Dec 8, 2007

Interview with Charlaine Harris Author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries

This interview was conducted in June in preparation for the Library Journal column From Shelf to Screen (Oct. 15, 2007). In 2008 HBO will air the TV series True Blood (tentatively scheduled for March) based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries featuring the mind-reading Louisiana barmaid Sookie Stackhouse who finds herself intimately involved with the vampire subculture.

1. Although you are the author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries you have had to turn over creative control to Alan Ball (producer of Six Feet Under). You obviously have a lot of confidence in him, but how were you able to let go of your own creation?

It won't be my creation any more when it's on television. It'll be Alan's creation, and a completely different animal. I'm looking forward to seeing the books from a completely different point of view.

2. Producer Alan Ball is obviously a fan of the Southern Vampire Mysteries. What information have you shared with him on developing the characters, especially Sookie.

I think all the sharing I need to do is right there in the text. When I was trying to decide who to go with, of the offers in front of me, Alan was the one who convinced me he understood what I was doing with the books.

3. Have you made any suggestions for the True Blood stories? Will any of the novels be a basis for an episode?

The pilot episode is Chapter One of Book One, "Dead Until Dark." The plan now is to follow the books chronologically.

4. Has filming begun? Have you been on the set and if so what was it like for you?

Filming starts June 7, last I heard. I have been on the set while it was still being built, and I've met some of the production crew. Without exception, they struck me with their questions, their interest, and their knowledge of the books. It was a really pleasant shock to find out they cared about the books and hoped their vision enriched mine.

5. What do you think of the actors who have been cast? What do you think they will bring to their roles?

I am confident that Alan and his casting director have picked the right people for the right roles, because that's what they do for a living, and their track record says they're pretty good at it. I don't know squat about acting, and I'm really fascinated by the process. It may be I'll learn something about the characters from watching their interpretation!

6. Will there be any kind of publicity touring or interviewing that will include you in helping to launch the series?
I don't think touring . . . I just toured for ALL TOGETHER DEAD, the seventh Sookie. I'm doing quite a few interviews about the show, and I'm sure there'll be more right around the premier, if that's not too grand a name for it.

7. How firm is the Jan.'08 launch date?
I have no idea. After HBO executives view the pilot, that'll be firmed up.

8. Will there be a prescreening of the first episode? Will you be involved in this or will you watch it for the first time along with the rest of us?

Alan has mentioned that I should come to LA for the prescreening, and I'm thinking about it. Depends on what's going on with my family then.

9. Any other comments you wish to make would be welcome.

I've read the first two scripts, and I couldn't be more pleased and excited.

10. Do you have any comments that you would like to make to the library community? It's impact on you or your work?

Sure. My mom (until her retirement) was a librarian, and my sister in law (until her untimely death) was a librarian, and I think it's a super job. It's no coincidence that two of my best friends have been librarians. When I think of how much libraries do for people who need the dreams and the information books hold, it makes me regret I didn't get a degree . . . though I realize that sounds very suck-uppy, as my daughter would say.

Note from Patricia: I love the Southern Vampire Mysteries and was hooked after reading the first book Dead Until Dark (Ace, 2001). What better combination than mystery and vampires? Book number eight From Dead to Worse will be published by Ace in 2008. Like Harris's many fans I look forward to watching the HBO series. Unfortunately the debut date is very dependent on when the current writer's strike is settled. For more thoughts on Charlaine Harris and her vampire series look at Patricia's Vampire Notes for May 12, 2006.

Dec 3, 2007

Interview with Tanya Huff

Last July I interviewed Tanya Huff author of the Vicki Nelson Blood books for an article that appeared in the Oct.15 issue of Library Journal as the column for From Shelf To Screen. The article concerns vampire centered television series which originated in print.

Ms Huff has written a great deal of fantasy fiction, but the allure of the five Vicki Nelson novels holds true till this day. The first season of the series, Blood Ties, has aired on the MyLifetime channel. There is still no final word on a second season. Check Tanya Huff's LiveJournal for the latest information.

Since much of the interview did not make it into the article, I am placing it on Patricia's Vampire Notes. The Vicki Nelson stories are such favorites of mine as well as many other readers, and I felt that the TV adaptation was true to the characters. I have my fingers crossed for a second season.

See my April 8 post for information on Blood Price the first book in the Vicki Nelson series

The Interview with Tanya Huff follows:

1. Will we see any story lines from the TV series show up in any of your future short stories?

No. The show and the books are two separate creative endeavors. The creators of the show have paid for the right to use the five Vicki Nelson books as the basis for Blood Ties but it doesn't work in the other direction.

2. Discuss your working relationship with Executive Producer Peter Mohan as well as the writers of Blood Ties.

Although he was under no obligation to do so, Peter has kept me involved from the beginning. He had me come in to the writer's room early on and talk with the writers about the characters and how they interacted. I was incredibly honoured to have him ask me to write one of the first season episodes -- episode nine, STONE COLD -- and during that process he was patient and insightful and willing to use time he certainly didn't have to spare to help me make it the best episode possible. He came into the show loving the books and that's shown in everything he's done.

3. While on the set do the actors or director solicit your input?

While I'm on the set, I'm doing my best to stay out of the way. The actors and the director are working -- and working very hard, the hours in television are insane -- they say hi and then pretty much ignore me.

4. I loved that in the books Henry is a romance writer. Why the change to graphic artist?

Unfortunately, a man -- even a man as attractive as Kyle Schmid -- sitting and staring at a computer monitor makes for boring visuals. Television is a visual medium and having Henry be a graphic artist opens up a number of different visual possibilites. Henry drawing, the books themselves, the comic book store...

5. When do you actually watch the show. Sunday night with viewers? or do you get a peak beforehand so you can get going on your blog?

Actually, I'm in Canada where the show won't begin airing until August so I've been watching DVDs provided by the wonderful people at Kalidescope. I've seen the pilot at least a dozen times and many of the first twelve episodes almost as often. I did rewatch each episode on Sunday night as it aired on Lifetime though and then wrote the blog right after that. (Okay, honesty forces me to admit that I wrote two of them early because I was traveling and they were held until Monday morning.)

6. Discuss your experience as a script writer for Stone Cold compared to writing a Vicki Nelson novel.

Writing a novel is a solitary experience. I go into my office and I write approximately six hours a day for about a year and then I send the completed book to my editor. Writing a script is a collaborative experience -- all the writers involved in the show have input, the producers have input, the network has input, and most of all, the people in charge of the check book have input. (There is never enough in the budget to shoot anyone's initial concept but you might as well aim high.) With the book, there's almost no change between what I hand in and what you read. But with scripts, change is constant. Scripts aren't written sequentially, they're written concurrently so as each one goes before the camera, changes cascade throughout all the following episodes. Peter has rewritten lines of dialogue while the cameras are rolling.

I very much enjoy novel writing but I had an enormous amount of fun writing STONE COLD and I'm incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity.

7. What is the allure of the paranormal for you?

I originally wrote a vampire novel because I wanted to move out of the city and to do that, I needed a mortgage. I was working in a bookstore at the time and I noticed that vampire readers are incredibly loyal to their genre. They'll read anything with a set of fangs on the cover in the hope of finding something decent so I thought that if I wrote a good vampire book, I'd have an audience. And I did.

8. What has been done to modernize your Vicki Nelson books for Blood Ties?

One of the few things that really dates the Vicki Nelson books is the total absence of cell phones and the internet. Both have been added to the show. The cultural references are current -- instead of mid-90s -- although Peter wouldn't let me have Coreen say, "Dude." (I'll try again should I get the chance to write another script.)

9. How has the TV series affected the popularity of the print books? I know they have been republished.

The TV series, particularly the fact that it's been shown on Lifetime, has brought me a number of new readers. Lifetime's usual demographic didn't tend to be fantasy and science fiction readers and although "paranormal romances" have become very popular of late, BLOOD PRICE came out in 1991 -- it's sixteen year old. If it could learn how to parallel park, it could get a driver's license. There's a whole generation of readers discovering the books who were way too young to read them the first time around -- and many of them seem to be a little annoyed about the ending. This fall, DAW will be republishing the books with Blood Ties tie-in covers.

10. It seems to me that the Vicki Nelson stories followed by Joss Whedon's Buffy started a trend with strong female lead characters interacting with vampires and told with big dollops of humor. Any thoughts on that?

I'd be thrilled and honoured to be considered a part of any movement that involves Joss Whedon -- I'd give the man a kidney if he wanted one. Because I live in the middle of nowhere, I'm a bit out of touch with what's happening in the genre as a whole but I do know that paranormal romance novels have become one of the top performers in the market and if I was one of the people who kicked that off... well, that's pretty cool.

11. Anything else you would like to say to the library community about the Vicki Nelson books or the Blood Ties series?

There have been a number of people who have expressed dismay at the changes in the books. I'd like to remind them that the books haven't changed. No matter what BLOOD TIES does, if it runs for half a dozen seasons or just gets the one, the show doesn't effect the books. They're exactly the same as they were when I wrote them and you can reread them any time. If it helps, think of the show as this incredible alternative universe that broadens the mythos as I wrote it rather than detracts from it.

In general, I'd like to say thanks for your support. Libraries pretty much kept me sane while I was growing up and the thought that my books are now in libraries is one of the best parts of the whole business.

See the Blood Ties Blog on MyLifeTime