Charlaine Answers Your Questions

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Charlaine Answers Your Questions

Post  Aslinn Dhan on Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:43 pm

From the Sookie Companion

CHARLAINE HARRIS ANSWERS QUESTIONS FROM
HER FANS

Thanks to all of you for your enthusiastic response to the opportunity to ask me
questions. If I didn’t get to answer your specific question, I apologize in advance
for your disappointment. Here’s the selection process we followed: BFF Paula, my
invaluable best friend and assistant, sorted the questions into categories. She
discarded some of the duplicates, since obviously there was no point in my reading
the same thing over and over. I read all her choices, and I narrowed the field down
to about fifty questions. Then I eliminated a few more after a second winnowing.
This wasn’t an easy process, so let me explain why I chose to answer some and not
others.

First, if I thought the answer was already in the books, I felt it would be a waste
of my time to reply to the question. Second, if I knew the answer would be
included in future books . . . I put those aside, too, for the most part. Third, if the
question was based on the television show mythology rather than the book
mythology, of course I wasn’t going to venture my opinion.

Some questions I bypassed simply because I didn’t know the answer, or
because I hadn’t made up my mind yet. In some cases, the development of the
books’ mythology hadn’t led me to a conclusion on the correct response, and in
other cases, I simply don’t know yet if (for example) Eric’s other child will be a
factor in Sookie’s story.

I’ve corrected some of the spelling and a bit of the punctuation in some of these
questions. I’m compelled to do that.

So, here goes.

Since the True Blood TV series began, do you picture your characters as the
actors? I mean, when you’re writing about Sookie, do you picture Anna Paquin?
Or in your head do they just look the way you’ve always thought of them?
— KIM HAMBLETON

They look the way I’ve always thought of them. I’ve been writing the books
much longer than the show has been on the air.

Here is my big general question for Charlaine. I’m curious about her
plotting. How much of it does she do in advance and how much of it is
spontaneous? It just amazes me how some seemingly minor details in one book
turn out to be huge later on. For example, Sookie mentions her cousin Hadley,
but Sookie has no idea what happened to her. Now, many books later, we find
out that Hadley mentioned Sookie to Queen Sophie-Anne, which started her
whole relationship with vampires. Not to mention that Hadley had a child and
that boy is now in the books—yet to be determined whether he becomes a major
character.

— DENISE DUNNELL WELLS

I don’t plot much in advance. Many of the big turning points in the books have
been the result of spur-of-the-moment revelations. I’m always scattering seed in the
field, though I’m never sure which will spring up and which will die in the ground.
To me, that’s the fun of writing. Of course, sometimes instead of scattering seed,
I’m planting land mines to blow up in my face in the future.

How much of Sookie’s personality is a reflection of yours, or is she more like
an alter ego?
— JESSICA SMITH

There are definitely elements of Sookie in me—or, more correctly, there are
elements of me in her. I think there’s a sliver of me in all my characters. I wish I
were as brave as she is!

Is there any limit to the animals Sam can shift into? Can he shift into
creatures that are more than one animal (like a hippogriff, perhaps)?
— PATRICIA RUOCCO

Sam can’t shift into mythical animals, and he refuses to shift into the form of
another human being. To a true shifter, that’s a disgusting perversion. True shifters
almost invariably stick to mammals when they choose their animal form, and most
of them have a favorite.

Are some of the minor characters based on people you know/knew?
— SANDRA RUSSELL

The correct answer is, not entirely. I pick up on bits and pieces of people as I go
through life: a physical trait, a speech habit, a character flaw or strength. I build my
minor characters (though no character is really minor) based on an accumulation of
observations.

Bubba seems to like keeping to himself, but I imagine he can get lonely at
times. Would he ever consider creating a companion by turning one of those cats
he’s so fond of?

— LINDSEY NEELY

I got a lot of questions about Bubba, so let me just condense this answer.
(Animals can’t become vampires in my mythology, by the way.) Bubba does like to
keep to himself. He still loves to perform, when he’s in the mood, but he hates to be
reminded of his former status, so characters don’t mention his life name. Most
vampires have gone through several names since they died, since they’re constantly
reinventing themselves, by the way. They had to, before they were able to come out
of the coffin. But Bubba will stick to Bubba.

How long did Eric know about Bill’s “mission” to seduce Sookie for Sophie-
Anne ? And why didn’t he arrange for her to find out about it earlier?
— LADA KYST

Bill’s mission was not to seduce Sookie; it was to investigate Sookie and verify
her power. Seduction was just one option in his investigation. Bill was the obvious
guy for the job since he already had a home in Bon Temps. Though Bill came to Bon
Temps on this assignment for the queen, Eric did not know what Bill’s specific
mission was until he arrived in New Orleans in Definitely Dead. For several different
reasons, Eric forced Bill to tell Sookie that he’d had a hidden agenda.

This has been bugging me lately. Did Bill set the Rattrays up? It seems that a
vampire would know better than to go with strangers, and he should have been
able to overpower them or at least put up a struggle. Also, did he offer Sookie the
blood that the Rats drained from him so that she would have a connection to
him, which he got anyway when he healed her later?
— JANEL SMITH

Bill did not set the Rattrays up. He should have known better than to go with
them, but he was sure they were offering blood and sex. He misread the situation
and was taken by surprise. He offered Sookie the blood because it would have been
a big clue to her character if she’d taken it.

Did you originally intend the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire
Mysteries to be more in the mystery vein, like your previous novels, and instead
did you find that they snowballed into a much more intricate supernatural
creature than you originally planned?
— STACY WHITMORE

Yes. Before the Sookie novels, my experience had been exclusively in mystery. I
did intend each book to contain a separate murder mystery, but as the series grew,
that became impractical.

I am interested in the editing process Ms. Harris goes through with her
Sookie books. Does she overwrite and then pare down, or sketch and fill in?
Does she go back after writing and say, no, Sookie would not do that/ say it that
way? Would her editor ever question why Sookie is doing or saying things, or is
that the author’s determination?

— DOROTHY BAKER

Editing is a critical part of the writing process; in fact, it may be the most
important part. I wish I overwrote and had to pare down. My problem is the
opposite. I tend to write very close to the bone as far as my word count goes.
Certainly, I backtrack, delete sections, and steer Sookie in different directions, but
after being with her for so many books, it’s second nature to me to step into
Sookie’s skin. My editor certainly does ask questions about the various characters’
motivations, and if I can’t answer them, I’ve taken a misstep that I have to correct.

Will Sookie have a happy-ever-after? And if not, why not? I have heard that
you said she will not have an HEA, but that seems so harsh for the heroine we all
love.
— SHARON KNAUER

I think this rumor arises from comments I made while on a panel at Romantic
Times. The point I was trying to make is this: Many romance novels have a blackand-
white conclusion. Love conquers all, and the good people are all happy. The
bad people get what’s coming to them. And it’s clear what category the characters
fall into. There’s nothing wrong with this scenario. It can be wonderfully satisfying
reading. But the conclusion of Sookie’s story may not be like this. Some characters
will be happy, but some won’t, and all my characters have both good and bad in
their natures. There’s no way to write an ending to this series that will satisfy all
my readers. I can only be true to my own vision of the books.

Your fantasy world of the Sookie Stackhouse series includes many mythical
beings: vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, fairies. Was this because of any
outright decision to make sure nothing would be related to actual life (i.e., no
political commentary, etc.)?
— BRET STEARNS

On the contrary, I think the books are full of commentary, though I see it as
social rather than political. I’m writing about mythical creatures, but that doesn’t
mean they can’t represent something else. I definitely have an agenda. But I am also
happy for the books to be read as the adventure novels they are. I don’t answer
questions about my own politics. If the reader “gets” it, great. If not, I think the
books are a lot of fun anyway.

Is there a possibility of the fae extending Sookie’s life so she will age less
quickly? I know you said that Sookie will not become a vampire; do you still feel
that way now that True Blood and the Sookie novels have a cultlike following?
— SOMMER STRACHAN

These questions both relate to things I’ve said often and publicly. Sookie’s little
dash of fae blood will not extend her life, nor will she become a vampire. No matter
what happens on True Blood, and no matter how popular the books get, my vision
for Sookie has not changed.

In previous books Sookie has had brushes with evil and has lost loved ones
to supernatural as well as garden-variety evil. These losses toughen her little by
little. In Dead and Gone, Sookie herself experiences radical evil as she is tortured
nearly to death by her sadistic captors. Large pieces are torn from her in both the
literal and the abstract. I think this was shocking to many readers. Why did you
decide to take Sookie’s narrative to such a dark place? Her horrible experience
has definitely stiffened her resolve to protect those she loves by being more
proactive (if a little ruthless) instead of defensive.
— BRIDGET PAGE

I’m not always sure why I make the decisions I do, but in this case I knew that
eventually Sookie’s involvement with the supernatural world would lead to
something irrevocable happening to her. And when something terrible has
happened, she must change as a result. It would be amazing if she didn’t. To me,
that’s one of the most interesting parts of writing: following the character through
growth and change.

Through all the books, anything seems possible to the imagination. Did you
ever think of a story line that made you think again and not include it because it
was too far-fetched?
— ESTHER SCHMIDT
Yes, I did. I had worked out a fantastic story line in which Niall was actually
Sookie’s father instead of her great-grandfather, but I’d already said too much that
contradicted that for it to be a viable part of the mythology. I had a happy two
hours thinking it through, though, before “reality” set in. I’ve also written some
passages that my editor deemed too gross to include. No, don’t ask!

If Sookie inherited her telepathy as a fairy power from her grandmother’s
foray into fairy blood, how is it that her cousin Hunter has it, too, unless Gran
had another child of fairy descent? Who are Hadley’s parents? There’s virtually
no reference to them in the books, yet Hunter must have fairy blood.
— EILEEN PRESCOTT

Though Sookie didn’t exactly inherit the telepathy from her grandmother’s
lover (there is more about this in Dead Reckoning and possibly in the books to come
after), Hunter has a dash of fairy blood through his mom, Hadley, Sookie’s first
cousin. Hunter’s parents are Remy Savoy and Hadley Delahoussaye. Hadley is the
daughter of Adele Stackhouse’s daughter, Linda (who died of uterine cancer), and
Linda’s husband, Carey Delahoussaye. Hunter is Adele’s great-grandson. This has
been asked so frequently I felt I had to address it.

You adapted the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina into Sookie’s story. Do you
feel that this event drastically changed your vision of the story? How much of a
challenge was it to adapt if necessary?
— JENNIFER MORGAN

The main effect of the inclusion of Hurricane Katrina has been the changes in
the timeline of the books. Now they’re taking place in the past instead of in an
indeterminate present, since Sookie’s life is anchored to a real-time event. You’ll see
timelines in the “Life in Bon Temps” section of this book. When Katrina occurred, I
decided it would be disrespectful to the many people affected by it if I left such a
disaster out of the narrative of the books. I stick by that decision.

As a pagan and practicing witch, I was very happy to see Wiccans portrayed
in a positive light in your books, and not as Satan-worshipping crazy people,
which has been my experience. What kind of research did you do to develop
your Wiccan characters in the book, and did it change your view of non-
Christians, being a Christian yourself?
— WENDY CARROLL

I did a lot of research into both witchcraft and Wicca so I could write about
them with some authenticity. There are differences in the two, and I wanted to be
accurate. Since I’m a Christian, I feel obliged to try hard to be fair, open-minded,
and nonjudgmental; that’s my interpretation of our creed. I’m convinced that there
are people who are both good and evil in every classification, whether it be racial,
political, or spiritual—and quite often these contradictory traits are combined in
one person.

There seems to be so many vampire mythologies. Some can walk in the sun,
some can’t; some don’t have a problem with garlic, some do; etc. How did you
choose which mythologies to take inspiration from? Why are the vampires in
your series the way they are?
— LUCIA MATEO

The glib answer is, “Because that’s the way I needed them to be.” It’s true that
there are a lot of vampire mythologies, and in general I followed the classical
Dracula pattern, with a dash of Anne Rice’s and Laurell K. Hamilton’s. However, I
had to pick and choose among these other mythologies for what would work for
my own storytelling purposes. I hope I’ve come up with my very own version. My
vampires are the way they are because that’s what moves Sookie’s story forward.

When you started writing this series — which started off as one book — did
you have in mind a story arc for Sookie to go on?
— BARBARA CRAMER

When I wrote the first Sookie book, I had no idea I’d ever get to write another
one. I did have ideas about things I’d like to do with the characters, and most of
those ideas I’ve been able to incorporate into her story. I have a few surprises left, I
hope. From early in the series, I have known how I’ll end it.

Eric’s character seems to resonate so very well with the female population,
myself included. Where did his character come from? Is he your dream man or a
product of the plot? Is Alexander Skarsgard what you imagined Eric to be like?
— MARIANNE MCCLEARY

Eric has surprised me over and over. When I began establishing him, I thought
it would be fun to include a Viking as a counterpoint to Bill, my Civil War veteran.
In many ways, Eric is Bill’s opposite, absolutely on purpose. Around that time, I
happened to see a movie called The Thirteenth Warrior, based on a Michael Crichton
book. I thought the actor Vladimir Kulich (a Czechoslovakian who plays Viking
leader Buliwyf) was a great presence—commanding, regal, determined (and
handsome). Although Eric is not completely based on Kulich’s portrayal of
Buliwyf, the film character was certainly a factor in fine-tuning Eric. The process of
character building is a mysterious one, not least to the writer. So, no; Alexander is
not exactly what I imagined Eric to be like, but then, no one is.

Would you ever consider bringing someone from the Sookieverse into a
different author’s books? Maybe Dresden Files... Amelia could be in the Witch
Network for New Orleans...
— KRISTINA MINCEY

Jim Butcher would have a few things to say about that, and so would his
lawyer. As much fun as such a crossover sounds, not only would I have to agree
with the other writer on how such a “visit” would be accomplished, but we’d have
to figure out how to blend two different worlds in a seamless way and reconcile
two separate publishers (in some cases, though Jim and I have the same publishing
house), two separate agents, and two separate contracts. There’s a lot more to
consider than the fun of it—which would be considerable.

Would you ever do a spin-off series based on any of the characters in your
books?
— JOHN BONFIGLIO

I don’t have any plans for that right now, but I certainly don’t rule it out. I will
not write the same story from another point of view, which is a related question I
get frequently.

As a writer, is it hard to “not bring the work home”? Do you plot literary
murders over breakfast? Take a pause to write down an idea while watching a
movie? Miss sleep while wondering how to tie up a loose end?
— SILJE ARSETH

I do plot murders over breakfast, and while I’m in the car, and while I’m on
planes. I have ideas all the time—when I’m showering, when I’m doing the dishes,
when I’m having phone conversations . . . and I apologize to the person on the
other end of the conversation, here and now. I don’t miss a lot of sleep, but
sometimes I think over what I’ve written during the day as I’m drifting off to sleep
or just waking up, and I’ve gotten some resolutions to problems at those times. The
trick is remembering them long enough to get them into the book.

I’ve just finished reading Dead in the Family, and I was somewhat confused
that Sookie can feel Eric, Alexei, and Appius Livius Ocella in the bond—but not
Pam. If they are all from the same blood, surely Pam should be present in the
bond between Eric and Sookie.
— PATRICIA DE VRIES

The bond works “up.” Sookie can feel the one she’s bonded with (Eric) and his
maker, and therefore the maker’s other child (Alexei) . . . but she can’t feel “down,”
which would be Eric’s children or Alexei’s child, if he’d ever sired one.

In Sookie’s world, can vampires be brought back to human life once they are
made vampire?
— SALLY JOHNS

No. They’ve already died, so life is not an option for them.

If a vampire has been publicly found guilty of killing a human, will he or
she be tried in human court?
— BRIAN COTTRELL

Yes, unless the vampires catch him or her first. They don’t want bad publicity,
and such a trial would definitely be detrimental to the image they’re trying to
project—if the guilty vampire simply killed from overfeeding or for the pleasure of
it. However, if the vampire was being attacked by a group of Drainers, the vampire
hierarchy would be glad to see the trial, since it would send a message to those who
were thinking of doing the same thing.

It is well-known that when vamps cry, it is blood. So my question is, Do
vamps go to the bathroom? We also know that vamps are very sexually active, so
if they cry blood, what is in place of their “other” bodily fluids? Is this why
Sookie couldn’t get pregnant?
— JENNIFER VAN HORN

I got lots of questions about vampire bodily fluids, so I guess I have to respond.
Vampires do cry blood. Their sexual emissions are tinged with blood, too. Males
and females are sterile because birth (and engendering birth) are processes of
living, as is using the bathroom. Vampires only ingest blood (though they may
occasionally sip a nonblood drink), and they use every bit of the blood as fuel.

During the ride to look for Bill, Alcide tells Sookie that bitten Weres, or the
half-man, half-wolf Weres, “don’t live long, poor things.” Does this apply to the
werepanthers as well? What does it mean for Jason?
— SANDY SMITH

In some packs, the halfies are killed as soon as they’re discovered. Other packs
allow them to live, but running with the pack engenders a lot of wear and tear on
bodies that don’t heal as quickly as pureblood bodies. (By the way, this is where the
legend of the Yeti and of Bigfoot came from: sightings of halfies.) Though Jason has
a good chance of remaining a very healthy and vigorous man when his friends are
starting to slow down, his life span will not be as long as if he had not been bitten.

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Aslinn Dhan
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