After 13 books, eight short stories, and one very sexy TV show, Charlaine Harris is ready to drive a stake through the Sookie Stackhouse series. On May 7, she’ll release the final full-length tale in her Southern Vampire franchise, the string of books that served as the basis for HBO’s True Blood. In Dead Ever After, the telepathic barmaid is a suspect in a gruesome murder (yes, again). Can Sookie clear her name and finally straighten out her hectic love life? (Forget a love triangle; it’s a love pentagon at this point.) EW spoke to the author about bidding farewell to her most famous character, dealing with the pressure from her fans, and her thoughts on key differences between the books and the show. Hello, Billith!
There’s been so much buildup to this final book. Have you been getting lots of mail?
Yeah, lots. Since I didn’t publish a [teaser] chapter of the book [as I’ve done with previous installments], people are making up their own story. [Laughs] The speculations are getting wilder and wilder.
A lot of fans discovered the book series after the TV show started. Has it been difficult managing the expectations of readers who came to the books from the show, only to learn that the plotlines totally diverged in season 2?
I think most readers do know the difference, but some really confabulate the two and get confused. For example, Eric has a different maker in the books than he did in the TV show, and people tend to get a little confused about that. They say, ”Oh wait, I thought Godric was his maker.” And I’m going, ”No. Godric was a pedophile vampire.”
I loved Allan Hyde in the role, though.
I thought the actor was super. He looked very young, but very sincere. I really did enjoy that part of the story, but it wasn’t my story. I just regard them as completely separate entities. Every now and then people will say, ”I love the True Blood books,” and I’m going, ”No, not really. That’s the TV show made from the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which I wrote.” Finally I just gave in. It sounds ungracious when you pick at it like that.
The biggest change by far occurred at the end of the most recent season. What’s been your reaction to Bill being reborn in Lilith’s image?
I’m totally flummoxed. [Laughs] I’m really looking forward to seeing how they resolve that, especially now that [Alan Ball is no longer the showrunner]. But I don’t want to pronounce judgment, for better or worse, because they’re writing a different story. Obviously, quite a few characters are different in a big way — Sookie in the show always seems angrier than my Sookie — but just in general they’re going in a very different direction than I am.
Have people’s preconceptions affected your writing at all, particularly in the wake of the TV show?
I had a big crisis a couple of books ago with Dead in the Family. I got such a backlash on it. I thought I’d written a good book and I was really proud of it. Some books fall short of your expectations, but I was pretty happy with that one and I just got a huge backlash. I just thought, Oh my gosh, what have I done wrong? I felt terrible about it. But I really can’t take reader reactions into account. I just can’t do that and be true to myself as a writer.
Any chance you’ll return to the world of Sookie?
Like Sookie Stackhouse: The Next Generation? [Laughs] That would be really complicated. I could do a series about Hunter, her telepathic nephew.
Or maybe something on Pam?
I love writing Pam. That would be more fun than a lot of the options people have suggested. They want me to spin off some of the vampires or do their earlier stories. But I’ve told as much of those as I feel like telling.
You’ve had an ending figured out since the second book, but has anything major changed over the course of the series?
I took a lot of side roads that I never counted on. I introduced the fae, which was not something I planned on doing at the beginning, but I got bored. And that led into explaining why Sookie is the way she is. The mythology just kept growing and growing in a really interesting and gratifying way.
Where do you think you stand in the genre? You were writing these books long before Twilight was ever a ”thing.” What’s your legacy going to be?
Well, a lot of writers tell me I’m their inspiration because I became famous late in life, and they’re hoping the same thing will happen to them. It’s not going to come quickly sometimes. It comes slowly after you’ve worked really hard, and it’s really the sweeter for it.
What’s next for you?
I’ve written this little coda called After Dead that’ll be out in November, and it has what happens to everyone after the books. Because [otherwise I’d be answering questions from readers] for the rest of my life. I thought, Well, I’ll just write it all down, and I can say, ”Just go look at this book. Because I can’t remember.”… And we’re going to welcome another grandchild into this world in October. I’m concentrating on that right now.
Do you have any regrets as the series comes to a close? I know you’ve said you wished you hadn’t killed off Claudine.
If anything, I wish I had killed off more people. That would have made writing the last book a lot easier.
5 Memorable Moments from the Books
Ah, Sookie, Sookie now! A look at the most pivotal plot points in the literary life of Bon Temps’ favorite fairy/waitress.
Club Dead (2003)
Bill might have been Sookie’s first love, but their relationship comes to an abrupt end after he cheats on her with his maker, Lorena — and then tries to feed on (and assault) Sookie. Yikes.
Dead to the World (2004)
Eric shippers everywhere rejoiced at the series’ fourth installment, which sees the blond Viking vampire bed the plucky heroine. The only problem? He can’t remember it happened.
From Dead to Worse (2008)
Eight books in, Sookie finally learns the source of her powers: Turns out she’s part fae, thanks to her not-so-saintly grandmother’s tryst with a half fairy.
Dead and Gone (2009)
Sookie’s experienced plenty of scary situations, but none so dire as when she’s kidnapped and tortured by two psychotic fairies. The trauma sticks with her for several subsequent books.
After years of waxing poetic about her shifter boss’ shapely backside, Sookie realizes she has feelings for Sam — which complicates her relationship with Eric. Hey, love bites!