Grand news for mystery fans. Charlaine Harris, creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series that inspired HBO's "True Blood," is coming to town for SleuthFest.
The annual conference, sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, shifts to Central Florida this year. The conference runs Thursday-March 4 at the Royal Plaza Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista.
Harris is the main luncheon speaker at noon March 3. "In the world of cozy mystery fiction, Charlaine has been a queen a long time," said Nancy Pate, co-author of the Caroline Cousins series and former book critic at the Orlando Sentinel. "Sookie reached a wider audience. Many writers are now doing supernatural mysteries. With Sookie, Charlaine got in on it early. All of Charlaine's series books are witty."
Like the author herself. In a phone interview, Harris described SleuthFest as "a shot in the arm creatively. I'm originally from the mystery field. My friends are there."
Harris' other creations include Aurora Teagarden, Lily Bard and Harper Connelly. You're unlikely to see more novels featuring them, although Harris notes that Harper is a comic book and could turn up in other media. Here are excerpts from a phone interview with Harris.
You're very prolific. What's your secret?
It's my job. This is what I sit down and do every day. I've been doing this 33 years. I work mostly in the morning, some in the afternoon. It's a great day if I get eight pages, but now there are a lot more demands on my time than in previous years. I do a lot of interviews. I talk to my agents. Very frequently I have to answer queries from my publisher. I always visit my website [charlaineharris.com] and answer questions. It just never seems to end. This is a great problem to have.
What has "True Blood" done for your career?
The Sookie Stackhouse novels were selling well before the TV show, but the TV show led to a lot more exposure and readers. And a lot went on to read my other work. It was a wonderful thing for my bank account.
What have you gotten to do because of the show?
So many things. I've been on the show and done personal appearances with the cast. It's like a different world and one I never thought I'd ever have a part in. I go to an industry party and feel like the raggedy cousin.
Can you give a preview of the latest book, "Deadlocked," the 12th book right? (It will be released May 1.)
It is the next-to-the-last book, which gives it a bit of heft. It's about tying up some threads in this long-running series and answering questions that readers have had. There's new action, but there are decisions made about older issues in the books.
You'll end on No. 13?
In 2013. Ha-ha.
Did you plan it that way?
Oh, I don't really plan a lot. My contract will be over. I'm sure my publisher would be glad [for more], but I feel I've said everything about Sookie and her world. I hate doing it just for the money. I'm not above wanting the money. I just hate the idea I'm dragging out something for that reason.
You've said that you know how the series will end. Have you always known?
Yeah, since probably the second book or so, I've had a good idea how the books will end. It is top- secret.
Do you have a favorite among the Sookie books?
Not really. There are certain things about each one I'm proud of, a passage I've done well, where I feel I've hit the nail on the head.
The TV series has benefited from the tensions between vampires Bill and Eric. How central is that to your story?
They [the actors] are wonderful, but the story is very different from my story. It was never a Bill vs. Eric situation in my mind.
How has Sookie changed over time? Is she more fun write these days?
I don't write Anna Paquin, I write Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie is always a lot of fun to write. She's growing, changing, She's very strong. She's a girl girl. She'd be OK on her own without a guy. She'd like to have a relationship. It's not necessary to her happiness.
Are you happy with the decisions "True Blood" executive producer Alan Ball has made?
Certainly I've had thoughts about that. I'm very fond of Alan. I think he's a genius. He's made good decisions for television. He's not consciously trying to imitate the books. That would be boring for him and boring for me. If I knew what was going to happen, why would I watch? Viewers and readers are getting two experiences.
He is described as the creator, but I think of you as the creator.
I am the creator. When I'm on the set they call me the Maker. But he's the creator of that world visually, no doubt about it. It all came from his brain and his talent for hiring the right people for the right jobs.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working with Christopher Golden on a completely new character, a graphic novel "Cemetery Girl." It's been a big learning curve. The format is quite different from writing a novel or short story. Everything you write has to be done in a picture. We're doing quite well on it. We've turned in the first 40 pages. The artist has started to work. I'm also working on the final Sookie novel.
I'm looking forward to coming to SleuthFest I've heard so many good things about it from my writer friends. I'm looking forward to seeing my buddies and talking to readers who want to know about the way I work.
You're so easy to talk to.
A lot of people tell me I'm just like their aunt.
Isn't that a compliment?
I don't know their aunt.
When: The mystery writers' conference runs Thursday through March 4.
Where: Royal Plaza Orlando, 1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd, Lake Buena Vista
Who: Charlaine Harris speaks at the March 3 luncheon, which starts at noon. A book signing follows.
If you want to attend only the lunch and book signing, register at sleuthfest.com. The group allows walk-up registrations but encourages advance registrations.
To see Jeffery Deaver, you can attend the noon March 2 luncheon in the same manner.
Also March 3, Harris will speak at a 3:40 p.m. panel and discuss the Sookie Stackhouse series at 5 p.m. poolside. A Saturday full-day registration is required to attend these events. Send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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