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Barnes and... A Conversation with Charlaine Harris

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Born in Tunica, Mississippi and growing up literally in the middle of a cotton field, Charlaine has been writing since she was a teenager. While her early writing consisted mainly of ghost stories, she began writing poetry and focusing on plays as a natural expression of her talent during her young adult years at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

In her interview with Steve, Charlaine recounts how she was given the opportunity to stay at home and write. She wrote and published a couple of mysteries and after having three children created the two different book series, “Aurora Teagarden” and  “Lily Bard”, ultimately winning an Agatha nomination for the Teagarden series, but according to her online bibliography “began to realize that neither of those series was ever going to set the literary world on fire,” that is until she decided to mix-up genres and offer a very unconventional take on the vampire mythos. An interesting twist allowed Charlaine’s vampires in the Sookie Stackhouse series to ingest a blood substitute and integrate into everyday society. As imagined this creates all sorts of problems for vampires and non-vampires alike.

The success of Charlaine’s Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series captured the attention of HBO who turned it into a made for television series called True Blood. This series earned favor with the Golden Globe voters, garnering a nomination for best dramatic series and a best dramatic actress nod for star Anna Paquin.

Please stay tuned to AETN for this interesting interview and check out Charlaine’s website for the latest news concerning any of her books, her blog or events calendar at www.charlaineharris.com.

TRANSCRIPT

THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US, EVERYONE. THE VAMPIRE LEGEND IS CENTURIES OLD, BUT THE MAN WHO MADE IT HAPPEN IN LITERARY TERMS WAS BRAM STOKER OF COUNTY KILDARE. 110 YEARS LATER THE WOMAN WHO'S MADE IT HAPPEN FOR MILLIONS OF NEW READERS IS CHAR LAIN HARRIS OF COUNTY COLUMBIA. SHE WRITES, WRITES A LOT AND HER WORK SELLS. SELLS A LOT. THE DOZEN OR SO NOVELS THAT MAKE UP THE AURORA GARDEN AND TEA BOOKS WERE A COLLECTIVE AND UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS, BUT THEN CAME SOOKIE STACKHOUSE AND IT WAS REFOUND. AND WE GOT LUCY AND MEE THAT AND THE COUNT. HARRIS COUNTERS WITH ANDY AND ARLENE AND ERIC AND TARA AND SOOKIE. MOST VAMPIRES ARE COARSE AND CARNAL. HERS LEAN TO THE COMPASSIONATE. IN SOOKIE'S WORLD AND CHARLAIN'S NO DISTANCE AT ALL. THE FORMER IS STILL WRESTLING WITH THE DEMONS, THE LATTER STILL WRITING ABOUT THEM. BUT SHE'S MADE TIME FOR US AND ON THE VERY MORNING THAT TRUE BLOOD, THE HBO ADAPTATION GETS TWO GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATION, CHARLAIN HARRIS, THANK YOU AND CONGRATULATIONS.

THANK YOU. I WAS SO PLEASED TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

ANYONE WOULD BE. YOU HAVE AN ENORMOUS YEAR.

YES, I HAVE HAD AN AMAZING RIDE WITH THE SOOKIE BOOKS AND THIS YEAR HAS JUST BEEN LIKE BEING PROM QUEEN ALL YEAR.

WELL, HOW DID THIS ALL GET STARTED? I MEAN, YOU KNOW, --

WELL, THE SOOKIE --

NOT JUST SOOKIE, WHAT MADE YOU THINK, I CAN WRITE?

I ALWAYS THOUGHT I COULD WRITE. BUT THAT WAS LIKE A CLOSELY HELD SECRET. FOR MANY, MANY YEARS. UNTIL REALLY I MARRIED MY SECOND HUSBAND, AND HE GAVE ME -- THEN THIS WAS THE HEIGHT OF TECHNOLOGY, HE GAVE ME AN ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER FOR A WEDDING PRESENT AND TOLD ME NOT TO GET ANOTHER JOB, TO JUST STAY HOME AND WRITE IF THAT WAS WHAT I WANTED TO DO. WHICH WAS A REALLY ROMANTIC GESTURE. AND I DID STAY HOME AND WRITE.

SOME WOULD SAY AN INVESTMENT IN RETROSPECT ANYWAYS.

THAT WAS VERY RETROSPECTIVE. FOR YEARS HE REFERRED TO MY WRITING AS A HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED HOBBY BECAUSE I DIDN'T MAKE MONEY FOR A LONG, LONG TIME. BUT MY FIRST BOOK GOT PUBLISHED AND ALL MY BOOKS AFTER THAT GOT PUBLISHED. I WAS A MIDLIEST WRITER, AND I WAS SELLING ENOUGH FOR THEM TO KEEP ASKING FOR BOOKS, BUT I WASN'T SELLING WELL ENOUGH TO HAVE THE BREAKOUT EXPERIENCE THAT ALL WRITERS WAIT FOR. AND THEN IN -- ABOUT 1999, I WROTE "DEAD UNTIL DARK" THE FIRST SOOKIE BOOK, BECAUSE I WAS JUST TIRED OF WRITING CONVENTIONAL MYSTERIES. MY AGENT REALLY DIDN'T LIKE IT. NONE OF THE EDITORS HE SHOWED IT TO AT MY INSISTENCE LIKED IT EITHER. IT WAS THE HARDEST BOOK TO SELL THAT HE'S EVER HAD TO SELL FOR ME. TOOK HIM TWO YEARS TO PLACE THE BOOK. AND NOW IT'S IN ITS 14th PRINTING. THAT ONE TIME I WAS RIGHT.

AND THE FIRST SOOKIE BOOK HAS HAD HOW MANY SUCCESSORS?

THE NINTH IS COMING OUT IN MAY. IT'S BEEN HAPPY RIDE EVER SINCE THEN.

THE AREAS IN WHICH YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO WRITE, TO DRAW YOUR FICTION FROM, SCHOOLS, IF YOU WILL OR SCENARIOS. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THEM?

I WRITE WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY TO WRITE. WHAT I THINK I WOULD LIKE TO READ. SO I DRAW FROM, OF COURSE, MY OWN BACKGROUND. I GREW UP IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA. THAT'S WHAT I KNOW. I'M SOUTHERN. I DON'T TRY TO WRITE COSMOPOLITAN AND I DON'T TRY TO WRITE GLOBAL. AND I USUALLY WRITE IN THE FIRST PERSON NOW.  THAT'S JUST WHAT I'M ENJOYING. I LIKE TO GET INSIDE SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN AND SEE WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE.

IS THERE A PUN IN THERE?

NO. NOT AN INTENTIONAL ONE.

THEN ALONG COMES -- HAD SOOKIE AND THE VAMPIRE MYTH, HAD IT BEEN SOMETHING YOU STUDIED FOR A LONG TIME OR LOOKED AT OR CONSIDERED?

YEAH, I ALWAYS ENJOYED READING VAMPIRE NOVELS. OF COURSE, ANNE RICE. LAUREL K. HAMILTON. BUT THEN I THOUGHT I'D LIKE TO GET A NEW APPROACH TO THE VAMPIRE MYTH AND SEE WHAT I COULD DO WITH IT. JUST HAVE SOME FUN WRITING IT. AND I DID. IT REALLY WORKED OUT WONDERFULLY.

MS. RICE YOU NOTED PROBABLY DID MORE FOR THE VAMPIRE -- STARTED 20 OR 25 YEARS AGO --

ABSOLUTELY.

SHE PROBABLY DID MORE FOR THE VAMPIRE IN LITERARY TERMS THAN ANYBODY SINCE STOKER, BUT THEN SHE WENT AWAY FOR A MINUTE AND WENT IN ANOTHER DIRECTION.

SHE DID, BUT SHE HAD WRITTEN MANY VAMPIRE NOVELS AND A LOT OF WITCHCRAFT NOVELS ALSO THAT CAME FROM A REALLY DIFFERENT PLACE FOR HER, OF COURSE.

RIGHT.

I WANTED TO TAKE A MORE LIGHT HEARTED APPROACH, BECAUSE I'VE ALWAYS HAD QUITE A SENSE OF HUMOR AND I THOUGHT IT WAS TIME TO LET THAT OUT IN A BOOK. SO I JUST DECIDED THIS WAS GOING TO BE FUNNY AND I JUST -- IT WAS A LOT OF FUN WRITING HUMOR.

YEAH.

IT'S HARD TO DO, BUT IT'S FUN.

WRITERS AT THEIR BEST WRITE WHAT THEY WANT TO WRITE. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, DID YOU UNDERTAKE THIS WITH SOME RESERVATIONS? I MEAN, WAS THERE CONCERN ON YOUR PART THAT MS. RICE HAD MINED THAT FIELD AS FAR AS IT COULD BE MINED?

NO. I WAS SURE I WAS DOING WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DOING.

NOW, WHAT IS IT ABOUT -- AS A DAUGHTER OF THE DELTA --

YEAH.

-- YOU KNOW, THERE'S A GOTHIC STRAIN I THINK THROUGH MUCH SOUTHERN LITERATURE.

THERE IS.

WHETHER IT'S SOOKIE OR SARTARUS, BUT YOU TAPPED INTO THAT. BUT YOU DIDN'T SEEM TO DWELL ON IT TOO MUCH. YOU TOOK THE FLAVOR OF THAT IN YOUR NOVELS, BUT LIGHT HEARTEDLY AS YOU PUT IT.

BUT THERE'S STILL A LOT OF BLOOD AND GORE.

OH, YEAH.

IN MY BOOKS.

THESE HAVE VAMPIRE NOVELS.

AND SOME SEX, WHICH IN ANNE RICE'S BOOKS IS NOT -- IN HER BOOKS, VAMPIRES DON'T WANT TO HAVE SEX. THE TAKING OF THE BLOOD IS BETTER. AND I JUST THOUGHT, OH, WELL, TO HECK WITH THAT. I'M GOING TO GO FOR BROKE.

IN I GUESS EVERYTHING -- EVERY SENSIBLE LEGEND BEGAN, IT'S HAD THAT EROTIC SUBTEXT.

YES. THERE'S AN OBVIOUS PARALLEL TO TAKING OF THE BLOOD FROM THE SLEEPING VICTIM, OR THE HYPNOTIZED VICTIM. YOU KNOW, THE EXCHANGE OF FLUIDS. YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT SUBTLE.

RIGHT. BUT WAS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU APPROACHED WITH ANY DELICACY? I MEAN, YOU SAY YOU WENT FOR BROKE, BUT YOU'RE ALSO --

WELL --

TRYING TO FIND A THOROUGH --

THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN WRITING A SEX SCENE AND JUST WRITING OUT AND OUT EROTICA. AND I DON'T CROSS THAT LINE.

SURE.

I STAY WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES I'M COMFORTABLE WITH.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US, THE REST OF US, THAT I THINK 1897 I BELIEVE WAS WHEN MR. STOKER PUBLISHED "THE COUNT" AND THEN 110 YEARS, WE'RE STILL FASCINATED BY THEM?

WELL, I THINK WE ALL WANT TO BELIEVE THERE'S MORE. MORE TO OUR WORLD THAN WE CAN SEE.

RIGHT.

MORE TO OUR WORLD THAN WE KNOW AND WE WANT PARTS OF IT TO BE MYSTERIOUS, ROMANTIC, FRIGHTENING. COLORFUL. I THINK WE ALL WANT THAT. AND IF WE COULD HAVE IT AT A SAFER MOVE IN A BOOK, I THINK THAT'S THE BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT. I THINK MOST PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS CREATURES WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT. IF IT BE BIG FOOT OR THE LOCKNESS MONSTER, EVERYONE HAS THEIR PICK, AND VAMPIRES ARE VERY POPULAR IN THAT RESPECT.

YEAH. BUT AT THE SAME TIME THOUGH, IS THERE A CERTAIN DREAD THAT WE LOVE DREADING?

WHY DO HORROR MOVIES MAKE SO MUCH MONEY? YES, EVERYONE WANTS TO HAVE THAT PLEASURABLE FEAR. YOU'RE SAFE AND YOU KNOW IT, BUT STILL THE -- ANOTHER MEDIUM HAS THE POWER TO FRIGHTEN YOU. IT'S LIKE THE SAFETY OF WATCHING A HORROR MOVIE WHEN YOU'RE SITTING IN THE THEATER SURROUNDED BY YOUR FRIENDS. I THINK WE ALL WANT TO HAVE THE THRILL OF FEAR WITHOUT THE ACTUAL SITUATION OF FEAR.

PLAINLY VIEWERS BELIEVE THAT HBO HAS CAPTURED THE ESSENCE, YOU KNOW, THE FLAVOR IN "TRUE BLOOD". ARE YOU HAPPY WITH IT?

YES.

AND THE GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATING PEOPLE ARE HAPPY --

WELL, ELLEN IS A PLEASURE TO DEAL WITH.

NOW THIS IS MR. BALL?

YES. I'M SORRY. THEY TREAT WITH ME GREAT RESPECT AND THEY'RE VERY EASY TO DEAL WITH. SO I HAVE ENJOYED THAT. I HAVE HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO TALK WITH THE CAST AND APPEAR WITH THEM ON PANELS. AND WHICH WAS A TREMENDOUS -- ALMOST OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE FOR ME. AND THEN I GOT TO GO TO THE PREMIERE AND TOOK MY FAMILY TO THE PREMIERE WITH ME, AND WE ALL BOUGHT NEW CLOTHES AND DID THE RED CARPET THING. IT WAS FUN.

WELL, GOOD. BUT IT'S CAPTURED, YOU THINK, TO YOUR SATISFACTION --

I THINK THE SPIRIT OF THE BOOKS IS CAPTURED. NOT THE ACTUAL -- NOT THE TOTAL STORY LINE BECAUSE --

IT'S AN ADAPTATION.

IT'S AN ADAPTATION, YES. MY BOOKS ARE TOLD IN THE FIRST PERSON. OBVIOUSLY, THAT CAN'T BE DONE ON THE SCREEN. YOU HAVE TO BRING UP THE OTHER CHARACTERS TOO AND GIVE THEM MORE OF A BACK STORY TO -- TO FLESH OUT A TELEVISION SERIES.

YEAH. IN -- AND DO YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH? I MEAN, DID YOU GO INTO THE EXISTING VAMPIRE LITERATURE AND THROUGH THE CENTURIES, TO KIND OF SHAPE YOUR CHARACTERS?

YEAH, I DID SOMEWHAT. WHAT I HADN'T READ ALREADY, I REVIEWED AND I READ A LITTLE ABOUT THE VAMPIRE MYTHS ACROSS THE WORLD. I HAVE TO DO ODD LITTLE BITS OF RESEARCH HERE AND THERE LIKE GENETICS. THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS I HAVE HAD TO RESEARCH THAT I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD.

SYNTHETIC BLOOD, NOW THAT'S -- THAT IS PLAINLY SOMETHING NEW. I MEAN, IN THE LITERATURE --

TO USE IT IN FICTION, THERE'S ACTUALLY A SYNTHETIC BLOOD THAT'S GONE INTO LIMITED USE IN CRISIS SITUATIONS, BUT IT'S NOT WIDELY USED AS FAR AS I KNOW. I JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GREAT WAY TO GIVE THE VAMPIRES A REASON TO COME OUT OF THEIR SECRET HOLE AND SAY, YES, WE'RE HERE. WE'RE OUT OF THE CLOSET. WE'RE READY TO DEAL WITH YOU PEOPLE, AND WE DON'T HAVE TO BITE YOU ANYMORE.

RIGHT. AND THUS, THEY ARE GIVEN A -- BY SOME PEOPLE ANYWAY IN YOUR BOOK, AT LEAST A MEASURE OF RESPECTABILITY OR IS THAT TOO --

NO. THEY'RE LEGITIMATE CITIZENS OR AT LEAST THEY'RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE CITIZENSHIP. OF COURSE, IT'S THROWN THE U.S. LEGAL SYSTEM INTO TURMOIL. WHEN YOU'VE GOT SOMEONE WHO THEORETICALLY WHO CAN LIVE FOREVER, WHAT ABOUT INHERITANCE RIGHTS? AND ALSO, THE GOVERNMENT IS THRILLED WITH THE --

OR STATE TAXES. I MEAN, THERE'S --

TAX THE DEAD.

BUT DO YOU SEE IN -- DO YOU SEE THIS, THE VAMPIRE AS SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE AS A TAX-PAYING CITIZEN NO LONGER A THREAT PER SE?

YES,ER THI THEORETICALLY.

YEAH. DO YOU SEE THIS STORY LINE EVOLVING?

THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE EXPLORED THAT DON'T TIE INTO SOOKIE'S STORY, AND I HAVEN'T GOTTEN INTO THEM YET. THE VAMPIRE LEGISLATION, THE VAMPIRE LOBBY, THERE ARE ALL SORTS OF THINGS THAT IF I HADN'T STARTED TO TELL THIS STORY IN A CERTAIN WAY I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN INTO. BUT UNLESS THEY DIRECTLY PERTAIN TO HER STORY, IT WOULD BE LIKE SHEER INDULGENCE TO PUT IN A LONG PASSAGE ABOUT THIS WHEN IT DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MOVING MY STORY FORWARD.

START TO FINISH, HOW LONG? ON A SOOKIE BOOK?

AS LONG AS MY CONTRACT SAYS I HAVE. THAT'S HOW LONG IT TAKES.

DO YOU DAWDLE?

WELL, OF COURSE EVERY WRITER GETS TO BE AN EXPERT AT WASTING TIME. I'M NO EXCEPTION. WE'RE SO LUCKY TO DO THE THING WE LOVE TO DO, BUT THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, EVERY WRITER HAS DEVELOPED A WIDE REPERTOIRE OF WAYS TO WASTE TIME AND I'M NO EXCEPTION TO THAT RULE. I MEAN, WE CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUR E-MAIL. WE CAN ALWAYS GO ON OUR WEBSITE. WE CAN ALWAYS THINK, OH, I NEED TO RESEARCH THIS OR I NEED TO RESEARCH THAT. OR I NEED TO CALL MY AGENT. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE A THOUSAND AND A ONE WAYS TO WASTE YOUR TIME.

THE INTERNET IS A KILLER.

IT IS. IT IS TERRIBLE. I SHOULD GO BACK TO WRITING ON AN ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER.

I READ A QUOTE FROM JAMES MICHENER ONCE WHO SAID THAT WE'RE -- OF COURSE, HE WORKED WHEREVER HE WAS WRITING ABOUT AS A MEANS OF RESEARCH. BUT HE TRIED ALWAYS -- OR INSISTED EVEN THAT WHERE HE ACTUALLY PUT HIS FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD, IN THE OFFICE WHERE HE WROTE, THERE MUST BE NO WINDOW.

I CAN'T WORK WITH A WINDOW EITHER. I WAS SO HAPPY WHEN WE MOVED TO THE HOUSE WE LIVE IN NOW BECAUSE MY OFFICE IS IN A SEPARATE BUILDING AND IT HAS A WINDOW. I THOUGHT FINALLY, RATHER THAN WORKING IN A GLORIFIED CLOSET, I HAVE A WINDOW. AND I PUT MY DESK THERE AND AFTER TWO WEEKS I MOVED IT.

MOVED IT.

I COULDN'T DO IT.

TELL US ABOUT WHERE YOU WORK. WHAT'S ON YOUR DESK, WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN --

WELL, WHAT'S ON MY DESK IS A PILE OF THINGS I NEED TO TAKE CARE OF. MY OFFICE IS IN OUR CARPORT. ORIGINALLY, ASSIGNED AS A MOTHER-IN-LAW APARTMENT AND THAT'S WHERE I HAVE MY OFFICE. IT'S FULL OF OF COURSE BOOKS. TURNED THE ORIGINAL TOOL SHED THAT FACED OUTWARDS INTO A CLOSET THAT FACES INWARDS SO I CAN FILL IT WITH YOU KNOW, MY PUBLISHER SENDS ME COPIES OF THE BOOK AND I HAVE TO KEEP A FEW ON HAND. SO THAT'S PRETTY FULL. I HAVE A BIG OFFICE SUPPLIES CABINET FULL OF JUNK. I HAVE A SHELF FULL OF THINGS READERS HAVE SENT ME OR BROUGHT ME, YOU KNOW? LITTLE THINGIES. A TELEVISION, WHICH I DON'T TURN ON.

WHY HAVE IT IN THERE THEN? YOU TURN IT ON A LITTLE?

BECAUSE MY DAUGHTER USES THAT COMPUTER AT NIGHT AND SHE LIKES TO HAVE IT OUT THERE. IF THERE'S A NATIONAL CRISIS, I TURN ON THE TELEVISION. I HAVE FRAMED PICTURES OF NEW ORLEANS TOMBSTONES. WHICH IS, YOU KNOW -- I JUST LOVE THE NEW ORLEANS -- ST. LOUIS NUMBER ONE. I JUST LOVE IT. AND THEN I HAVE A BULLETIN BOARD FULL OF THINGS I NEED TO DO. AND ADDRESSES MOSTLY. THE USUAL STUFF, I GUESS. COPIES OF ALL MY BOOKS. ODDS AND ENDS. ONE FRAMED POSTER, JUST --

HOW WITH ALL EITHER IN THAT OFFICE OR IN A PREVIOUS OFFICE, HOW DO YOU GET IT DONE? HOW HAVE YOU AMASSED THIS ALPINE MOUNTAIN RANGE OF PUBLISHED WORK? NOW, AND MUCH OF THIS TIME, YOU WERE RAISING NOT ONE, NOT TWO, THREE CHILDREN.

THREE CHILDREN, YEAH.

YES.

WHO BECAME TEENAGERS. THEY'RE A LITTLE OLDER NOW.

YEAH, GOD BLESS THEM. THEY JUST GROW. TWO -- WELL, MY OLDEST SON IS OUT OF THE HOME. MY MIDDLE SON HAS RETURNED HOME. FOR A WHILE. AND I HAVE A DAUGHTER WHO GRADUATES FROM HIGH SCHOOL THIS YEAR. SO THEY'RE REAL LY HELPERS NOW, BUT THERE WERE YEARS WHEN IT WAS VERY HARD TO WORK BECAUSE --

YOU EVER ATTEMPTED TO DRAIN THEIR BLOOD WHILE YOU WERE TRYING TO WORK?

I'VE ATTEMPTED TO TAPE THEIR MOUTH SHUT, BUT I ALWAYS HAD TO HIRE THE BABY-SITTER FOR THE SUMMER AND SO ON. IT WAS TOUGH, BUT SO MANY MOMS WORK NOW THAT I REALLY CAN'T COMPLAIN. I WAS REALLY LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO WORK AT HOME AND TO KIND OF KEEP AN EYE ON THEM.

YEAH. HOW MUCH -- OR DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MORE SOOKIE YOU HAVE IN YOU?

WELL, I HAVE A CONTRACT FOR AT LEAST ONE MORE BOOK AFTER THE ONE I JUST FINISHED. I KNOW I HAVE THAT MUCH. PROBABLY SEVERAL MORE AFTER THAT. BECAUSE I'M NOT TIRED OF HER YET. I'M REALLY HAVING A GOOD TIME WITH HER. SO AT LEAST A FEW MORE.

PLAINLY READERS ARE HAVING A GOOD TIME WITH YOUR WORK. AND I LIKE TO ASK AUTHORS ABOUT THEIR CONCERN, IF THERE IS ONE, FOR THE FUTURE OF READING. OUR KIDS ARE GETTING SO -- AND GROWN-UPS, SO MUCH WHAT'S CALLED SCREEN TIME. THEY'RE LOOKING AT COMPUTERS, VIDEO GAMES OR THE TELEVISION SET. ARE THEY -- THEY'RE MISSING A LOT. ARE YOU CONCERNED AS A WRITER --

YES, I'M VERY CONCERNED. AND I THINK THE HIGHEST COMPLIMENT A READER CAN PAY ME IS TO SAY, I HAVEN'T READ A BOOK IN YEARS UNTIL I READ YOURS AND NOW I'M READING. I THINK, YEAH, MY JOB IS DONE. THAT'S A HUGE -- A HUGE PROBLEM NOW IS THAT NOT ENOUGH KIDS ARE BEING BROUGHT UP TO READ AS I WAS BROUGHT UP TO. IT'S SUCH AN ADVANTAGE TO LOVE BOOKS AND TO BE ABLE TO READ EASILY AND WELL AND TO RETAIN WHAT YOU READ.

THEY READ BUT THEY DON'T LIKE TO READ SO MANY OF THEM. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, OF COURSE.

IT'S A MADE TO SITUATION. REALLY MY CHILDREN DON'T READ THAT MUCH EXCEPT FOR MY MIDDLE SON. HE READS A LOT. BUT THE OTHER TWO IT'S SCREEN TIME. AS YOU SAY, THEY'D RATHER BE ON THE COMPUTER. THE YOUNGEST ONE WOULD RATHER BE ON THE COMPUTER OR WATCHING TELEVISION OR TEXTING. AT LEAST THAT'S DEALING WITH WORDS. I TRY TO LOOK AT THE POSITIVE SIDE.

A FORM OF WRITING. I KNOW TOO FROM MUTUAL FRIENDS THAT YOUR -- YOUR EPISCOPALIAN FAITH IS QUITE IMPORTANT TO YOU.

IT IS.

ALL THE VAMPIRES AND THE WEREWOLVES AND THE CREATURES OF THE NIGHT FLOATING AROUND, WAS THIS A LITTLE ARRESTING TO YOUR FELLOW CONGREGANTS?

NOT AT ALL. THAT'S A GREAT THING ABOUT BEING AN EPISCOPALIAN. I DID WORRY A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE EXPLICIT SEX. NOT THAT I WRITE THAT MUCH OF IT, BUT WHEN I DO I LIKE TO DO IT RIGHT. BUT THEY HAVE ALL BEEN SUPER ABOUT IT. AND I WORRIED A LOT ABOUT THAT. IF I WERE DOING THE RIGHT THING. I THOUGHT, WELL, I'M IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY AND I'M PROVIDING ENTERTAINMENT. AND HOPEFULLY, IT'S TAKING PEOPLE OUT OF A BAD SITUATION AT WORK OR SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE WRITTEN ME TO SAY, YOU KNOW, MY MOM WAS DYING OF CANCER AND WHEN I SAT AT HER BEDSIDE I READ YOUR BOOKS AND THEY GAVE ME A BRIGHT SPOT IN MY DAY. I THOUGHT WHEN I LOOK AT IT THAT WAY, I THINK I'M DOING ALL RIGHT.

WELL, I THINK ALL THESE THINGS BEING RELATIVE, YOU KNOW, YOUR EROTICISM IS PRETTY RESTRAINED.

WELL, YES, IT IS.

DO YOU FORCE YOURSELF TO WRITE?

SOME DAYS --

OR DO YOU WRITE EVERY DAY?

I WRITE EVERY DAY. EVEN NOW ON WEEKENDS BECAUSE, WELL, FOR ONE THING, I'M WAY, WAY BEHIND ON A BOOK. ONE OF THE HARPER CONLEY'S BOOKS, MY OTHER ACTIVE SERIES. I WORK ON THE WEEKENDS AND I CAN'T SKIP A DAY ANYMORE. I GO IN AND WRITE BEFORE CHURCH. I HAVE LOTS OF OTHER THINGS TO DO NOW THAT "TRUE BLOOD" HAS BECOME SO POPULAR. I DO LIKE THREE INTERVIEWS A WEEK AND -- ON AVERAGE. AND LOTS OF OTHER THINGS THAT EAT UP TIME WITH THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER RATHER THAN ACTUALLY WRITING.

WRITING, YEAH. DO YOU SEE A CHARACTER, A PLOT, A GENRE, A TABLEAU APART FROM WHAT YOU HAVE TOUCHED SO FAR? IS IT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND, ONE OF THESE YEARS I'M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT A TELEVISION CAMERAMAN AND HIS ADVENTURES OR WHAT?

OH, SURE. I'M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW TO WRITE ABOUT. I HAVE WRITTEN A STRAIGHT SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA ABOUT TWO CHARACTERS THAT WERE IN ONE OF THE SOOKIE BOOKS, AND IT WILL BE OUT THIS YEAR. THAT WAS A LOT OF FUN WRITING SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, AND EVERY NOW AND THEN, I WRITE A SHORT STORY THAT'S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. I HAD ONE IN A HORROR WRITER'S ANTHOLOGY, SO NOW I BELONG TO THE HORROR WRITER'S ASSOCIATION.

NOT JUST THE MYSTERY, BUT THE HORROR.

NO, I BELONG TO THE MYSTERY AND THE ROMANTIC WRITERS OF AMERICA, AND NOW THE HORROR ASSOCIATION. I'M COVERING ALL GENRES.

IS THERE ONE THAT YOU WANT TO EXPLORE THAT YOU REALLY HAVEN'T?

I'D LIKE TO WRITE A STRAIGHT GHOST STORY. IF YOU CAN CALL A GHOST STORY STRAIGHT. BUT I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE A REALLY, REALLY SCARY GHOST STORY. SHIRLEY JACKSON IS ONE OF MY HEROES, AND IF I COULD WRITE SOMETHING HALF AS SCARY AS "THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE" I WOULD BE A HAPPY WOMAN.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD ARGUE YOU HAVE COME REALLY CLOSE, IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.

WELL, DO YOU THINK THE BOOKS ARE SCARY?

WELL, NOT NECESSARILY WITH SOOKIE, BUT SOME OF YOUR SHORT FICTION IS PRETTY HAIR RAISING.

WELL, THANK YOU.

YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE HORROR WRITERS.

I AM. I LOVED WRITING THE SHORT STORY CALLED AN EVENING WITH AL GORE. IT IS A HORROR STORY AND I HAD THE BEST TIME WRITING IT BECAUSE IT WAS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. AND THAT'S JUST LIKE, YOU KNOW, GOING TO A THAI RESTAURANT WHEN YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TO ONE BEFORE. IT'S LIKE GIVING YOURSELF SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW TO EAT TO ENRICH YOURSELF.

DO YOU WANT TO WRITE SOME POETRY AFTERWARDS AS AN ALKA-SELTZER OR MAYBE AS A TUMS TO GET --

I THINK I GOT RID OF MY POETRY WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER.

WHAT ABOUT TO THE POTENTIAL CHARLAIN HARRISES OUT THERE OR TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO SAY I REALLY WANT TO WRITE. I'M SCARED, I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO START. I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO TURN.

OKAY. THE FIRST THING YOU NEED TO DO AS A WRITER IS TO READ. YOU NEED TO READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN LAY YOUR HANDS ON. GOOD, BAD, ALL DIFFERENT GENRES. OF YOU NEED TO READ -- YOU NEED TO READ YOUR OWN LEVEL. YOU NEED TO READ ADULT LEVEL. YOU NEED TO READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN TO FURNISH YOUR MIND WITH THE FURNITURE IT TAKES TO WRITE. YOU NEED TO DECIDE WHY A BOOK IS GOOD, WHY A BOOK IS BAD. WHAT THE WRITER DID TO ACHIEVE THE EFFECT HE ACHIEVED. THEN YOU CAN START TO WRITE. AND WHEN YOU WRITE, TRY EVERYTHING. DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF TO ONE THING. AND FINISH WHATEVER YOU WRITE. THEN YOU CAN WORRY ABOUT TRYING TO SELL IT. AND THERE IS SO MUCH AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET NOW THAT WASN'T IN THE DARK AGING WHEN I FIRST GOT PUBLISHED. THERE'S SO MUCH ON THE INTERNET ABOUT HOW TO BE PUBLISHED. HOW TO GET PUBLISHED. HOW TO CONTACT AN AGENT. HOW TO CONTACT A PUBLISHER. THERE'S REALLY NO EXCUSE FOR IGNORANCE NOW. IF YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH.

IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE.

THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I HAVE ENJOYED IT.

WELL, KEEP WRITING. WE'LL KEEP READING.

OH, I WILL.

ALL RIGHT, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Charlaine Harris