Thursday, May 8, 2014

5/:9: Author Charlaine Harris Heads to Scottsdale

by Randy Cordova)

(Photo: Handout)

Charlaine Harris ended her series of Sookie Stackhouse books last year with the publication of "Dead Ever After," which revealed the fate of Stackhouse, as well as that of Sam, Jason and the rest of the gang in Bon Temps, La.

Fans, to put it mildly, were not pleased. Not in that the books were coming to a close, but more in how Harris chose to end things. The author received hate mail and even death threats.

"The level of viciousness surprised me," Harris says, in a voice that instantly tells you she was raised near the Mississippi Delta. "I was under the impression that these were my characters to do with as I chose."

The books led to the successful HBO supernatural series "True Blood." The program will end its run after the upcoming seventh season, which premieres in June. The literary and TV versions are quite different, but Harris has no complaints.

"They took the characters in a very different direction and into a set of circumstances that I could never have imagined," says Harris, 62. "They did something completely different with the characters in ways that don't relate to the books at all. It was quite interesting entertainment."

The success of the series also did wonders for her name value. After the show premiered in 2008 and emerged as a bona fide hit, sales of the books soared. Harris saw benefits — not merely financial — from the exposure.

"It's lovely when people want to please you. Who doesn't like that?" she says with a chuckle. "But it's definitely a strange feeling. I could be calling a bookstore saying, 'Hello, I'm Charlaine Harris, a mystery writer,' and the person on the other end goes, 'Oh yes! We know who you are!' That is a weird feeling."

She is following up the "True Blood" phenomenon with "Midnight Crossroad," the first book in a trilogy set in a fictional Texas town. There are supernatural elements, and characters include a psychic, a witch and — yes, fangbangers — a vampire.

"Well, vampires are there, but they are not a major part of the book," Harris says. "It was a lot of fun to pick and choose who lived in this town and what it looked like and what secrets everyone had. It's been like being in a new candy store."

Of course, there is the question of whether people will take to that candy the way they drank up True Blood.

"I really can't compare everything to Sookie Stackhouse," she says. "I can't expect to have lightning strike again. I just have to write what seems good and correct for myself, and what amuses and entertains me."

Charlaine Harris booksigning: 7 p.m. Friday, May 9. Scottsdale Public Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. Free, but reservations requested. 480-312-7323,

Reach the reporter at randy.cordova@ or 602-444-8849.