PW: You're known for your cozy mysteries, especially the Aurora Teagarden series, which features a librarian. How did you jump from that to vampires?

Charlaine Harris: I'd been a midlist writer for 20 years. I realized if I wanted to throw over the traces I'd better try something completely different. I'd been reading a lot of cross-genre books, since I've always been an aficionado of the supernatural. That direction seemed right to me: Anne Rice, Tanya Huff, P.N. Elrod and Laurell K. Hamilton all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

PW: In Dead to the World and other books in your Sookie Stackhouse series, the vampires are members of ordinary society. Can you give some thoughts on this?

CH: Each writer who uses this scenario has his or her own twist. From my point of view, this is a great opportunity for humor. I think the adaptation of vampires to the modern world and the average person's reaction to the inclusion of vampires in our society is just a gold mine of both amusement and drama.

PW: The first in the series, Dead Until Dark, won an Anthony Award. How did that make you feel?

CH: Winning the Anthony was one of the highlights of my life. Praise from writers and readers is very sweet, especially when so many editors turned down Dead Until Dark. My agent didn't think he'd ever sell it. But my inner validation comes from the fun I have at work.

PW: What genre do you consider the Sookie books, and is there any problem with marketing?

CH: I call the Sookie books "southern vampire romantic mysteries." I think I have a balance of elements, and fans of the three genres—science fiction, mystery and romance—have told me they enjoy the books. Marketing has been a problem. Sometimes the Sookie books are filed under mystery, sometimes under horror. I think a big display right out in the middle of the store is the best possible answer.

PW: Sookie was born with the gift of telepathy. Will she be learning how to use it more effectively, or is her talent a stumbling block for her?

CH: Sookie has gotten a lot more control over her ability than she used to have. It's such a backfiring gift. Imagine the things you'd know that you didn't want to know. Imagine the boring, boring thoughts of most people. Imagine being the repository of so many secrets.

PW: In Dead to the World, Sookie seems at ease with the vampire community. Is it possible that Sookie might end up as one of the undead in a future book?

CH: Sookie knows she's valued by the vampire community in her area for her telepathic abilities, which offers her a lot of protection. She also knows the vampires of America are trying hard to mainstream, which means keeping fangs off the population. So she may be dangerously close to feeling too comfortable with the vamps. In the next book, Sookie comes up against a vampire who reminds her how fragile humans can be. As for Sookie herself becoming a vampire, that's not in her future as of now.

PW: Sookie's being a Southerner plays a big part in the series, as does the Louisiana area in which she lives. Was this intentional, or did it just come through naturally?

CH: Emphasizing the Southernness of Sookie was a deliberate choice. There are a lot of things I'd always wanted to write about that I'm trying to use in the books—the religion of football, the connected life of a small southern town, the values of one's upbringing.

PW: Can you give a further hint to what the next Sookie Stackhouse book might include?

CH: There's not much I can say about the next book that doesn't give away big plot points of the current one, but I can say that her life doesn't get any less complicated!