Charity book keeps author Charlaine Harris in good company

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Inherit the Dead • By Lee Child and others • Touchstone, $25.99

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Charlaine Harris isn’t writing books about a mind-reading waitress and Southern vampires any more.

Yet the bestselling author, who calls North Texas home, has rarely been busier.

“I still have stories I want to tell,” says Harris, whose series of Sookie Stackhouse paranormal mystery novels inspired HBO’s True Blood. “I want to keep challenging myself. Rather than copying what I’ve done in the past and becoming stale, I want to continue to improve as a writer.”

That said, her latest, Inherit the Dead (Touchstone, $25.99, out Tuesday), a mystery novel in which 20 well-known authors each wrote one chapter, wasn’t so much a self-imposed challenge as a case of contributing to a good cause.

Royalties for the book are being donated to Safe Horizon, a New York-based agency that provides support and promotes justice for crime and abuse victims.

Other popular authors who participated include Lee Child, Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, C.J. Box, Stephen L. Carter and Marcia Clark.

In the introduction, Child puts forth the theory that crime fiction writers are among the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

“They work out all their angst and all their aggression on the page,” he writes, “leaving their real lives full of nothing but kindness, generosity and gauzy goodwill.”

That certainly seems to be the case with Harris, whose sunny disposition runs counter to her tales about vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beasties.

Harris wrapped up her “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series with book No. 13, Dead Ever After, in May — although she does have a follow-up coming later this month called After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse.

“It’s an alphabetical listing of the characters and what happens to them after the series is over,” Harris says. “And it includes wonderful illustrations by Lisa Desimini, who did all of the book covers.”

After that comes an assortment of projects:

Harris and Christopher Golden have co-written a graphic novel (with Don Kramer as the artist) called Cemetery Girl. The first volume in the trilogy will be out in January.

Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner are editors of Games Creatures Play, a short-story collection about games and the supernatural. It will be out in April.

And Harris’ next novel, the first in a new series, this one set in Texas, is called Midnight Crossroad. It will be published in May.

“There are one or two paranormal elements,” she says. “But on the whole, Midnight Crossroad is really more of a traditional mystery. I started out in the mystery field and my first 12 books or so were conventional mysteries, so I see this as being sort of an enlightened return.”

Settling in Texas

About a year and half ago, Harris moved to a small town west of Fort Worth. (Citing privacy and security concerns, given some awkward situations in which obsessed readers showed up at her Arkansas home uninvited, she requested that the city not be named in this story.)

“I chose to live in Texas for several reasons,” she says. “My mother was from Texas. She was from Rocksprings and I grew up spending every summer in Texas as a child, so I felt very comfortable here.

“For another reason, I wanted to be close to a major airport where I could get direct flights, after years of having to drive 2 1/2 hours to get to a flight.

“And also, my oldest son and his wife have settled in Keller, which is not far. They have two children, so I wanted to be close.”

Harris is thoroughly satisfied with the way she wrapped up the series of Sookie books — although, she notes, “A very vocal minority did not feel that way.”

Harris says she received death threats from a few readers who were unhappy about her bringing the series to a close. “It’s a crazy world,” she says.

Sookie no more

But part of knowing how to tell a good story is knowing when and how to end it.

“I had just run out of story to tell,” she says. “If you’re a conscientious writer and you reach a point where you realize you’ve done all the good you’re going to do, you move on and do something different.”

Harris is a big fan of True Blood, even if the show has taken liberties with her plots and characters. She’s not an author who feels a TV or film version must mirror her written work.

“People sometimes tell me they can’t stand the show, can’t stand what they’ve done to my books,” Harris says. “I say, ‘Then turn off the television. Nobody’s making you watch it.’ If people prefer the books, that’s fine with me. If they’d rather watch the show, that’s fine with me, too.

“I know the cast. I know some of the crew. I know some of the writers. I think they’re incredibly talented. I am very fortunate to have been associated with such great talents.

“They took the story in a direction that made sense to them. It wasn’t the same story I was telling, but it was fun and I did enjoy it very much. I feel like we provide two good entertainment experiences.”

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