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.