What do you make of the vogue for vampires in this country? The heroine of your Sookie Stackhouse novels, a telepathic waitress who lives in Bon Temps, La., and consorts with supernatural friends, is about to re-emerge in a new season of the HBO series “True Blood,” as well as in your 10th best seller.
Well, “Dead in the Family” won’t really be out until May 4, and I hate to count my chickens before they hatch.
The title of “Dead in the Family” is oddly similar to that of your previous novel, “Dead and Gone.”
My publisher likes to have “dead” in all the titles.
Why do you think vampires are omnipresent in popular culture?
People are really interested in the concept of eternal youth in this plastic-surgery culture. Vampires never die.
But they do evolve. How has the typical vampire changed since 1897, when Bram Stoker created Count Dracula, a blood-drinking Transylvanian aristocrat?
Oh, my gosh. My vampires are trying desperately to be contemporary so they can blend in. They have an alternative food source, which has emboldened them to try to join mainstream society. Synthetic blood, created by a Japanese company, satisfies their nutritional needs.
I suppose that’s social progress. At least your vampires can’t be described as misogynists who prey on defenseless women.
Well, mine are more sympathetic than Dracula. He had disgusting personal habits. He had the three wives; he crawled up the sides of the buildings; he had the sharp teeth and fingernails. Mine are at least trying to look like everyone else, but it’s not working out too well for them.
In terms of values, your characters are fairly progressive.
Most of my vampires have experimented with other sexualities. Eric, Sookie’s lover, was turned into a vampire by a male vampire who had a sexual relationship with him for many years. Pam is bisexual. Lafayette is gay.
As a married woman with three children who lives in small-town Arkansas, how did you get so interested in bisexual vampires?
Honestly, I don’t know. Gay rights is just one of the social issues I’m interested in. I think that people might be less tense about it if we would all accept the fact that not everyone is wired the same way. I have a lot of friends who are gay, so it’s kind of a natural thought progression.
There are that many gays in rural Arkansas?
You would be surprised.
Are you bisexual?
No. I’m sorry. I’m just not that interesting.
I hear you’re active in the Episcopal Church.
I’ve had two or three terms as senior warden, but my church is very, very small, so we pretty much all take turns. Episcopalians are pretty thin on the ground in the central United States.
I would imagine you’re surrounded by Southern Baptists.
Have you met your Arkansas neighbor and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee?
No. I’ve had the chance to, but I’ve let that pass by. That’s as much as I want to say about it.
Have you met Stephenie Meyer, whose rival series of vampire novels has been made into the “Twilight Saga” movies?
I have not. She doesn’t really mingle with other writers too much. I don’t know anybody who’s met her, and I know everybody in my field.
You mean the field of vampire fiction?
Urban fantasy. Most of the books feature supernatural characters blending with the modern world and are usually set in big cities.
Before you wrote about Sookie Stackhouse, you wrote a mystery series about Aurora Teagarden, a librarian in Georgia who becomes a talented sleuth.
Do you have any advice for young mystery writers or fantasy writers?
For any writers at all, read everything you can and then put your butt in the chair and write. That’s all there is to it.
INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.