guilty. I mean, Sookie is constantly cleaning her house, despite all these horrible things happening around her. I don't have any friends getting murdered, and I still can't clean that much.

That's her fallback activity to stay sane, I guess. It's like she thinks it's not so bad out there if she can come home to a clean house every day. But yeah, I wish I cleaned that much too.