Fans Showing Their True Blood Love at Dragon*Con

September 10, 2009 by  

img_0159Merlotte’s must be hiring! I saw more waitresses than I could count at Dragon*Con in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. There were even a couple of Fangtasia waitresses who looked like the naughty version of Sookie and Co. Others wore shirts that stated “CAUTION: Please do not pet or tease the Were… He bites!” or labeling themselves as the “Property of Team Eric.”

Even though True Blood was not one of the main shows featured at the convention, the Truebies definitely made their presence known! Charlaine Harris was one of the guests in attendance, and her panels and book signing were among the most popular. By the end of the day on Sunday, she said she was surprised that any of us still wanted to listen to her talk! Throughout the weekend, one thing was abundantly clear: the fans love her and she loves her fans. She could not have been nicer — smiling for hundreds of pictures, staying at her book signing for an extra hour to get to everyone who waited (which was about 600 people), and graciously accepting and returning, all the gratitude professed by those for whom her books have made such an impact.

Friday night, she packed out one of the ballrooms at the Hyatt Regency for “An Hour with Charlaine Harris.” This entertaining Q&A session revealed a lot of insights. To begin with, the entire room erupted with laughter when Charlaine was asked who would win in a showdown between Eric and Edward, to which she quickly and adamantly responded, “Eric! He would kick Edward’s butt. Pam could kick Edward’s butt! And she’d love it.”

Most of the characters remain separate in Charlaine’s head from the actors who portray them on True Blood, with a few exceptions. She finds herself thinking of Sam Trammell’s Sam, Stephen Moyer’s Bill, and Chris Bauer’s Andy Bellefleur, whom she calls a perfect representation. She said that the other characters look so different because Alan Ball casts based on acting ability rather than appearance and joked, “That’s crazy, huh?” The character of Eric she wrote with Vladimir Kulich from The 13th Warrior in mind — someone who looks very kingly. She is very impressed by the work that Alexander Skarsgard has done with him and says that when the two of them are photographed together, “it looks like a Great Dane and an old Pomeranian.”

She said that she can’t choose between Eric and Bill because they’re both her babies. When asked if they are based on anyone she knows in real life, she replied, “My husband thinks I modeled them both on him.” A little girl once wrote to her, “Please don’t die before you write the last book! I have to know who Sookie ends up with!” Charlaine laughingly said she thought the bigger issue was how young this girl was to be reading her books!

Several people thanked her for her respectful characterization of Southern culture. Charlaine explained that she has received some criticism for capitalizing on Hurricane Katrina, but she finds it impossible to write a Louisiana setting that ignores such a life-altering event for so many people. With regard to the racial and religious tensions that are much more heightened aspects of the show than they are of the books, Charlaine said that Alan’s making his own point in his own medium. Whatever changes have been made that she doesn’t like, she keeps to herself because that’s what keeps her and Alan happy. They trust each other and they’re both enjoying the work they do.

img_0140True Blood has changed Charlaine’s life in many ways — some good (“I have a lot more money!”) and some bad but those are the kinds of problems you want to have, like having to do three interviews per week instead of three per year.

The fame seems removed from her everyday life in her small town in Southern Arkansas. She was afraid that her neighbors would be shocked by the racy aspects of True Blood but they are mostly so happy and proud that she is from the same small town.

Charlaine said that her writing process is very disorganized and involves lots of Post-It notes. She just goes with the flow, rarely planning ahead. She sees that as both a strength and a weakness.

Somebody asked her whether her faith influences her writings, which she affirmed, saying that she honestly doesn’t see a conflict between being a Christian and writing about vampires, contrary to what other people may think.

When the topic turned to the array of supernatural characters and whether she would introduce more in later books, she answered that there would be if she could come up with more: “It took me forever to think of the maenad. I was trying to think of something Laurell [K. Hamilton] hadn’t used.”

She informed the disappointed audience that the Harper Connelly book being released next month is probably the last one, but justified it by saying that she wants to be the kind of writer who gets out while it’s good and that she does bring the story full circle. She thinks it’s possible that, after she writes three more Sookie books (which Penguin signed her for a couple months ago), the story might be over. I know we all hope it could go on forever but understanding that it can’t, I think we can all agree that we want it to have a great ending.

On Sunday, I went to another panel with Charlaine, entitled “Bite Me!” She, along with fellow writers Sherrilyn Kenyon (the Dark Hunter series) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (the Count Saint-Germain series), spoke about current trends in vampire literature.

Each woman had a unique perspective on the ancient folklore of vampires and were drawn to them for different reasons. They spoke about the mysterious nature of the vampire, which  gives him the ability to evade death but makes him dependent on human blood to survive. They enjoy writing about a creature that can be so evil at times, but whose morality has shades of gray. They also like the balance between darkness and romance and humor that vampire stories can have.

They were asked whether readers ever try to tell them that their portrayal of vampires is wrong. Charlaine said yes but “this is the kingdom of Charlaine and my word is law.”

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There was a general attitude of superiority towards Twilight among the fans in the room but all three ladies tried to dispel that. They said, rather, that they are proud when a woman can be successful in a field that is so difficult to break into. Charlaine explained that it’s inevitable that vampire books be compared to some extent but it is irritating when people accuse her of copying Stephenie Meyer.

Another True Blood highlight at Dragon*Con was a panel on the differences between the show and the books. About 300 people showed up for the late-night discussion. I was amazed by the demographic variety of fans. The old men were clearly just as into True Blood as the teenage girls. The atmosphere was pretty laid-back, although, as we all know can what happen with Truebies, the conversation did get heated a few times! Everyone there had seen the show but not all had read the books. So there were a lot of explanations regarding the differences in plot and tone. When the discussion turned to the issue of Eric and Bill, that’s when everyone really jumped up and joined in. Obviously, there were bound to be a few arguments on that subject! But after it was over, we all laughed about it and talked with each other as we were leaving.

If you’ve ever been to Dragon*Con, you know about the Walk of Fame. They put every celebrity at tables in one big hall, where you can get an autographed picture and speak to them. This year’s most sought after guests included Patrick Stewart, Mary McDonnell, Felicia Day, Tom Felton and James Marsters, who had long lines of fans waiting for just a brief moment with them. As I was walking through, I recognized someone from True Blood John Billingsley, who plays Coroner Mike Spencer. He didn’t have anyone around him, so I went over and introduced myself and told him how much I enjoy his hilarious performance on the show. Those of you who have read Living Dead in Dallas will be aware that Mike Spencer has some big stuff happen to him at the end of the book but John told me that he was unable to be in the finale. He said that when they were shooting the episode, he was already committed to another project, which can happen when you are a recurring character instead of a regular cast member. That moment in “Frenzy” where Sookie hits him over the head with a pan is their way of showing us that Mike Spencer is knocked out during the events surrounding Maryann’s ritual. But at least he’s not dead! So I told John I was looking forward to seeing more of him in season three and went on my way.

So the celebrity encounters from the weekend were definitely cool but that wasn’t my favorite part of the experience. The most wonderful thing about Dragon*Con was the community. I started seeing the same people at different events. The ones I met and talked with were all lovely. It became obvious that the sense of connection is universally felt at a convention like that. Even though you are strangers, you are united in shared interest and love for (insert fandom here). So, for any Truebies who were there — I thought all of you were awesome people! And for those of you who weren’t, I think you’re awesome, too! That’s the great thing about a Web site like this: it brings us together in the same way, through our shared love of a certain little show called True Blood.

(Photo credit: Janie Logan)

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  • Lynn

    Not cool Isis. Its one thing to like one more than another, but you don’t need to insult Charlaine’s writing. Different people are attracted to different writing styles. If every book I read was written in the same way by every author I would never read again.
    Its ok to like one more than another, but you don’t need to trash talk.

  • She and Sherri were on a panel together, and Charlaine didn’t try and kill Sherri over Sherri’s MUCH superior fans?!?!?!? I’m impressed! (BTW, I write this as a True Blood tv show fan, but a much more serious Kenyon Minion! Sorry all, but as an aspiring writer myself, I place Charlaine’s books on a scale adjacent to the writing “quality” of the Nancy Drew series.)

    After all, I REMEMBER how Charlaine acted at Comic-Con when she and Sherri had a signing at the same time, and Sherri’s line was 4x as long as Charlaine’s! (Hint: REALLY unpleasant!)