An Interview With Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestseller, and author of the HBO adopted series “Sookie Stackhouse,” NBC adopted “Midnight, Texas,” “Harper Connelly,” and many more. Harris has joined us to discuss her latest novel, All the Dead Shall Weep, the fifth installment of the dark magic and Western series. “Gunny Rose.” 

Charlaine Harris[GdM] Each of the worlds you build are dynamic, intricate, and very different. Do you start with one idea or a broad sense of the place and fill in the details as you write?

I start with the protagonist and the story I’m trying to tell through her. I build the world around that. It starts very small, and as I work in my head that world begins to expand and become more precise.

[GdM] Can you tell us about the “Gunnie Rose” series?

It’s another venture in new territory for me. I guess the series is best defined as an Alternate History Western with a gunslinging heroine. She’s not bloodthirsty, but she’s upright and determined to do her job, which is protection. Lizbeth Rose is very young, and very independent. At first, I planned on no magic in her world, but I changed my mind as it evolved.

[GdM] Have you always been interested in westerns? Is there anything specific that intrigues

you?

I haven’t always been interested in westerns as a genre, but I did spend part of every summer in Texas as a child. The difference in the culture between central Texas and the Mississippi Delta (where I grew up) was very marked, and made a deep impression on me.

[GdM] Along with the western-style story, the “Gunnie Rose” series has a lot of parts that borrow from Russian history and culture. What was the impetus for these two cultures coming together?

I’ve always been intensely interested in the last of the Romanovs, and I realized it was possible to work the family into the history of fractured America. Russia had a great presence in the northern part of the Pacific coast many years before that, and it all made sense to me.

 [GdM] Are there stylistic overlaps between Russian storytelling and traditional Western

storytelling?

I have no idea. But stories, particularly folkloric stories, always have a commonality.

[GdM] There is a genuine sisterly authenticity in the relationship between Felicia and Lizbeth.

Having an older sister myself, I felt like I understood Felicia and Lizbeth’s relationship perfectly.

In book four, The Serpent in Heaven, the readers get an opportunity to learn more about their

relationship. Was this modeled on a real-life relationship?

I have never had a biological sister, though I have several women friends whom I consider that close to me. I did have an older brother, and three children. I played around with that inside my head.

[GdM] Can you tell us about your newest release, All the Dead Shall Weep?

I’d love to. It was a hard book to write for several reasons, and I rewrote extensively. I feel really good about the result. “All the Dead Shall Weep” once again features both sisters, when Felicia and Eli’s brother Peter come to visit Lizbeth and her husband Eli in Segundo Mexia. It’s anything but a smooth visit, and Eli and Peter don’t show the best sides of themselves in the aftermath of a militia attack on the town. Felicia also learns that her power is attracting close attention in the magical world. Lots of action!

[GdM] Who is Lizbeth Rose, and how did she come about? How has Lizbeth developed from the first book, An Easy Death, until now with the release of All the Dead Shall Weep?

I was invited to write a short story for a Shawn Speakman anthology to benefit charity, and I was really anxious to write something new and different; to cleanse my writer palate. I decided I wanted to write about a woman who shoots a lot of people, and Lizbeth gradually came into being. Then the world that she had to operate in to achieve those goals grew around that. After I’d written the story, I found I wanted to write more about her.

[GdM] The magic system of the “Gunnie Rose” world is fascinating; how did you develop it?

Any mention of the Russian royal family has to include Grigori Rasputin, right? So, he was the door to creating the magical world of the series. And if he had magic, then the rest of the world had to have its magic. It seemed to me that no matter what form or name the magic had, or how its practitioners used it, it would be drawn from the same well.

[GdM] All the Dead Shall Weep has alternating points of view from Felicia and Lizbeth, but each has a distinctive voice. As a writer, how do you create an authentic voice for each character so that they stand out between alternating chapters?

It’s sort of like method acting, I suppose. It’s method writing! I think myself into those characters and I write with those voices. It’s interesting technically, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

[GdM] While the story focuses mainly on Lizbeth and Felicia, their partners are vital parts of their lives. As supporting characters and partners, how do Eli and Peter allow Felicia and Lizbeth to flourish?

Or not! Eli is not a universally admired character, and Peter has some character flaws, too, but he’s growing up. Eli is restive in this book, which I think would be natural. He loves Lizbeth and he can’t go back to his former life, but he feels the lack of his former status and activities. It’s a period of adjustment for the married couple, and they’re working on it. Peter is growing up from the impulsive boy he was to a mature man, but he’s just as unhappy with the job he got assigned after graduating from the Rasputin school. He loves Felicia, but she’s a real star . . . and he’s not.

[GdM] You have written several fantastic series, “Sookie Stackhouse,” “Aurora Teagarden,” and more. Are there any that are particularly close to your heart? Which one was the most fun to write?

That’s a really hard question to answer. Aurora was really close to my heart, my first series, and closely attached to the life I had then. They were all fun to write, or I wouldn’t have written them. My whole career is about keeping myself entertained, and in the process, entertaining others. I have enjoyed writing characters who were completely different from me, like Harper Connelly, and characters who only had a limited connection with me, like Lily Bard. Sookie was a funhouse from start to finish, and now I’m living with Gunnie Rose. I love my life.

[GdM] You have had series go to television. What is it like seeing your books in a different medium?

It’s pretty shocking at first. “True Blood” was a huge learning curve for me. I’d never met actors, never been on a set, had no idea how the hierarchy worked in that business, and was quite shocked at the attention the show drew to me. But there were fun benefits, too. I did better with the “Midnight Texas” experience, and even better with the Hallmark movies about Aurora Teagarden. I have been to all the sets, met some of the actors, and tried to learn in the process. I have found it’s best to separate the two experiences, my books and the film adaptation. I’m responsible for my books. I’m not responsible for the adaptation. I just need to sit back and enjoy any benefit the adaption brings to the books, like increased sales.

[GdM] What is next for you after the release of All the Dead Shall Weep?

I’m working on the next Gunnie Rose. After that, we’ll see.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

READ ALL THE DEAD SHALL WEEP

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Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: instagram.com/elizabethtabler https://beforewegoblog.com/ https://www.pinterest.com/scottveg3/ https://www.goodreads.com/Scottveg3 https://twitter.com/BethTabler