Q and A With Charlaine Harris

It isn’t often that an aspiring writer gets to sit in a room with a New York Times Best-selling author, even if she is sharing the room with a hundred other people. I traveled to my hometown on Wednesday to do just that.

Charlaine Harris, the author of the wildly successful “Sookie Stackhouse” novels and others, gave a short talk about her writing career before going to the audience for questions.

To start the evening, Harris spoke about the ups and downs of her career, from her beginnings as a midlist “cozy” mystery writer to trying to sell the first “Sookie” book, at a time when cross-genre novels were practically unheard of. This meant that the Dead Until Dark manuscript made the rounds at one publishing house after another, getting rejected over and over again for two years before being accepted. Harris said that some of the rejection letters the manuscript generated were so disheartening that she eventually told her agent to just stop letting her see them. The thrust of her speech was that her billing as an “overnight writing sensation” has been thirty years in the making.

When she opened up the floor to questions from the audience, one of the first was about how she came up with the idea for the “Sookie universe.” In her reply, Harris revealed that her decision to write a cross-genre novel was a deliberate one. She wanted to appeal to Mystery readers. “Dead Until Dark,” she said, “is a mystery novel at its heart.” By incorporating vampires and other supernatural beings she hoped to attract Science Fiction and Horror readers. With the romance between Sookie and Vampire Bill, she hoped to hook Romance readers as well. “And you know how much they buy! “ she said with a grin, referring to readers of romance novels.

In addition, fans of her mystery novels suggested that Harris incorporate more humor into her books. With those factors in mind, she wrote Sookie’s story and began the journey to the best-seller lists and international publication.

When asked about her writing schedule, Harris responded that in the beginning of her career, she spent two to three hours writing each morning and would sometimes work the same amount of time in the evenings. With the success of her novels, she has found there is less time for writing than she would like, but she writes at least six pages a day no matter what the rest of her working day is composed of.

Since my newest obsession is with outlining, my question for Harris was about her plotting process. Harris said that she does not work from an outline, but that she does keep a timeline going, so that she doesn’t have action taking place at Merlot’s (a bar) on a Sunday when it is closed.
Her stories generally flow from beginning to end, “But, “ Harris said, “If I get to a section that stops me cold, I know I have messed up somewhere. I have to go back to find that place (where the story went wrong), fix that and continue from there.”

Harris answered other questions from the audience, giving few hints about the eleventh Sookie novel, Dead Reckoning , due to be released in May. Harris said readers could expect the book to be “mildly heart-wrenching.” She also revealed that the thirteenth Sookie novel will be the last in the series.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening spent with a writer who seemed genuinely warm, friendly, approachable and funny.

For more information on Charlaine Harris and her work, visit her official website


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Q and A With Charlaine Harris « Claiming Creativity

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