Not Quite Twenty Questions for Charlaine Harris

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Once I was at a library event, and the well-meaning person who was the emcee said, “And now here’s someone who needs no introduction, Hank Phillippi Ryan.”

Well, that was very nice, and I knew he meant it affectionately. The problem with it was, I do need an introduction. And it started me wondering if there was any one who actually didn’t need one.

One of the names I came up with (and I think you’ll agree) is Charlaine Harris.

But—even with a blockbuster HBO series (True Blood) and all kinds of other fabulous stuff (see below) she is so modest and so unassuming that she would probably disagree.

I will admit that many years ago, I bet 10 or so, I met Dana Cameron and Toni Kelner and they talked about how wonderful this Charlaine Harris was. Newbie that I was, I had no idea.

And wow, was it fun to find out!

And even more fun now, after how many series? Three? Four? Five? and incredible hard work and bravery and imagination and courage, if there’s anyone on the planet who could be described as being an overnight sensation in 20 years, isn’t it Charlaine?

Now she’s walking the red carpet in Hollywood, and is one of the most acclaimed and beloved authors in the world. I will never forget the Sunday morning I opened the New York Times book review section and she had seven titles on the bestseller list at the same time!

It might have been eight, but who’s counting.

She is a wonderful and loyal and fabulous friend, and I admire her beyond all description.

CharlaineCharlaine Harris now, with Not Quite Twenty Questions.

Title of your autobiography:
“She Did the Best She Could”

(See, I told you she was modest.) Why?
I often fall short of my own goals, in my personal and professional lives. It’s hard to accept that I have built-in limitations.

Movie you would see again and again?
The Last of the Mohicans

Why? (You know, I’ve never seen it. I decided it would be too sad.)
It’s got everything: great acting, good script, beautiful scenery, romantic and adventurous.

Exotic drinks?
Nope, not me.

Pizza or chocolate?

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
I have a spouse, Hal, and three adult children whom I adore. My newest special people are outstanding and tiny, our grandchildren Gavin and Devin.

Three rescue dogs.

Used to, arthritis does not permit any more.


Reading. We go to the movies, too, and I definitely watch more television now that my eyes are getting older.

Oh, what do you watch?
Oh, yes, I love: Project Runway, Justified, Longmire, Life Below Zero, and Chopped. Oh, and True Blood!

Hank interviewing Charlaine at Crime Bake 2010

Hank interviewing Charlaine at Crime Bake 2010

Okay, gotta ask. Do you remember the first time you saw True Blood? What did you think?
The first time I saw True Blood, I was sure my husband and I were going to have to move. It was so much more EVERYTHING than I ever imagined. But it turned out people really loved it!

And wait—isn’t there another TV thing in the works?
Yes, Hallmark Channel is planning a series of made-for-TV movies made on the Aurora Teagarden books, my early series about a librarian and the challenges she faces in her small town when bodies turn up. Candace Cameron Bure is attached.

Wow. And check Charlaine’s blog on Femmes Fatales for a wonderful story about her latest Hollywood foray! Anyway, back to reality. Best concert you’ve ever seen.
I saw the Beatles in the seventies.

I did too! In the 60s though. <smile> Can you sing? 
A little. A very little.

Book you wish you had written.
So many! But the first book I thought that consciously was “Jurassic Park.” Minus all the scientific stuff.

I never would have predicted that! Why?
People: EEEEK! Dinosaurs: AAAARGH!

Fear or phobia?
Heights. And those weird rubber people with waving arms that businesses put by the road to entice you in. I will do a detour to avoid those.

I really hate those. I think they’re Stephen-King creepy, and I always wonder how anyone thought of them. “You know what we should do?” someone said. And then they described them, and someone else said—“Yeah, great idea!” Sheesh. Anyway, what someone might not know about you.
Pretty much of an open book.

Do you have a recurring dream?

How about a secret talent?
I can figure tips quickly. Otherwise, math moron.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Tough one. Shirley Jackson, maybe.

It is a tough one! Funny, huh? But why Shirley Jackson?
I picked Shirley Jackson because I admire her intensely. She could write very funny books. She could write terrifying books. And she was a master at creeping dread. You would start reading, and then you’d sense that something was a little off with the protagonist and her viewpoint, and then you’d become more and more aware that all was not well in her head . . . or you’d laugh and laugh at her family’s situations. Her versatility was astounding.

Charlaine_officeThings you say to yourself when writing:
Keep going, you can do it.
Or, “What would be the most fun thing that could happen right now?”

What are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
I’m working on the second Midnight Crossroad book, and the third installment of Cemetery Girl. Just finished a short story.

Tell us something else about that!
Second books are traditionally hard, because all the newness of the first book has worn off for the writer, and you’re faced with the hard work of making the characters charming all over again.

Are you enjoying it? 
Some days . . . .

Do you have a motto? What is it?
Keep working.

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
Oh, gosh, NO.

HANK: Well, we can! And we are cheering like mad. Sisters, wouldn’t you say Charlaine is the role model for perseverance leading to wild success? Do you think about “Keep going, you can do it” when you write?

MidnightCrossroadAnd a signed copy of Charlaine’s MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD book to one lucky commenter!


CHARLAINE HARRIS is a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for over thirty years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. Though her early works consisted largely of poems about ghosts and teenage angst, she began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She switched to novels a few years later, and achieved publication in 1981 with Sweet and Deadly.

After publishing two stand-alone mysteries, Harris launched the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden books with Real Murders, a Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards. Harris wrote eight books in her series about a Georgia librarian. In 1996, she released the first in the much darker Shakespeare mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who makes her living cleaning houses. Shakespeare’s Counselor, the fifth—and final—Lily Bard novel, was printed in fall 2001.

DeadEverAfterBy then, Harris was feeling the call of new territory. Starting with the premise of a young woman with a disability who wants to try inter-species dating, she created The Sookie Stackhouse urban fantasy series before there was a genre called “urban fantasy.” Telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse works in a bar in the fictional northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. Each subsequent book follows Sookie through adventures involving vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. The series, which ended in 2013, has been released in over thirty languages.

Sookie Stackhouse has proven to be so popular that Alan Ball, creator of the HBO television series Six Feet Under, announced he would undertake the production of a new HBO series based upon the  books  He wrote and directed the pilot episode for that series, True Blood, which premiered in September of 2008.

In October 2005, the first of Harris’s new mystery series about a young woman named Harper Connelly debuted with the release of Grave Sight. Harper has the ability to determine the cause of death of any body. After four novels, this series is on hiatus.

CemeteryGirlNow Harris is working on a trilogy of graphic novels with Christopher Golden and artist Don Kramer, “Cemetery Girl.” On her own she is writing a new series set in the small town of Midnight, Texas.

Harris has also co-edited a series of very popular anthologies with her friend Toni L.P. Kelner, aka Leigh Perry. The anthologies feature stories with an element of the supernatural, and the submissions come from a rare mixture of mystery and urban fantasy writers.

Professionally, Harris is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Crime Writers League, Sisters in Crime, and the International Crime Writers Association. She is a past member of the boards of Sisters in Crime and MWA, and she has served as president of the MWA. She is also a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America, just to make sure she’s covered.

Personally, Harris has been married for many years. She mother of three wonderful children and the grandmother of two. She lives in central Texas, and when she is not writing her own books, she reads omnivorously. Her house is full of rescue dogs.


Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

About Lisa Haselton

Lisa Haselton has had several short mystery stories published and has a couple of novels in various stages of completion. She always enjoys learning new tidbits about other writers, and takes great pride as an editor when working with writers on polishing their manuscripts. She's living a life around her passions for writing, photography, volunteering, and anything related to New England, particularly New Hampshire.
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23 Responses to Not Quite Twenty Questions for Charlaine Harris

  1. Reblogged this on stonecreekwriting and commented:
    Adore these two writers, and Hank does the most amazing interviews. Well worth a read!

  2. Mary Sutton says:

    Hank, once again, you do such wonderful interviews. It takes a skilled interviewer to bring out personality like that.

    “Keep going, you can do it” – I remind myself of this frequently, whenever I think, “There is just no way, I’m a sham, people have just been too nice to tell me I don’t have ‘it’,’ whatever ‘it’ is. I can’t write another word.”

    Then I get another cup of tea and write more words. Thanks to all the wonderful writers who keep encouraging me to keep going!

  3. sallycootie says:

    I think Shirley Jackson would admire Charlaine! What a variety of great stories and series.

    Hank – terrific as always. How do you always know who I want you to interview next?? And another person to add to my “Ooh, I will get to peek at them at Bouchercon” list.

    Off to watch Last of the Mohicans again – I had forgotten what a good movie it is.

  4. Kim says:

    As always I love this interview, Hank – and Charlaine is such an inspiration. When I read that someone this talented and prolific is hard on herself, it reminds me, we’re all human and doubt is a part of that. And so our job is to keep on keeping on. And that’s what makes us real writers. Thank you!!

    • hankpryan says:

      Thank YOU!! That’s one thing I so enjoy about NQTQ, it’s different every time because we go back and forth several times, and it’s a real chat!

  5. Jody says:

    I love Charlaine Harris. She is such a nice person to visit with, and no big head! Thanks for the interview. I learned a few new things about Charlaine.

  6. hankpryan says:

    Oh, our pleasure, Jody! xoxoo (There’s a new interview every Thursday!)

  7. hankpryan says:

    And don’t I look SERIOUS in that photo LIsa found? I think we were talking about short stories…

  8. elaineviets says:

    I’m a big fan of “Last of the Mohicans,” too. I love the pace and photography — not to mention Daniel Day Lewis in a loincloth.

  9. Hank, thanks for making me sound more interesting than I really am. Let’s all get a bucket of popcorn and go watch “Last of the Mohicans” together!

  10. I love this interview. (And the new Project Runway starts tonight. Woot!)

  11. Sherryl ONeill says:

    Two classy ladies having a wonderful conversation. Thank you for sharing. This is why I love the mystery community so much.

  12. Kris Neri says:

    Great interview, Charlaine & Hank. I am so looking forward to the Aurora Teagarden TV-movies.

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