Friday, November 1, 2013
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The final book in Charlaine Harris' best-selling series about telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse provoked such an outcry that some fans sent death threats and curses.
But after spending the last 15 years writing about the intrepid small-town Southern girl whose adventures have featured a host of supernatural beings, Harris says she has no regrets.
"I had to be true to my own vision for the books otherwise, what kind of writer am I? Not a very good one," said Harris, adding that fan reaction to the end of the series was distressing.
Harris said she knew it was time to end the Sookie books, which inspired the hit HBO series "True Blood," when she wasn't approaching each new addition with excitement.
"And I thought, 'You know, this is the time to end it, when I still have something to say.'"
She released her final nod to Stackhouse and her world this week with "After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse," an illustrated book that lists the myriad of characters that appeared in the 13-book series and tells readers what happens in the ensuing years.
But, Harris says, don't expect any revisions. "I wrote the ending the way I wrote it and I'm not going to change it."
The uproar over her "Dead Ever After" started when an online review appeared about two weeks before its official May release date. (A reviewer obtained a copy from a German bookseller.)
"I thought I had two more weeks to brace for it, but I didn't, and it was just overwhelmingly awful," said Harris, 61.
The most vehement were angry that Stackhouse didn't end up with the vampire Eric. Harris said she'd been steering readers to that eventuality.
"Not only is who she ends up with not the point of the books, but I said all along: 'She loves the sun. She doesn't want to just be able to go out at night,'" Harris said.
"And I said in every interview I gave when someone would ask me: 'Sookie will never be a vampire.' And still: shock, horror, amazement, accusations that I'd sold out. I thought, 'If I would have sold out I would have written the ending you wanted.'"
Ginjer Buchanan, editor-in-chief of Ace Books, which published the series, said it was a credit to the books that fans were so passionate. "What wasn't good was that they just went totally overboard," she said.
But as fall approached, Harris said the reaction calmed. And she even got some apologies.
Harris published her first book in 1981. After years of writing conventional mysteries, she wanted to try something different, something supernatural.
It took two years to sell the first Stackhouse book, but it wasn't long after "Dead Until Dark" was released in 2001 that Harris knew she had a hit.
Buchanan said it was published at a time when urban fantasy was becoming popular. And, she said, Harris set herself apart by basing the series in the fictional town of Bon Temps, La.
"This is a series that once readers found it they were fans for life," said Kaite Stover, director of readers' services for the Kansas City Public Library in Missouri. "Charlaine Harris actually crafted in that first book a wonderful blend of romance, women's fiction, Southern humor and urban fantasy."
Harris' next series is set in Texas. She and her husband settled into the countryside outside Fort Worth about two years ago after living in Arkansas for about two decades. So far she's signed for three books in the series.
Stover predicts that those fans upset by the ending of the Sookie series will be happy. "They will remember when the new book comes out what they love about Charlaine Harris," she said.
"Midnight Crossroad," to be released in May, is about "a mystical crossroad in a little dead Texas town," Harris said. "It's at an old town that's partly derelict but there are a few homes and businesses still in use there. A town called Midnight. And there is a reason the people who live there are living there."
"I didn't really intend it to be as supernatural as it's turning out to be. It's like I just can't help myself."
Will there be vampires?
"Well, there might be one vampire," she said, eyes twinkling.