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Author Charlaine Harris on 'Deadlocked,' 'True Blood,' and What's Next for Sookie Stackhouse

'Deadlocked' is the second-to-last novel in the Stackhouse series.
Image courtesy Ace Books
'Deadlocked' is the second-to-last novel in the Stackhouse series.

Author Charlaine Harris may not be a household name, but her creation Sookie Stackhouse is. The spunky, problem-prone heroine of Harris’ supernatural fiction series – the inspiration for HBO’s hit series “True Blood” – is at it again in “Deadlocked,” the latest in the Stackhouse series.

Harris will be at BookPeople this Saturday, May 12 at 7 p.m. She recently spoke with KUT News about “Deadlocked,” achieving success after a tumultuous start, and her post-Stackhouse plans.

KUT News: “Deadlocked” is the twelfth in the Sookie Stackhouse series, correct?

Charlaine Harris: Yes, the twelfth, the penultimate book. I just felt like I had said everything about Sookie that I had it in me to say, and I really don’t like to extend the series when the heat isn’t in me.

KUT News: I read on the jacket of one of your books that the first novel in this series was a sort of last-ditch effort to get the ball rolling on a popular book.

Harris: You’re right. I had written for several years – many years actually – and my books had always sold eventually, but the sales weren’t fantastic, and I got a cut a time or two; I had editorial changes. You know – the usual bumpy career – and I thought it was time to turn that around.

KUT News: Did you expect the kind of popularity that led from the books?

Harris: I couldn’t even imagine this kind of popularity. It never occurred to me this would happen.

KUT News: The author of the Harry Potter books [J.K. Rowling] famously said that it became impossible to be anonymous after a while. Have you been able to preserve your life separately from your fame as the mastermind of Sookie Stackhouse?

Harris: With some effort, yes. I never realized how much that would change too, and how much I would have to guard my privacy, and be warier than I had ever been in my life. Of course I don’t have to go to the lengths she has, but it’s gotten more difficult for me, yes. When I’m at home, I have my home-hat on, not my Charlaine Harris writer-hat on, and I like to go about my business without being interrupted – but I realize that’s unrealistic, especially in today’s society.

KUT News: What is it about Sookie Stackhouse, do you think, that has made her such a popular heroine?

Harris: I can only guess, really. Who knows why lightning strikes? But I think, and I hope, it’s partly because the books are well written –  I like to tell myself that. But also I think it’s because Sookie has real-life problems. She’s got the problems that all my readers have. She’s got to pay her bills, she needs new curtains in her living room, she has to pay her insurance, you know – all those things that we all have to do, yet she has this other life, that is so much more colorful than the lives most of us lead.

KUT News: And of course, the book series is the inspiration behind the HBO series “True Blood.” What’s it like watching your books translate to television?

Harris: It’s an interesting experience – I can certainly tell you that –  and one I never expected to have. It’s added a whole new dimension to my life and the things I know about now. I can say I’ve had a lot of experiences I sure would never have had otherwise. It’s exciting watching what is, kind of, related to my work on screen. But of course, the show and the books are kind of separating in a widening distance, so I really am almost viewing the show now as a completely separate experience from the books. I knew it would happen; [“True Blood” series producer Alan Ball]’s got his own talented writers, and they are doing what they see as exciting and photogenic, which is not a concern I had, and going their own way with the characters that I created. And you have to really think of it really as a completely separate experience, and not expect it to be like the books any longer.

KUT News: It sort of seems to have gone very quickly. Has it felt quick to you?

Harris: Yes it has. There have been years when I’ve been so busy I’ve hardly had time to look around me, and I’ve been increasingly busy. The years since Sookie became so popular have just flown by for me.

KUT News: You’re going to be at BookPeople in Austin on Saturday night. Are you going to be doing a book reading, or signing books?

Harris: I don’t do readings, but I will have a question and answer with the audience, which is always fun for me. And I think the people who come have a good time too, because they get the questions answered that they really want to be answered about the books, and about my reaction to the television show and so on.

KUT News: So, what is your favorite question? What can you share with me now that I have failed to ask you?

Harris: You know, in all honesty I do not have a favorite question anymore, because I’ve answered so many questions so many times that it’s almost impossible to catch me by surprise now.   

KUT News: Well, let me ask you this: after Sookie is done, what’s next for you?

Harris: Well, so much. I’m going to be very busy. I’ve written a graphic novel with Christopher Golden, the first volume of that will be out next year. Toni Kelner and I are still co-editing anthologies, one will be out in August, and I’ve signed a contract with Penguin for three books and an entirely new series.

KUT News: Is it another supernatural series?

Harris: It does have some supernatural in it, but it’s not quite as otherworldly as the Sookie series. At least that’s the way I’m planning it now.

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.