Charlaine Harris: Saying Goodbye to Sookie

Novelist Charlaine Harris is surprisingly unemotional when she discusses the upcoming end of her Sookie Stackhouse series of books. There are only two more titles planned in the Southern Gothic series, which is based on the adventures of a telepathic waitress who lives among vampires, werewolves, fairies and other supernatural creatures in a small town in Louisiana. The characters inspired the HBO television series True Blood and garnered Harris thousands of new fans, but even that new success hasn't been enough to persuade her to continue.

"I don't have anything left to tell. After the last book, I'll have said everything I have to say about Sookie," she tells Art Attack. "Really, I think it would be doing readers a disservice to continue writing a character when my heart wasn't in it. I've loved writing Sookie, but if you see the end of the road, you see the end of the road."

Harris admits she is a little worried about doing the end of Sookie's story justice. "I'm generally pretty excited about trying to tie up all the threads and trying to leave the readers with something that they can say, 'Okay, now I know.' But at the same time, I don't know if I can get everything wound up. It just feels like a very big challenge."

One of her biggest challenges is deciding who to bring back from previous titles in the series for a final good-bye. "It's so hard," she tells us. "I find myself wanting to bring back random people, just so I can say, 'Here they are. Here's what happened.' And then I think, it's not going to be a very cohesive book if I have all these guest appearances. I really have to stick to the core of the book; I can't just throw people in there to give them a wave of the hand.

"Maybe there'll be an addendum on my Web site or as an e-book, something where I say, 'This is what happened to Harry Bellafleur!' or 'This is what happened to Tanya.' I don't want to leave anybody frustrated."

Harris knows that some readers will take it upon themselves to continue Sookie's story via fan fiction. She's aware several such fan fiction sites exist, but says she hasn't accessed them. "I never, never, never read it," she says. "Mostly as a precaution, but the other thing is I just don't get fan fiction. If it makes people happy, that's okay with me, but it's just not something I'm interested in."

She points out that ardent readers of Agatha Christie and other authors from previous eras did not write fan fiction. Harris says it's the Internet that has made the difference.

"People are so intense now. They can follow a writer online. And they get so invested in that world, because they can talk to each other about the books all the time on my Web site or other Web sites. I think that creates a more intense fan experience."

The author has some advice to new writers, including those that start out writing fan fiction. "To me the main thing is to read, read, read, read and then you have to put your butt in the chair and write. That's the part that most people miss. They say, 'What do I do after I write the book?' and I say, 'Write the book first!' That's the hurdle most people won't get over.

"If you do get over that and you produce a book, don't show it to your mom. Don't show it to your best friend. Show it to someone whose opinion will be given honestly and someone who has read enough to have an informed opinion. I've always believed you should pick your critics carefully."

Charlaine Harris reads from and signs Deadlocked at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit the store's Web site or call 713-524-8597. Free.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez