Thursday, February 10, 2011

News From Charlaine Harris

Almost ten years ago, in May of 2001, I picked up a book titled Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. The cover art didn't appeal to me, but the subtitle "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" did.

I laughed my way through the novel, thoroughly enjoying it. The protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, is a telepath being slowly driven crazy by the chatter in her head from all the minds she cannot block out. She is thrilled to realize that she cannot "read" a vampire's thoughts. That alone is enough to tempt her into an affair with Bill the Vampire.

Dead Until Dark was the first vampire novel with a chick lit voice I'd ever encountered. Now, of course, they litter the bookstores. And with the premiere of the HBO series True Blood, based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries, millions of people are familiar with Sookie's adventures.

I was so taken with Dead Until Dark that, when I visited Florida a few months after reading the novel, I dragged my mother to Haslam's Used Books to find a copy of the novel to give to my youngest brother to read.

It was nearly a year before the second Sookie Stackhouse novel was published. In the interim, I sampled other books by Charlaine Harris. I loved the series starring Lily Bard, the survivor of a brutal rape, who runs off to build a new life for herself in Shakespeare, Arkansas as a cleaning lady. She frequently finds dead bodies and must solve the mystery of their murders.

Alternatively, I hated the series starring Aurora Teagarden, the librarian of Lawrenceton, Georgia, who also solves mysteries. The Aurora series was just too precious for me [gag]. I forced myself through the first book and stopped a few pages into the second.

I liked the Harper Connelly series, which falls midway between the light voice of Sookie and the much darker voice of Lily Bard. Harper was hit by lightning as a young girl, which gave her the weird ability to locate dead bodies and to access their final memories. Harper has monetized this ability by selling her services to municipal governments and private individuals trying to find missing persons or figure out what killed them. She and her stepbrother Tolliver travel wherever they are called in the U.S. She makes me think of a psychic Have Gun, Will Travel.

In the ten years since Dead Until Dark was published, I've continued to read the series, which used to release new book every May. I don't subscribe to cable television because it diverts way too much of my time from my writing, but I keep up with True Blood via visits with friends and family.

Last week Charlaine Harris announced that it was likely she would only write two more novels in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series. According to the Los Angeles Times, she said:
“I still love Sookie, but I’m beginning to want to write something else, and Sookie’s kind of taken over my life. I was able to write other things for the first few years I was involved in Sookie, but then after the start of the television show she took over so much of my time because of my increased publicity obligations that it’s been very hard to write other things, and I really need to do that.”
I also was surprised to learn that Harris has created an on-line game through i-Play. The game features Dahlia Lynley-Chivers, "a ruthless, fashion-conscious vamp." who wants to find a potion that will allow her to spend time in the sunlight. Go here to visit the i-Play site.

Go here to read the L.A. Times article.

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