In 2001, Harris published Dead Until Dark, the first in her Southern Vampire series focusing on Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress with a vampire boyfriend named Bill. The books found a fan in producer Alan Ball, best known for the series Six Feet Under, who mounted the TV version for HBO.
Harris sat down for a chat last week in Toronto.
What books spurred you toward a writer’s life?
I read everything, everything when I was young. My family revered reading above all else. I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe, of course, and the Nancy Drew books. I read a lot of books past my age level. My parents encouraged it.
Were you always drawn to the solitary writer lifestyle?
That was certainly the attraction, but it wasn’t an option in the beginning. In my first marriage I was the breadwinner. I was working at a minimum-wage job at a newspaper, in the darkroom. That’s not an easy job, but I had to bring in some money. When I got married the second time, my husband offered me the option of staying home and writing, which was an amazing offer. And one he’s really glad he made now.
After writing several mysteries, you segued into the supernatural with the first Southern Vampire book in 2001. Why the switch?
You know, my career was not going that great, and I thought if not now, when? I needed to shake something up. There are a lot of rules for mysteries, so I wanted to do something different. It was time for me to write a book with everything in it that I always wanted to write, without worrying that it wouldn’t fit into the mystery genre.
Did diving into the supernatural grant you fresh creative licence?
Oh, it did. I’ve never watched horror movies or anything like that, but I’d always been interested in the macabre. I think Edgar Allan Poe captured fear and the grotesque so wonderfully. That interested me more than the bloody aspect of it.
How did Sookie move from the Southern Vampire mysteries to HBO’s True Blood?
They came to me. I’d already had an option on the Sookie books that never came to anything, which was fortunate, because when I got the approach from Alan Ball I was able to take it. I’m a big fan of the show, but the series is Alan’s vision of Sookie.
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