In the lead up to her March appearance at the Mystery Writers of America’s SleuthFest in Florida, Charlaine Harris has given an intriguing interview to the Orlando Sentinel.
For reasons that probably don’t need to be raked over any more than they have already, we quit posting about True Blood on the main site here last September. As a fan of the books first and foremost, my appetite for watching the central themes and characterisations of the books torn up, set on fire and ceremonially pissed upon is simply not voracious enough to continue covering it season after season. Not while Alan Ball and his merry band of shock jocks repeatedly spit in the faces of fans who love the essence and spirit of the characters Charlaine Harris created.
For months now, book readers have expressed frustration at Charlaine’s general silence on issues surrounding the way Ball has handled her material – but in particular, the absolute desecration of Sookie that has never been more evident than it was in the certified clusterfuck that was Season 4.
If I could inject that hysterical hot mess of a season with five shots of Valium, strap it down to a gurney, and sign it into a bricked up institution that would guarantee me I’d never have to see it again – I would. I would do it in a fucking heartbeat.
But you know what? A quick perusal of this interview tells me we’re not the only ones who think a line has been crossed, and that this…
…Should mean SOMETHING.
For those of us who have been reading her interviews for a while, a distinct change in tone would be apparent in this one.
“I am the Creator”.
“I don’t write Anna Paquin – I write Sookie Stackhouse”.
The Sookie Stackhouse novels were selling well before the TV show.”
“Sookie…is growing, changing, She’s very strong. She’s a girl girl. She’d be OK on her own without a guy. She’d like to have a relationship. It’s not necessary to her happiness.”
“The [True Blood] story is very different from my story. It was never a Bill vs. Eric situation in my mind.”
Do you think she might feel a little disenchanted with Ball’s vision? Perhaps a bit annoyed at how angry, dependent and flaky True Blood Sookie is being portrayed? Or maybe just a little pissed off that Sookie’s story – the story of a woman finding her own feet in a supernatural world – has been reduced to little more than a romantic rivalry between two vampires who were NEVER, EVER intended to be equals in any universe, either real or imagined?
It’s not my place to judge Ms Harris for how she chooses to handle these things. Yet to a book fan, her oft-repeated references to Alan Ball’s “genius” have become increasingly grating over the years – as they’ve marched right alongside a bewildering, steadfast refusal to stand up and take ownership of this story and its characters as the products of her own imagination, first and foremost. I have no issue with Harris’ respect for the Ball’s vision, if that’s what flicks her Bic. I have no issue at all. But I’ve never understood why the superlatives for Ball were always the end of the sentence, or why she’s been so reluctant to follow them up with at least some claim of her own.
Harris wrote a series that has made the NYT best seller lists every single year since the release of Dead to the World in 2004 – long before she had the marketing monolith that is HBO behind her. That’s no small feat, and she has earned her stripes in publishing, just as Ball has earned his in film and television.
It’s high time Charlaine stood up and reclaimed these characters, because they are hers. It’s high time she made statements that clearly delineate between her books as the original, and Ball’s work as an interpretation, because that’s what it says in the fucking credits. I’m glad to see her doing both of these things in this interview – she’s been selling herself short alongside Ball for too long. The fans of her books – the readers who love them for what they are irrespective of HBO’s shock and awe treatment – need to hear her openly and unapologetically defend what is creatively and rightfully hers.
I sincerely hope this new found confidence represents a long overdue line in the sand. Charlaine has obviously profited from True Blood and like many authors, that has come only after relinquishing creative control. But that shouldn’t mean she has to smile and pretend to like it when her protagonist is reduced to a walking, talking, all-screwing contradiction; and her character arcs are swapped around like keys at a swinger’s party – with about as much regard for the long term consequences.
Read the full interview here, and let us know what you think in the comments.