Charlaine Harris is ending her popular “Sookie Stackhouse” vampire series, which has sold 24 million copies and got a massive boost from HBO’s “True Blood,” despite passionate objections from her fans, agent and publisher.
Five years ago, Charlaine Harris tried to kill Bill Compton, a handsome, brooding vampire in her best-selling supernatural mystery series. She fatally wounded him with a sword in book nine. But her editor fought back. HBO was launching “True Blood,” a TV show based on Ms. Harris’s books. Killing off a main character and romantic lead could damage the franchise at a moment when millions of new readers were discovering it. Ms. Harris rewrote the scene. Bill got bitten and poisoned, but stayed undead for four more books.
It paid off. The books, which had sold some two million copies before the show, went on to sell 30 million more copies in 35 countries. Ms. Harris’s rabid fan base gobbled up “True Blood”-themed comic books, graphic novels, cook books, and other quirky merchandise, from “I Bill” T-shirts to nail polish, jewelry, candles and bottles of a fake-blood beverage.
But after more than a decade, Ms. Harris, a cheerful 61-year-old grandmother, grew tired of the characters, even as her hyper-dedicated followers lusted for more. She ran out of fresh story lines about her bubbly blond protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who tangles with an ever-expanding supernatural cast of vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, demons, goblins, elves, witches and fairies. She struggled to keep track of the convoluted mythology she’d invented. Things that used to excite her, like unveiling new supernatural creatures, started to feel stale.
So Ms. Harris decided to shut down the lucrative franchise she created. When the 13th book, “Dead Ever After,” hits bookstores next week, it will mark the end of the Sookie Stackhouse series.
Many of her fans, however, aren’t close to satiated. Thousands of readers have written her and begged her to keep the story going. Some have taken to taunting Ms. Harris in emails and online forums, saying she’ll regret her decision. One fan threatened to commit suicide if the ending doesn’t meet her expectations.
“I’m very fortunate that people are so invested in the series,” Ms. Harris says. “At the same time, it can be a source of some anxiety to get emails that say, ‘If Sookie doesn’t end up with Eric, I’m going to kill myself.’ “
The prickly dynamic between Ms. Harris and some of her followers highlights how hard it can be to kill a successful series. For the first time in years, Ms. Harris isn’t touring to promote the book. She doesn’t want to be berated by readers who hate the ending or want vampire spinoffs.
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Alexandra Alter reports in the video below about the series ending:
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