The world that the characters of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels inhabit is not much different than our own, except that in her world vampires, shape shifters, fairies and demons are real.
Harris' Stackhouse books, also called the Southern Vampire novels, one of multiple series she has penned, are the inspiration for HBO's True Blood television series. The urban fantasy series supposes that vampires, and all manner of fantastic creatures are real. A group of Japanese researchers have created a form of artificial blood, initially for medical uses, that turns out to be an acceptable substitute for actual human blood in the vampire diet, thus allowing the blood suckers to openly integrate into human society.
That integration does not always go smoothly in the world Harris created, and leads to revelations about all sorts of fantastic creatures including werewolves and shape shifters. Harris has penned 12 books in the series so far, her latest "Deadlocked" was released Tuesday, and at the in West Ashley.
"I asked [my publisher] to tour me in the South this year because I hadn't been in the South before [on a book tour]," Harris told Patch.com. "I'm a southern girl and I really wanted to do it."
She describes "Deadlocked" as: "Male strippers, kidnappings, beheadings, it's a complex book."
Harris, who grew up in the South, but not in Northern Louisiana where her novels are set, said she took inspiration from Anne Rice, who's Vampire Chronicles series set largely in New Orleans redefined the vampire as a tragic and romantic figure in the 1970s, and various other authors who have tackled the supernatural creatures.
"I read a lot of vampire literature, but in the end you have to create your own world," Harris said. "I lived very close to Louisiana and it seemed Anne Rice had so much fun with southern part of the state that I thought I'd take the northern part that nobody else seemed to want."
While the series is unmistakably a part of the SciFi/Fantasy genre, Harris sets the series in the modern day real world, and doesn't shy away from including world events in her stories. Hurricane Katrina has factored heavily into several of the novels written since 2005 for instance.
"I thought it would be a huge disservice to Louisiana not to mention Katrina, even though it pinned down the stories in time," Harris said. "It was such a terrible tragedy that affected everyone in Louisiana, it would just be wrong to ignore it."
Harris said she was thrilled when HBO and Producer Alan Ball approached her about adapting the Sookie books to TV. She had already written the first five or six in the series at that point. While the show doesn't exactly mirror the novels, such adaptions of novels to live action never do, Harris is a huge fan.
"I love the show, it's so fun," Harris said. "I'm not involved with the TV show at all, but we have a very cordial relationship."
"I get a lot of questions about the differences between the books and the show, but we each have our own worlds," she said.
Harris said the question she is most often asked, however, is where she gets her inspiration.
"It is so difficult to pin down," she said. "I'm a writer, writers think of ideas."
With 12 novels published, a 13th in the works and several short stories already collected in two volumes "A Touch of Dead" and "The Sookie Stackhouse Companion," Harris said she has written more about her psychic cocktail waitress heroine than any other character she has ever created, and she is almost certain that the next novel will be the last thing she writes about Sookie.
"I really don't think I'll revisit Bon Temps (the town where the novels are set)," she said. "I've written more Sookie novels than any other series and right now I think I've said just about everything I can about her."
But Harris is working on other projects, including a graphic novel with Christopher Golden called "Cemetery Girl" about a young woman who begins living in a cemetery after some people try to kill her. It will be published in 2013 by Penguin Books. She has also signed a contract with publisher ACE for three books in a new series, she said.
The store will be issuing tickets for the book signing starting at 3 p.m. that day.