Mississippi native Charlaine Harris, 57, created The Southern Vampire Mystery Series that became the framework for True Blood. Born in Tunica in 1951 to a father who was a farmer turned principal and a librarian mom, Harris graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis in 1973 and worked at newspapers in Clarksdale and Greenville before her first novel, Sweet and Deadly, was published in 1981.
She later created two mystery series featuring Southern women as lead characters, but in 2001, she took a different turn with the publication of her first vampire tale, Dead Until Dark. It marked the debut of Sookie Stackhouse, a character Harris has described as a hard worker and churchgoer who struggles to do the right thing but, unfortunately, has to kill someone occasionally.
“I was getting a little bored and restless writing conventional mysteries, so I wanted to do something different,” she said. “Certainly, the level of interest has somewhat startled me.”
When the vampire series made the New York Times Best Seller List, Harris had three offers to option the rights but felt Atlanta native Alan Ball best understand her work. Ball, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2000 for the film American Beauty, created and produced HBO’s Six Feet Under and True Blood.
“I am working with the writers now, and we are creating the story arc,” said Ball by phone. “Yes, the story will take place in Jackson.”
Jackson is the setting for one plot twist that Ball plans to incorporate next season. Sookie will travel to Jackson to investigate the disappearance of her vampire boyfriend, Bill. She’ll likely check out a Jackson nightclub called Club Dead frequented by vampires and shapeshifters. And viewers will meet Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi.
Mara Mikialian, of HBO, said there have been no discussions about whether the show will film in Mississippi. Season 3 episodes haven’t been written, but Ball said he hopes to capture the authenticity of Harris’ books.
“I grew up in a small town in Georgia,” he said. “I sometimes see a cartoon version of the South portrayed. The authenticity is certainly something we try to maintain on the show.”