Although agents and editors walked among us at the Crimebake conference, and attendees could listen to panels focusing on how to get published and how to promote one’s writing, I want to write first about authors discussing their work and characters. I thought the successful authors had lost none of their enthusiasm for creating fictional worlds. They loved to talk about their characters.
Charlaine Harris was the guest of honor. She has charm, was very approachable, and spoke honestly about her work and life. Before the Sookie Stackhouse series, she wrote only conventional mysteries but she was bored with these traditional mysteries and wanted to broaden her readership base. Anne Rice had set her vampire mysteries in southern Louisiana so Charlaine decided to set her series in the more staid north. She researched vampires, guns, synthetic blood, the Civil War, Vikings, and reflective glass before writing Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.
Her agent didn’t like the book at first and hawked it around the publishing world for two years until the book was picked up by Ace. (She’d already written two series. No wonder an unpublished author has to wait so long.)
When Charlaine talked about Sookie, it was clear she’s involved in the development and many facets of her character. In real life, Charlaine thinks telepathic powers could be a disadvantage. Imagine going on a first date and knowing what your date is thinking.
The series is supposed to end with the thirteenth book and already fans are protesting that they want more. Charlaine said there may be one more book after the thirteenth as long as the series ends on an upbeat. She doesn’t want to have to produce another book in a series after she’s lost interest in it.
On the first night of the conference, I saw an episode of Trueblood. There was more blood and violence than I expected since I hadn’t read the books but I developed an interest in Sookie and the other characters. Also, I could appreciate the humor in the restaurant and family scenes.
Charlaine had nothing but praise for Alan Ball, the producer of Trueblood. She said she lets Alan do what he does well and he lets her do what she does best. When she saw the first episode of Trueblood, she told her husband they’d have to move. The blood and gore was more vivid in a visual medium and she lives in a small town in the bible-belt. However, neighbors rejoiced in the success of a local person so she continues as an active member in her church and community.
In her writing, she said she wants to deal with larger issues, especially those involving discrimination. She doesn’t want to shove her views down her readers’ throats but to present a different way of looking at the world. Vampires are the outcasts in the small town where they live. In looking at vampire outcasts, a reader might think about other groups that are stereotyped and shunned. When we look at monsters, we look at ourselves.
As well as guest of honor speaker, Charlaine was a member on a panel of best-selling authors and on a panel of short story writers. Charlaine’s short stories include stories about parts of Sookie’s life not in the novels. I plan to find out if one of my protagonists has an interesting enough life to support a short story or two.
In another blog, I’ll address ideas I learned from the best-selling authors and from the authors of short stories. I was happy to listen to Charlaine Harris because I could see how much she enjoyed what she did. On Saturday, there was a red and black, Vampire Ball and many people dressed up as vampires or monsters. Monsters, vampires, and those wearing red and black danced to DJ music. Conference attendees in their twenties to, I guess, their seventies enjoyed dressing up and playing a game.
With all the bad news about the publishing world, do you sometimes forget that writing and reading are creative and exciting?