“True Blood” would not have existed if not for Charlaine Harris, the coziest writer you’ll ever meet who has some of the most disturbing ideas.
At the author’s spotlight panel at Comic-Con Thursday (July 22), Harris gets a surprise of her own out of the gate: The officials at Comic-Con have awarded her their Inkpot Award for Achievement in Fantasy and Science Fiction.
After a few introductory statements, Harris opens the floor to fan questions.
Here’s a rundown of the session:
1:04 p.m. – Harris reveals that she decided to write the Sookie Stackhouse novels because she wanted a supernatural twist on the mysteries she had been writing. In particular, she was influenced by Anne Rice, but Laurell K. Hamilton was the one who paved the way “to the acceptance of my book.”
1:05 p.m. – “Finally I got a page on Facebook because my kids told me to. I got a message from Anne Rice” who was a fan of the show. “I said, ‘I think you should read the books.'” The two authors now message each other on Facebook on occasion.
1:06 p.m. – Why she picked the name Sookie Stackhouse: “It was an old Southern name that had fallen into disuse. I thought it was a good name for a girl with old-fashioned values but with a modern twist.” Stackhouse was apparently from the phone book.
*** Best Charlaine Harris observations of the panel: “I didn’t realize how difficult [‘Sookie Stackhouse’] would be to say with fangs. You spit when you say ‘S,’ so maybe now I’d name her … Dora Dunce.” ***
1:08 p.m. – She has no problem reconciling what she writes with her faith. “I hear from people all the time who I’ve made happy … I feel really good about what I do.”
1:10 p.m. – She won’t considering incorporating the Alan Ball “True Blood” stuff, like baby vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) into her novels. “I love Jessica too and wish I thought of her first. To me they’re separate entertainment vehicles. Some of the characters are sort of the same and sometimes they’re very different.”
Also: “Sometimes people [who watched the show first] tell me on my website that I’m wrong, that Eric’s maker isn’t Appius Livius Ocella, but it was Godfrey.”
1:11 p.m. – On planning out characters and plots: “Truthfully the way I write is a disgrace. I’m a ‘pantser.’ I fly by the seat of my pants.”
1:15 p.m. – Basing characters on people she knows: “Yes and no. I steal bits of people everywhere I go. I save descriptions, character traits, bits of dialogue. Writers are the worst eavesdroppers of them all. We will follow you through a mall.” She tells of how she overheard two ladies talking but only heard the punchline, “And that’s why she became a lesbian.” Harris says she wanted to go to them and demand to hear the beginning of the story.
1:17 p.m.– How her fans treat her: “In Portugal they curtseyed. I thought they’d raised the bar for my American fans.”
1:18 p.m. – Harris is sympathetic about how long her fans have to wait for each Sookie novel. “I know it’s hard from year to year. I want to make them as good as I can and that takes a bit of time.”
1:19 p.m. – Why she hasn’t had Bill levitate after that first time: “I just never needed the levitation again. If I needed it he would levitate. I never found it handy, well, I guess unless you needed him to dust high shelves.”
1:20 p.m. – Some of her favorite writers that may have influenced her: Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Nigel Marsh, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Robert Heinlein.
1:21 p.m. – BEST NEWS! The next short story will feature Sookie and Pam and the stripper pole. Due out Aug. 3. In February, the “Sookie Companion” will be published. It’s a compendium of all things Sookie, which includes: original interview with Alan Ball, an FAQ, recipes (“this was not my idea”), synopses of the books, secret emails between Bill and Eric and an original novella about Sam and Sookie going to Sam’s brother’s wedding. Also, Quinn’s in it, so can life be better until next May when the next Sookie novel is out? No, we don’t think so.
1:23 p.m. – Sadly, there aren’t going to be any more Harper Connelly mysteries. “I felt I had said everything about Harper I had to say. I try very hard to quit when I think I’m running out of gas on a project.” But, that won’t be the end of her. Harper is going to appear in a comic book! From the same people who did the Laurell K. Hamilton comics. Other Harper projects are also in the works, but Harris wouldn’t divulge those details … yet.
1:24 p.m. – Also, fans who want something brand-spanking new from Harris will be glad to hear that once she finishes her next Sookie novel and a short story, then she’s going to work with Chris Golden (“Buffy,” “Angel”) on a graphic novel. Yeah, yeah, but we want to hear about Sookie. No worries, Harris is contracted for three more Sookie novels for now.
1:27 p.m. – Sookie can’t read vampire brains because their brain synapses fire differently. That’s why she also has varying levels of success with the other supes. Of course, she has read Eric’s thoughts a couple of times, but hey, brains can have little blips.
1:28 p.m. – The reason why lemons are poisonous to fairies is that when Harris was writing a short story about them (fairies, not lemons) she wanted the thing that could foil them be “totally ridiculous … Lemons are readily available. Why not make lemons the culprit?”
1:29 p.m. – A few of the “True Blood” actors do look exactly like the image that Harris had in her head. Definitely Kristin Bauer van Straten (Eric’s lovely second-in-command Pam) and Chris Bauer (the well-meaning Det. Andy Bellefleur). But what about Sookie? “God bless Anna who’s so small, but Sookie [in the books] is definitely curvier. Sookie’s a bigger gal than that.”
1:35 p.m. – “Sookie will never become a vampire.” Also, after being asked whether she were Team Edward or Team Jacob, Harris replies, “Okay, so you’re joking, right?”
1:36 p.m. – Harris is too far ahead in writing the novels to be affected by the portrayals of Eric or Bill or other characters from “True Blood.” Also, she doesn’t like the whole “Team” mentality because it’s “counterproductive” to what she’s trying to do in the books.
1:37 p.m. – Harris credits Anne Rice for the Sookie Stackhouse novels being set in Louisiana because Rice’s books set there were such “adjective-laden, atmospheric, homoerotic, angsty books.” Harris thought that was fun, and since Rice had romanticized southern Louisiana, Harris took the northern part, “which nobody wanted.”
1:39 p.m. – More Sookie novel news: Bubba will be in the next book. Thank you, thank you very much. Bubba came to Harris “in a flash” when she was watching “Men in Black,” inspired by how some of those characters were alien. “It made instant sense to me. I just explained everything.” She thought this also made sense of Tsarevich Alexei and Rasputin.
1:42 p.m. – When she visited Portugal, only Book 5 had been released there, and she admits to having little memory of what came before in her books. So s
he can’t exactly help out the fan who wanted to know the second time Sookie was able to hear Eric. Can you?
1:44 p.m. – Yes, Eric does want Sookie to be a vampire. He even says so in the current novel that Harris is writing. To him, it’s the next logical step.
1:45 p.m. – Funny fan overshare moment: Harris heard from a lady who said that she and her husband would act out the sex scenes from each new novel. Apparently, when Harris was 50, she decided it was about time to write her first explicit sex scene since she hadn’t before. She chalks up her skill to a great imagination and jokes that her husband wants her to say he was the inspiration.
1:46 p.m. – That quality that the fae have that the vamps can’t resist? Totally made up. Again, the lady has a great imagination, but she also wanted to create some tension between the two groups. Oh, and Sookie’s fairy blood does not have anything to do with her telepathy. Interesting …
1:47 p.m. – Although Anna Paquin‘s Sookie accent sounds a lot like Harris’, it wasn’t based on it. Paquin had already shot episodes of the show before she even met the author.
1:48 p.m. – No, Harris will NOT tell which vampire Niall was talking about when he said that “He really loves you (Sookie).” Nice try, fangirl.
1:53 p.m. – And finally, a fan from Portugal (they love her you know) asks why all of Harris’ protagonists have some handicap. Harris sums it up nicely: “I guess I’m interested in flawed but strong women.”
Harris is absolutely charming and adorable. Zap2it will have a follow-up interview with her Saturday, so come back to read more about Sookie and friends.
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