True Blood’s Charlaine Harris on letting Sookie go

True Blood author Charlaine Harris talks to SciFiNow about the finale, screenplays and the death of Bill

Can you tell us about your latest novel?

Deadlocked is a continuation of Sookie’s previous adventures with the resolution of some long threads that have been dangling. Since heading into writing the last book, which I’m working on now, it’s time to start winding things down in a way. Some long hidden resentments among the fae will be surfacing and they’re much more involved in this book, as it was a plot point that I needed to resolve. Tara has her babies and there are two abductions; it’s a busy book that moves very swiftly. Sookie has a birthday, too! We’ve never talked about her birthday much before but she celebrated her birthday in this book.

Is it in true dramatic Sookie style?

Well yes, as it turns out!

How did the depiction of fairy land on the TV show compare to what you imagined?

It’s completely different! I certainly don’t see it as volcanic and barren and full of hideous creatures, though there’s certainly some. I see it as more as a great woodland, myself.

As it’s the penultimate book, do you feel more pressure now it’s getting near the end?

I absolutely feel more pressure, I’m trying to remember all the loose ends that I need to tie up and all the questions readers have asked me and there’s just no way I can possibly answer all those. I may have to put something on my website or add onto the Sookie Companion.

Is there a book in the series that you’re particularly proud of or that stands out to you in some way?

I really enjoyed the one that takes place in Rhodes (All Together Dead), when the hotel collapses. That was a lot of fun to write because Sookie wasn’t in her comfort zone and I enjoyed doing all the research for it. I had to talk to a lot of people about construction, elevator shafts, roof angles, the thickness of safety glass and so on. Stuff that I never thought I’d need to know! Even though there were a few plot holes, it was still a good book to write and I thought it achieved what I wanted it to.

How has Sookie developed throughout the series?

I think Sookie’s matured a lot and I think she has had to do some terrible things and that has changed her. She’s gotten somewhat harder but she’s still determined to try to do the right thing if she can.

What do you regard as some of the defining moments of the series?

Oh my goodness, so many things have happened! Probably when she got tortured – that was the moment that changed her forever – but there have been many moments that have made her look herself in the face and explore her own conscience for what she can and cannot do.

Sookie’s enjoyed a few different relationships; do you think any of them were particularly well suited to her?

I think she’s learned something from all the relationships she’s had; from starting out as a young woman who had never had a serious or satiable relationship, she’s compressed a lot of experience into the last few years. In Sookie years it’s only been two and a half years since the beginning of the books. It’s been an amazing learning curve!

You’ve said in the past that Sookie will never become a vampire; do you still stand by that?

I still stand by that, it would be the worst thing I could do to someone who’s been very kind to me. She would hate that so much because she loves the sunshine.

She’s a strong heroine, was that a conscious decision to create a role model?

Yes it was, I like to write about women who are not necessarily super women but who can get through a lot and keep on ticking and she certainly can.

We hear you wrote a death scene for Bill in Dead And Gone (in the hospital during the fae war) but abandoned it?

I toyed with the idea because it’s a lot of fun to write death scenes but if Alan Ball had kept his mouth shut, no one would have ever known about it. I was talking to him about that one-on-one and that’s the only time he ever just turned around and said it at a press conference and when I heard it I went ‘Oh no! Why did you do that?!’ I’d only thought about doing it and then I thought ‘No that’s just not right. That really isn’t the arc that I had created for him.’ So I took it out and put in the right material. I didn’t know where the characters would be in the middle of the series but I pretty much knew how they were going to end up.Can you tell us how Bill died?

I don’t even want to get into it because every time I think about it I get mad at Alan (Ball). We’ve had such a great relationship and that’s the only time I’ve ever gotten peeved at him. I keep things under wraps now! No one knows how the books are going to end up except me and my assistant.

Do you read feedback from readers on the Internet?

I pretty much try and stay away from it because even though I like to hear what readers think, it’s not going to change my decisions. I think the TV series has had an influence over how people want it to end up because some readers are really in love with the TV depiction of the character and that may not match the characters that I actually wrote.

So are they leaning more towards Bill or Eric at the moment?

Why limit it to just Bill and Eric? It could be neither, it could be nobody!

Does the TV show have any influence over the books?

It doesn’t have any bearing because I’m so far ahead of their story arc and my characters are not really like theirs. Most of them are very dissimilar, like in my books Terry Bellefleur is a Vietnam veteran and in the TV show he’s much younger, he’s an Iraqi veteran. There are just so many differences like that that if I let the show be at the forefront of my mind I would have to change the books so drastically they wouldn’t even be the same!

There’s been mention of a True Blood movie; would you be interested in writing a screenplay?

I’d certainly be willing to collaborate or consult on a screenplay but I don’t think I could take the responsibility for writing one on my own. I’ve been writing a graphic novel with Christopher Golden and I’ve forgotten how hard it is to learn something, it’s been a real challenge.

Have you started the last book yet (due out in 2013)?

I’m way into the last book actually; I’ve got to turn it in in July. It’s been fun so far because that’s my job: to have fun, and it’s interesting trying to pull together all the threads and try to make it better than the last book, that’s always my goal. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, but I always try.

Are you sad to let her go?

I don’t want to do Sookie a disservice by trying to write her story when I don’t have anything left to give it. It’s bittersweet, mostly sweet.

Going back 15 years when you started writing the novels, what prompted you to write a paranormal romance?

I wrote the first book and it took two years to sell that so I could never have imagined all of this. There wasn’t an urban fantasy genre back then and I just wanted to do something different than what I had been writing for years, which was conventional mysteries, my career wasn’t really going anywhere and I knew that it was on the verge of being too late to make a significant change so it was a ‘if not now, when?’ moment and it worked out great.

Why did you choose to write about vampires?

It wasn’t really vampires I wanted to write about, it was the troubles of a woman who was trying to have a relationship with a vampire. It seemed vampires would have the most difficulty integrating into human society and that was really what I was writing about was there assimilation process – they can’t go out in the day, people are very afraid of them, their god is different, they’re a different colour – they have a whole different society.

What was the thought behind setting the series in a small, southern American town rather than a big city?

Cities are really done a lot by writers who live in cities and can do a better job than I can. I like a small town setting because it’s easier to concentrate on individuals. My former home was pretty similar to Bon Temps because I lived very close to Louisiana, just a few miles over the border into Arkansile, so I was really familiar with the landscape which made it easier to write about.

What do you think of the one populating the shelves and TV and films nowadays?

I think that everyone’s entitled to make their own vampire convention that they want to so I have no opinion for or against them; they are what they are created to be to tell that particular story.

Do you think Eric and Bill would be able to take out most of them?

(Laughs) I do, I actually think Pam could take most of them!

Do you think you’ll stick with the fantasy genre afterwards?

My next series will be somewhat of an urban fantasy but anchored a little more in reality, like my Harper Conolly books, probably that level of supernatural involvement. I’ve signed a contract for three books, we’ll see how it goes, I just tell the story I have in me and when I can tell that I’m running out of story I stop. Tony Kellner and I have another anthology coming out later this year, our anthologies have been very successful and we’re delighted by it. This one will be called Apple For The Creature and it’s stories about supernatural creatures and schools, we’re really proud of it. Seeing what writers do with the same two elements is always fun and Toni and I both have stories in there.

Deadlocked is available now, published by Gollancz.