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Author Charlaine Harris on the End of True Blood, Viewer Backlash, and ‘Fabulous’ Lafayette

Novelist Charlaine Harris. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Warning: Spoilers for the series finale of True Blood ahead, as well as for Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels on which the show was based.

Did you spot Charlaine Harris in the series finale of True Blood? While Eric and Pam shot their New Blood infomercial, a woman sat at the console, providing the sound mixing. Of course, that same woman provided the basis for the television series to begin with — as the author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries series, otherwise known as the Sookie Stackhouse books. Granted, television adaptations often veer from the original plots and characterizations of their source material, but there were some pretty big deviations — in the books, Lafayette dies, Jason becomes a werepanther, and Sookie ends up with Sam. (“Well, that sure didn’t happen, did it?” Harris laughed when we asked her about it.) Now that the series has come to its conclusion, we thought it time to check in with Harris about her reaction to the finale, the faerie/were backlash, and what she thought of Bill’s suicide by Sookie.

So, counting the finale, you got not one but two cameos on the show. At the end of the maenad craziness of season two, you played someone sitting at the bar in Merlotte’s, and you said something like, “I never expected anything like that to happen here!”
[Laughs.] Yeah, and all my kids were in there, too. My middle son, who is an actor, was on the show twice. He only spoke the first time, in the second season, when Sookie comes back to Bon Temps and everything’s crazy. My other son and his wife were in a bar scene last year. And my daughter was a sadistic nurse in the vamp camp. I got to speak during my scene at the bar, but then I was silent as a director. And much older, I might add! [Laughs.]

Everyone is, except the vampires, in those flash-forwards! What did you think of all the resolutions for these various characters?
You know, I really enjoyed that, because to me it bears the mark of Alan Ball, even though I know there was a different showrunner the last year and a half. Because he gives you a glimpse of the future so often at the end of his runs, and in a way, Sookie ended up not with Sam, as she did in the books, but in the same place.

Who do you think that guy was?
He was someone she met after the show! A human. She had someone she could live a human life with, have human babies with, and stay in her home, which was what she wanted. He could be a shifter or a were, but my point is she didn’t end up with a vampire. I suppose it could have been Quinn [a were-tiger boyfriend of Sookie’s from the books], but he didn’t look anything like Quinn. You know, he looks like the guy in the Maker’s Mark jacket who comes in during the last episode of The Sopranos! People can talk about it and talk about it, but in the end, it’s whatever you want it to be.

Was there ever a character depiction they surprised or delighted you with, by transforming what you did in the books?
Oh, for sure, Lafayette! Nelsan [Ellis]: Why he hasn’t gotten an Emmy, I don’t know. He was robbed. He’s brilliant, and he gave that character so much that was never in the books. People say, “Well, you killed him off in the books!” And I say, “Yeah, but he wasn’t the same Lafayette!” He’s much more fabulous in the TV show, and Nelsan gave him dimension and life and incredible lovable-ness that helped a lot of people relate to a character that they might not have related to in real life. There was just so much to him. He did deal drugs, but he was also a loving person. He was loyal to his family. He dabbled in magic. There’s a big system of checks and balances with Lafayette to make him seem [like] a real person. How could he not be your favorite? He was written beautifully.

There’s been a mixed reaction so far to the finale. You went through this with Dead Ever After, when you ended the book series and were confronted with the fan reaction. Some people were satisfied, but there were also some who were unsatisfied, because it’s not what they imagined in their heads.
[Laughs.] Yeah, and the deeply unsatisfied people are always super vocal about it. One girl told me she was going to kill herself.

Yeah. I figured, that’s a 16-year-old for sure. I thought, You really need to have a reality check here. Getting upset is a valid reaction. If you’ve been reading a series for a long time and you’re invested in the characters, then certainly you’re going to get upset if something upsets your apple cart [and goes against] the way you thought it should turn out. But ultimately, that’s the writer’s choice. Those are his or her characters, and they have to fit his or her vision. Ultimately, it’s a form of entertainment. It is not a life-or-death issue. What’s happening in the Middle East is a life-or-death issue. This is not. This is entertainment. Enjoy it, or not, and then turn to the next entertainment. I’m sure the True Blood showrunners are on some level relieved that it’s over with, and most of them, not all of them, but most of them are very media-savvy, and they know that this will subside eventually, and it won’t affect their job chances or their families, you know? Sure, it’s a tempest, and it’s unpleasant while it’s going on, but sooner or later, people will turn their attention to something else that offends or disappoints them. I’ve read comments that the show was coming to an end because I’d finished the books, which of course was ridiculous. As far as I’m concerned, the show could have gone on forever. But I think everybody was ready to move on to other things.

Part of it is the finale just aired last night, and sometimes it takes a minute to process these things, so there may be more analysis to come. But right now, people are grappling with what it means or what it was that Bill ultimately killed himself via Sookie, and whether that was an act of compassion or villainy.
You know, he was so close to death anyway that I found myself thinking, Why don’t you just wait 24 hours? Why put her through it? But he wanted, I guess, the dignity of going on his own terms. And I could see him not wanting to go through that, getting weaker and weaker, sicker and sicker. And he really expected Sookie to fireball him, I guess. And it was her choice to keep her faerie nature and to stake him. She could have just walked away. So she made a choice. And he ultimately did do it himself. He helped her push the stake in.

Sookie’s fireball wasn’t in the books. I guess the closest equivalent was the cluviel dor? It almost sounds like cellar door, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.
Huh, really? I just made it up! Ha! [Laughs.] Sookie never got a cluviel dor on the show, but she got a magic fireball that I never gave her, so I guess it balances out. The cluviel dor could only be used one time, for an act of love, and I guess the fireball was pretty much the same thing, except she can use it to kill somebody. I didn’t see the parallel before, but I do now.

What about Jason? I feel like in the books he had some faerie essence, because women were so attracted to him the way men were attracted to Sookie, but the show didn’t explore that angle.
Right. But I disagree with you there, because I think he was really attracted to women who might otherwise be put off by the fact that he was abysmally stupid. And I think he pretty much ended up in the same place — a somewhat-reformed, somewhat-improved character.

In the books, he became a werepanther. But viewers of the show hit a wall when there were too many subplots about weres and faeries. There was a backlash.
I didn’t know that. Huh! I didn’t realize people felt that way at all. I just don’t read reaction stuff.

I think that’s why the new showrunner did a course correction and got rid of the faeries as much as possible, and the C-plots with Alcide and his pack. But in the books, all the faeries and weres added a different element, probably because you had more time to explore them, right?
So I made it seem more palatable somehow? Yeah, I think it was probably more of the general simplification for the show, to get it back to the basics of personal relationships rather than the more political turn that the show had taken. You know, it would have been nice to see a little more of the elves and the faeries, I think. I really liked my version of faeries a lot better, as it turns out. I had a system, a kingdom. They were not so, I don’t know, party animals! They were really different in the books. But who’s to say? People seem to like them in the books, but it’s news to me that people shied away from them on the show.

This happens a lot with book-to-TV adaptations, where people accept it in the book but then get upset about it on a show, maybe because it’s happening up close and they’re visualizing it more, such as on Game of Thrones.
Like with the beheading? For goodness sake! I thought, All you had to do was read the book! I mean, do you not know that people are going to die in a show about the pursuit of a kingdom? [Laughs.] You just can’t ever tell what will translate well to the screen and what won’t. That’s why I never wanted to interfere in the show at all, because I’m not a professional visual-entertainment artist. I’m not going to tell someone who is an expert what to do. But I really liked the way they depicted Sookie’s telepathy. I thought that was great. And of course Anna [Paquin] is such a great actress. I could never have asked for a better Sookie.

You have another series that’s being adapted, the Aurora Teagarden books, for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Candace Cameron Bure, who was D.J. on Full House, is going to be Aurora?
I’ve read the script, and I met Candace, and she’s lovely. It’s going to be a process that’s going to be very different! I think I’ve certainly learned that you have to be prepared and resigned to having plot points changed and characters changed. That’s just inevitable.

Did Candace give you any dance tips?
[Laughs heartily.] You know, for the first time in my life I watched Dancing With the Stars, because she was on it. My daughter and I watched it together. But gosh, no — we were at a party, and it would have been weird and inappropriate. It was an industry party — there was no dancing going on! Maybe next time!

Charlaine Harris on True Blood Series Finale