Vampire author Charlaine Harris coming to Knoxville

Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris

B97.5 author spotlight

* When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14. Doors open at 6.

* Where: Rothchild Catering and Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike

* Tickets: $40 for VIP seating and a copy of Dead Reckoning; $30 for VIP seating; $20 for general admission. Available at Knoxville Tickets or by calling 865-656-4444. Tickets also may be purchased at the door.

* Benefits: Knoxville Crime Lab and the building fund for the William M. Bass III Forensic Anthropology Building

— For East Tennessee fans of author Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that Harris, creator of the books on which the hit HBO show "True Blood" is based, will be in Knoxville for the B97.5 Author Spotlight at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Rothchild Catering and Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike.

Dr. Bill Bass, author, forensic anthropologist and founder of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, also known as the Body Farm, will be a guest speaker at the event. His latest novel in the Body Farm series, co-written with journalist Jon Jefferson and published under the name Jefferson Bass, is called "The Bone Yard."

Harris will speak to the audience about her work and hold a question-and-answer session. She will sign books after the event for ticketholders. The 11th book in her Sookie Stackhouse series, "Dead Reckoning," was released last week.

The bad news? Harris is drawing her Sookie Stackhouse series to a close with book No. 13.

"I'm going to miss the books, of course," Harris says. "I've lived with them for many years now, and increasingly, Sookie takes up so much of my time."

Harris said she looks forward to moving on from the fictional world of supernaturally saturated Bon Temps, La., and exploring new ideas.

"A writer wants to write," she says.

She offers no clues to the story's conclusion other than she doesn't plan on turning Sookie, telepathic waitress and girlfriend to all manner of supernatural creatures, into a vampire. She has written about two-thirds of Sookie book No. 12. When asked if she has received complaints from fans about ending the series, she deadpans, "You have no idea."

"People all seem to have their own preferences for how the series should end. No matter what I do, not everyone is going to be happy," Harris says.

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Harris began the series in 2001 with "Dead Until Dark." She had written about a dozen conventional mysteries in a 20-year period, including her Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series. She decided to try something new with the germ of an idea - what kind of girl would fall in love with a vampire?

The book series was a hit.

"My career was not very lucrative until I started writing Sookie. I have seen both sides of the coin," Harris says.

She was a New York Times bestselling author several times over when Alan Ball, creator of HBO's "Six Feet Under," contacted Harris' team with an offer to adapt the novels into a television show. "True Blood" was born, and its success has turned a legion of rabid fans on to Harris' novels.

"So much of getting to this point has been incredible, because I'd already had a long career in publishing. This is my 30-something year," Harris says.

"It's all I ever wanted to do my whole life, so I've been very fortunate," she says.

Harris hails from Tunica, Miss., and now calls Magnolia, Ark., home. Married with three grown children, she is an avid reader and is active in the Episcopal church.

In addition to writing novels, Harris recently expanded her story-telling to include a graphic novel adaptation of "Grave Sight," the first in her four-book Harper Connelly series, with Dynamite Entertainment, and an I-play PC game, "Dying for Daylight," starring a short-story regular, the vampire Dahlia.

"It's always fun to try something new," Harris says.

In March, Harris was honored by a gay rights advocacy group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, with the Straight for Equality in Literature award. According to the PFLAG website, the award seeks to "empower allies in supporting and advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."

"I am so proud. It just seems so wrong to me that society was treating gay and lesbian people so badly with bogus religious fervor. It just bothered me. It seemed unjust," Harris says.

When asked how her faith informs her writing and treatment of LGBT characters, she says: "I believe in a God of love, not a God of exclusion. I don't believe God would turn away anyone who loved him no matter what their sexual preference was."

Karen Dunlap may be reached at 865-342-6261.

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