Charlaine Harris Enjoying Her Success

May 21, 2009 by  

charlaineharrishoustonCharlaine Harris is riding a wave of success lately as she learns from her editor that her ninth book in her Sookie Stackhouse series entitled “Dead and Gone” will debut on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list this Sunday in the No. 1 spot. However, with the excitement of having a book on the best-sellers list the responsibilities of her everyday life still continue, one that includes dealing with her daughter’s upcoming graduation and tending to her six acres property.

The successful combination of vampires, shape-shifters, fairies, and witches to name a few in the world of Sookie Stackhouse, (a telepathic bar waitress set in the rural northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps)  Ms. Harris has garnered a huge following and a TV series on HBO that has been adapted by Alan Ball into the highly successful True Blood series.  Ms. Harris’ “Dead and Gone” book is the second of a three-book contract deal that paid Ms. Harris a seven-figure amount.  As to whether her Sookie Stackhouse series will end with her 10th book we have to wait and see as she has mentioned she could still write 3 more follow the 10th book.

Ms. Harris, 57, has been writing books for the past 3 decades and finally has allowed herself some luxuries with the success of her Sookie Stackhouse series by buying herself a diamond ring, hiring her longtime friend to work for her as a personal assistant and to not have to travel on a book tour this  year because of her daughter’s pending graduation this year.

“It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher,” said Ms. Harris, who had previously written two mystery series that never quite took off. Or, as she put it more succinctly, with a cackle that evoked a paranormal creature: “I had this real neener-neener-neener moment.”

Ms. Harris’ success didn’t come over night but through many years of dedication to writing to which she had an inclination towards at a very early age. Ms. Harris was born and raised in Tunica, Mississippi to a schoolteacher, homemaker turned librarian mother.  Ms. Harris started early in life reading mysteries and knew at an early age that she wanted to be a writer. The first books that she published were two mystery books in the 1980s, and then she began to develop a character series entitled the  “Aurora Teagarden mysteries“ about a southern librarian turned into an amateur investigator.  Even though she received good reviews of  her books they were not hitting the best-sellers’ list.

In the mid-1990s she developed another character series based on with Lily Bard.  The books were more violent and sexually explicit as her character investigated murders in between her job as a cleaning lady.  It wasn’t until Ms. Harris decided to write a book featuring vampires that she finally found the winning combination to makes her book s and her name  more well known. Trying for a different scenario from Anne Rice who was quite popular at the time she wrote “Dead Until Dark.” A book based on the revelation that vampires are real and their emergence into mainstream society as a result of the invention of synthetic blood.  With the development of the new blood vampires could “come out of the coffins” and live among humans without having to hunt them.  The main character in the series is Sookie Stackhouse who is a telepathic bar waitress who has always felt like an outsider and different because of her unique ability.  Therefore when vampires make their presence known and one finally enters her bar one night that is the beginning of Sookie’s adventure in to the supernatural world as she’s draw to them because on some level she can relate to them as being an outsider.

Ace Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Penguin Group USA, bought the manuscript in 2000. “The voice is terrific,” said Ginjer Buchanan, editor in chief of Ace. “And I liked the setting. I think it’s an interesting and different milieu, and she portrays it in a way that’s fresh and understandable, but not stereotypical.”

How does Ms. Harris get the inspiration for her books and the others that she plans to write?  She states that they come for her simple everyday experiences.  She could be driving along a country road or the ideas  can come while she is shopping in a store.  She states that the idea to make Sookie telepathic came from come the concept of reflecting the veneer of courtesy that exist in small-town Southern living. On the exterior people may be polite because that is what you are to do yet in their minds they may be harboring very nasty thoughts about you and Sookie is able to hear these thought.

“I think that must be the worst thing, not to have that buffer zone between how people really think and feel and how they present themselves to you,” Ms. Harris said. “That’s one of the reasons I love living here, because people are so polite.” For Sookie, consorting with vampires comes as a relief because she cannot actually read their thoughts.

Many have stated that her writing seems to be a metaphor for certain issues that society needs to deal with and how society needs to accept diversity.  However Ms. Harris states she is not a crusader just a writer who wants to write a good adventure that people can get lost in and forget about their problems.

Alan Ball the creator of Six Feet Under one day came across one of Ms. Harris’ book (Dead Until Dark) and was so intrigued by it that he bought the rest of the series and decided he wanted to adapt it onto television which would become True Blood.  Mr. Ball has gone on to create with True Blood this wonderful world that Charlaine Harris developed and enhanced it with more scenes, storylines and character developments to make True Blood the third most successful TV series in HBO history behind The Sopranos and Sex in the City.

When asked if she knows how her Sookie Stackhouse series will end she states that she does just that she isn‘t telling anyone yet.  We will just have to wait and see in the remaining books in her series to see how everything plays out in the end.

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