It’s been a year since Charlaine Harris concluded her phenomenally popular Southern Vampire (aka, Sookie Stackhouse) saga. It was a wild ride, encompassing 13 best-selling novels over a 12-year period, an HBO series, and millions of Bon Temps, Louisiana, fanatics. So what’s next for Harris?
Something even better.
In May, she will release the first book in a new series called Midnight, Texas, which opens with Midnight Crossroad. Revolving around an eccentric cast of characters who live in a little Texas town in the middle of nowhere, it’s simultaneously a dramatic departure and classic Harris.
Phone psychic Manfred Bernardo needs a place to lose himself, but when he rents an apartment in the one–traffic light town of Midnight—and meets the town’s highly unusual residents—he realizes that in this stark, seemingly forgotten place, he just might find out who he’s meant to be.
Midnight Crossroad is a delectable fusion of mainstream fiction, mystery, and paranormal fantasy. We caught up with Harris as she was preparing for her book tour to ask her few questions about the inspiration behind the new series.
Midnight Crossroad is an entirely new narrative canvas, with an intriguing ensemble cast, a richly described backdrop, and a supernatural undertone that fans of your previous series will devour. After spending so long in Sookie’s world—Dead Until Dark was released way back in 2001—can you tell me about the experience of beginning your first new series in almost 15 years?
First off, whew! Let me just breathe a sigh of relief. This is a huge leap for me, and I’m very anxious about Midnight Crossroad’s reception. Also, it was a bear to write, since Midnight Crossroad is so different from anything I’ve ever attempted. I was really stoked by the prospect of doing something new. I don’t like to repeat myself, so I needed the challenge of the third-person point of view and the different premise and setting.
What drew you to create a storyline set in a Texas town in the middle of nowhere? Was there a particular seed of inspiration?
Every summer in my childhood, I spent upwards of two weeks in Rocksprings, Texas, where my mother’s parents lived. They ran a hotel in tiny Rocksprings, and that hotel’s still standing—completely renovated and under different management. The culture and landscape were completely different from the Mississippi Delta, where I was born and raised. Midnight Crossroad comes from that experience, though I’ve moved it north a little in my geography.
Following that same line of thought, one element that struck me in Midnight Crossroad—and all of your work, for that matter—is your ability to quickly and fully immerse your readers in the setting: Bon Temps from your Southern Vampire saga; Lowfield, Mississippi, from Sweet and Deadly; etc. Why is “place” so significant to you as a writer?
There are books I read where place is not so important; the story is universal, and could be set in Akron as well as Miami or Tucson. My stories don’t seem to work out that way. In Midnight Crossroad, the characters are in Midnight because they’ve been drawn there; that’s where they fit. So the town is part of the story.
Another aspect of this novel that I found highly appealing was the ensemble cast (which includes a “New Age” witch with a talking cat, a possible assassin, and a pawnshop owner who may be harboring a legendary cache of weapons). The closest thing to a main character may be Manfred Bernardo, a 20-something telephone psychic and the newest resident of the town. You’ve had a lot of leading ladies in your work (Aurora Teagarden, Lily Bard, Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, etc.)—is this the first novel you’ve written that doesn’t have a conventional female lead?
It’s the first time I’ve written from the male point of view. There were challenges in that. But I pretty much operate by the “If not now, when?” theory. If I’m not up for the challenge now, when will I be? Why not now? I always intended this to be an ensemble book, and it’s inevitable that some of the ensemble needs to be male. I don’t plan to write from the same points of view in each Midnight book, but Manfred will be a main character in at least the first two, since he’s the newcomer. Newcomers and outsiders are a writer’s bonanza.
Your storyline, a blend of fiction, mystery, and supernatural fantasy, is appealing to both mainstream fiction and genre fiction readers. The potential audience for it is huge. Do you have any specific hopes or goals for this project?
It would be hard to imagine anything more overwhelming than the response to the Southern Vampire books. I was incredibly startled and delighted by the reactions readers had to those books—but I came to understand there was a downside, too, to that passionate reader devotion. I have no expectations. I write what I need to and want to, and I hope the resultant work finds an audience, whether that audience is big or small. For the sake of my publisher (and myself, of course), I hope that when people close this book they are anxious to read the next one.
Please tell us that there’s at least a possibility that Midnight, Texas, will be more than a trilogy!
Yes, there is. But if I feel I’ve completed the story, I’m not going to drag it out. However, I’m really enjoying this new writing experience.
Charlaine, thank you so much for the chat—it was an honor. And best of luck with the new series!
Paul, it’s always good to talk to you. I’m really delighted that you thought well of the book.