Charlaine Harris’ bloodsucking book series birthed True Blood and helped her discover herself.Charlaine Harris says the only interesting things about her happen inside her head. Raised in the Mississippi Delta on a diet of Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson and Charlotte Brontë, and responsible for penning the wildly successful and even more wildly subversive Sookie Stackhouse novels (the basis for HBO’s swampy supernatural soap True Blood), the 59-year-old author’s headspace is populated with werewolves, shape-shifters, bloodsuckers and other supernatural beings who struggle with real-world issues like broken hearts and property taxes.
“I don’t know that I follow that rule about ‘only writing what you know,’ ” says Harris, who is celebrating the recent release of Dead Reckoning, the 11th Stackhouse collision of horror and humor. “But I have certainly found myself in writing these stories. The humor? That’s who I am. And the other stuff? Sookie is far braver than I am, and she’s had to be. I’m sometimes envious of the people and creatures she’s met. Who wouldn’t be?”
Though Harris found residence on the New York Times best-seller list well before HBO and Oscar winner Alan Ball adapted the Stackhouse stories in 2008, she says the cable series’ phenomenal watercooler success has been something of a dream come true. “I have a lot more money, for one thing,” she laughs. “And I got to walk a red carpet, which is something I never expected.”
Harris is a fan of the HBO series, which will launch its fourth season in June, but allows Ball to take the characters in his own direction, much as best-seller Jeff Lindsay has surrendered serial killer Dexter Morgan, his literary creation, to Showtime’s creative process. “I have to trust Alan to know his business. He’s never tried to tell me how to write a book,” she says. “Plus, he’s only on the fourth season, and I’m already writing the 12th book. He’ll never catch up!”