Best-selling fantasy author Charlaine Harris—whose Sookie Stackhouse novels are being adapted into the HBO series True Blood—told SCI FI Wire that Sookie's latest adventure, All Together Dead, finds her in the entourage of the vampire queen of Louisiana, who is traveling to a summit in the city of Rhodes.
"The queen's misfortunes in the wake of Katrina and the death of her husband have made her position precarious," Harris said in an interview. "Events at the summit take a desperate turn with the death of the only voice calling out against the queen, the conspiracy against the vampires in general and the drastic measures the vampires are willing to go to in assuring Sookie's services."
Harris, who began her life as a novelist in the mystery field, said that she created Sookie Stackhouse when her career was at a crossroads. "I came to a point in my career where I had to make a choice: Continue with conventional mysteries or branch out," Harris said. "I decided to write the book I'd always wanted to write, and the first book in the Sookie series, Dead Until Dark, was the result."
The protagonist, Sookie, is an attractive and bright young woman whose life has been blighted and reformed by the bane of telepathy, Harris said. "She has always had trouble connecting with other humans, because she can tell so easily what their secrets are and what they actually think about her," she said. "She can't hear vampiric brains, so the undead are naturally attractive to her. But the pleasure of their company can be overwhelmed by the complications they cause in her life."
Since the books are set in Louisiana, Harris had to deal with the aftermath of Katrina and felt she had to do so in a respectful way, she said. "But [I also had to] keep that within the humorous context of the series," Harris said. "That was difficult, and I can only hope I succeeded."
Although Harris doesn't have any first-hand experience with vampires or telepathy, she said that on some level all stories are personal. "I think I'm saying something about being coerced, in this particular book, and also something about seizing the moment for happiness," she said.
In September, Ace will publish Many Bloody Returns, an anthology edited by Harris and mystery author Toni L.P. Kelner. "The theme is a dual one: vampires and birthdays," Harris said. "Half the contributors are mystery writers, and half science fiction writers."
An Ice Cold Grave, Harris's latest Harper Connelly novel—about a woman who, after being struck by lightning, finds herself with the ability to find corpses—is due in October. —John Joseph Adams