Charlaine Harris Feels the Wrath of Readers

Charlaine Harris’ final book in her much loved and popular series about the telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse, from Bon Temps, Louisiana, was released this month. The reaction to Dead Ever After has been heated, to put it mildly. Hell hath no fury like thousands of women believing they have been cheated out of their happy ending.

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Harris’ supernatural series, known to many as the True Blood books and to even more as The Southern Vampire Mysteries, has been around for quite a few years. Like many others, I hadn’t heard of it until the HBO show, True Blood, aired back in 2008. I picked up the first half dozen books instantly and got reading. I was hooked. I adored the sassy, ballsy heroine, Sookie, and loved hanging out with her at her job in Merlotte’s and at home in her grandmother’s house. Her life may not have been easy, but it was exciting, surrounded as she was by shifters and vampires. Sookie’s adventures were a mellow form of escapism for me. Harris is an entertaining writer and that’s why fans came back for more. We grew fond of Sookie and wanted to see what life had in store for her next.

However, the last couple of books haven’t been all that great. I only finished Deadlocked, the twelfth Sookie book, a week or so ago and could sum it up in one word, blah. Perhaps the author became bored with the characters after too many years and too many books, or maybe pressure from fans of the TV show got to be too much. Either way, it’s showing through her latest Sookie books. Since I didn’t love the last two books and book number 12, Deadlocked, was especially lacklustre and barely featured Eric – my absolute favourite of all Sookie’s love interests, I’m not going to be buying the last book any time soon. Perhaps when all the fuss and hatred (not an exaggeration – people are spitting mad) dies down, I’ll read it.

If you’re curious about the rage people are feeling after reading the final book, just go visit the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. People are cancelling orders and demanding their money back in large droves. Fair enough some readers are annoyed by what they feel is less than quality writing, boring plots, continuity errors and so on, but those threatening to attack Harris and kill themselves because of the way Sookie’s story was wrapped up should consider therapy.

Check out this article:

The Guardian. Charlaine Harris threatened by fans over final Sookie Stackhouse novel

From reading Deadlocked, it was pretty damn clear who Sookie WASN’T going to end up with, so if that’s a big cause of the anger, I don’t get it… Anyway, I put it to you, Gentle Reader. Should an author of romantic fiction pay attention to what thousands upon thousands of readers want? Or should a writer stick to her own path, fan reaction be damned.

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About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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42 Responses to Charlaine Harris Feels the Wrath of Readers

  1. Ooh, this is a balancing act. An author has to weigh what she wants to write against what will sell, especially if she’s doing this for a living. If the writer KNOWS that readers want a certain kind of ending, she’d better be prepared for the wrath, if she doesn’t deliver. It’s a personal choice for each author, and it’s NOT an easy one.

    I read the books long before the TV show started. I have to just judge the show on its own merits because, to me, it’s completely different from the books. The show is way over the top, and the books were much milder. I ended up not reading the books after the first few.

    (Btw, have you read any of the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris? They are completely different from the Sookie books, more like cozy mysteries.)

    • Emma says:

      I would generally believe an author should go with what they’d always planned, but in this case – no. This final book has been over a decade in the making. Loyal fans want characters to behave in a rational way that’s true to themselves, and a lot of the anger I’m seeing seems to be about that. People/Sookie not acting like herself and making choices that make very little sense at this late stage in the series. Also, there seems to be way too much attention paid to household chores and the like that are basically just filler, rather than focusing on a decent plot. Like you say, if an author doesn’t deliver what her fans want, she should be prepared to take the heat.

      The books and the TV show are very different, but with the success of True Blood, it’s hard to keep the novels entirely separate. I read that Bill was meant to be killed off many books back, but when True Blood came along, the author was urged to keep the character alive. So if that’s going on, how do you continue to judge a book by itself and not think about the show?

      I haven’t read the Aurora series, but I’ll be looking for something else to read by Harris now. I read her Grave books and enjoyed those. Thanks for you thoughts, Lauralynn.

  2. Wow! I had not read past book 2, and have been meaning for awhile to get back to the series…I hate to hear the series is facing this crisis…Great post Emma:)

    • Emma says:

      I think it’s still possible to enjoy the rest of the series. I didn’t think much of the past couple of novels, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the series as the whole.

      • Well I will actually (when I get that much sought after grain of free time:) I will need to start over with Book#1 for refresher, then will do my best to work through the series, while the series is still on-going…

  3. Christie Rich says:

    I gave up on book one. I just couldn’t connect with the story, and now I’m glad I didn’t get into it. I hate it when a story goes like this. Everything should flow and make sense, even when there are twists and turns. Great article, Emma. It’s truly sad to see so many people left disappointed.

    • Emma says:

      I brought one of the Sookie books with me for a poolside read while on holiday a few years back and gave it to my friend to read on her plane ride home. She couldn’t finish it – “a load of shite” I think were her words. Everyone’s got different literary tastes.
      Thanks for commenting, Christie.

  4. Mae Clair says:

    Amazing. I took a quick glance at some of the reviews on Amazon and have to say I’ve never seen fan backlash like that. I haven’t read the series — it just went on too long for me to become involved in, but as a fan I’d be horribly disappointed. i understand a writer wanting to deliver the story as she?he sees it, but the writer is often in that position BECAUSE of the fanbase which has supported them. If I were fortunate enough to be in Charlene Harris’ position, I’d want to satisfy loyal fans rather than tick them off.

    I wasn’t all that happy with the way Cassandra Clare ended the Infernal Devices trilogy, feeling slightly cheated. I think she made the mistake of trying to satisfy ALL of the fans, and it backfired. I guess you really CAN’T please everyone. There was mild backlash after CC’s last book, but nothing compared to Sookie series. WOW!

    • Emma says:

      Some, well more than some, of those reviews are Scathing. On the positive side, it’s great to create such controversy and have so many people talking about a book. I’m with you – I’d want to satisfy the fans, especially after them staying with me for more than ten years.

      I still haven’t read the Cassandra Clare books. What am I like? I’ve been saying I’ll get to them for months. No, you can’t please everyone, but I think you can combine your gut instinct with what the fans want and reach a compromise.

  5. beckyday6 says:

    Oooh I’ve vaguely heard that this was going on, someone did a blog post mentioning she had got death threats about the last book or something. I think that’s terrible! Literature is supposed to unite people not separate them. Agh, the poor author, it’s not her fault that she can’t satisfy everyone. In my mind (I haven’t read the books but own the first ten) it shows that maybe she has done a really good job of creating lovable characters? If everyone is so split on who she should end up with. Maybe.

    Interesting post! I’d like to read the books but I don’t want to discover spoilers, lol.

    • Emma says:

      Literature has been causing upset and controversy going back years. It just doesn’t happen very often these days.

      Are you going to try reading the first one? I’ve a feeling you might be somewhat disappointed Becky. You’re a more highbrow reader than most, I think. 🙂

      • beckyday6 says:

        Definitely, I’m hoping to pick it up this summer. Nahhh don’t be fooled, I love a good vampire series as much as you! And if the first few pages of the book are anything to go by I will love them because I was totally hooked!

      • beckyday6 says:

        Also – So interesting you think of me as a highbrow reader, lol! I must admit I can be quite picky, but that’s just because I’ve read so many books now I’ve gotten higher standards I think, lol!

      • Emma says:

        Take it as a compliment Becky. 🙂

      • beckyday6 says:

        Haha I will. 😛

  6. Jen Naumann says:

    I gave up a couple of books into the series. Then True Blood came out and I got tired of that after a few seasons. The story lines are fun, but at times just too out there and campy. As an author I feel bad for her getting so much backlash, however.

    • Emma says:

      I loved the first three seasons of True Blood.
      Yeah, I feel a little bad, but at least she can fly herself somewhere exotic and hide out in luxury until the fuss dies down.

  7. This is tough because your readers make writing worth it, and every writer would like to have a loyal following. But you created the characters and their story, so you may already know what you want to happen for them. I agree that authors should take into consideration what their readers want, but not give up on their vision either. Its a difficult balance. But I also think readers shouldn’t be writing death threats just because the writer had different ideas for their books. I can’t wrap my mind around such insanity.

    • Emma says:

      I don’t think a writer should give up on their vision, but it wouldn’t hurt to be flexible. For example if you give your story to ten beta readers and eight of them point out something in particular and you choose to ignore their advice/suggestions, then perhaps you’re going down the wrong path. There’s such a thing as being too stubborn. You’re right, though, it is a difficult balance to keep true to your own vision and please the fans.

  8. debsmerry says:

    Hi Emma I have a few series of True Blood but because I watch/watched the series I haven’t read the books as I don’t think that both are the same with any for instance (twilight). I may be wrong the books may be better I would like to know what others think on this though!

    • Emma says:

      If you tell yourself that the books are a different universe, you should enjoy the stories.
      I can’t say they’re better or worse than the TV series. They’re just different. Try the first book and see what you think.
      Thanks, Debs.

  9. Well, I’m probably more shocked than the rest of the world, and I’ll tell you why. I’m so glad you posted this as you are going to save me a lot of time and effort. I watched the first and second seasons of True Blood prior to knowing the books even existed. I’ve had the first eight books for a while now, which I haven’t as yet read. After spending quite a bit of time reading reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (including your take) by following your links, I’m not going to either. Nor will I now catch up with the TV series I haven’t had time to watch. You see, I was left thinking that Sookie and Bill were it, forever! I hated Eric – what I’d seen of him/his character so far, and realise now that things between them obviously evolved in a huge way, so my opinion had I carried on watching the series would have more than likely changed. Needless to say, my shock when I read what I read in the reviews was jaw dropping. That this is how it ends. It doesn’t appeal to me any more. I don’t want to mention names here for those who don’t want to read any spoilers. But really? I’m not going to invest my time in something that, as far as I’m concerned, goes completely south.

    However, we all have different opinions and we can’t all like the same thing. Life would be extremely boring, but I can understand readers’ frustrations in that the book didn’t end the way they wanted it, too. Unfortunately, we can’t always get what we want. It’s the way of the world, yes, even in books. Who knows what Charlaine Harris had in mind when she started? Maybe the way the series ended was precisely the way she’d envisioned it. On the other hand, she could have chosen to change the ending according to her fan base. But then, she probably didn’t want to compromise on either her earlier/final decision. What I can’t believe though, Emma, is that readers are issuing threats with some wanting to kill themselves. I’m with you on that score, they should consider therapy.

    Either way, whether for the right or wrong reasons – this is sure as heck receiving loads of attention.

    • Emma says:

      I thought Sookie and Bill were it forever from the first few books. I really hated the episode of True Blood when Sookie finds out Bill was sent to watch her and that he left her get beaten almost to death just so he could feed her her blood.

      I can understand readers’ frustration by the ending, but I still enjoyed the rest of the series, so the last novel won’t change that. When all the fuss dies down and when the TV show ends, maybe you can go back and give the first book a try and see what you think, Sandra.

      And yes this book and the entire series is getting heaps of attention now. All publicity is good publicity, right? This just shows how passionate people are about these characters. Most writers can only dream of generating that amount of debate.

      • Maybe I’ll do that. 🙂 Time will tell, I guess.

        True. All publicity is good publicity. I can get pretty passionate myself over a certain series or two, lol.

        Something that’s often said and true, too: You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

        This was a great discussion post, Emma.

        Have a great week!

  10. debsmerry says:

    Sorry retry after a misbehaving mouse that mad my first comment not make sense I retry: I still go by what I was trying to say that I don’t read the books and watch the series one or the other which in this case TV won Also not every series. I have always thought that tv series are never like the books it seems I was right again. I took the trouble to see what all the fuss was about by looking at amazon and Good reads, rather funny actually some people do go over the top don’t they 🙂 (White flag flying) but hey it is after all Fiction Book Series and isn’t the author the one to make a decision what way she wants an ending or are the readers really in charge. That thought is scary for a writer I did think writing on paper for yourself and the hope of others enjoyment, were does the plot end! People can be scary and off putting to threaten lives or there own so over the top.
    Get real out there Fiction a novel series books made into a programme !
    PS Emma great write up again

    • Emma says:

      I understand people having a strong reaction to fiction. If we don’t get invested in the characters and their lives, why do we bother reading or tuning in every week?
      But, yeah when fans go overboard and start spewing abuse, that’s just not on,

  11. Ugh. I’m so torn on this one. I haven’t read the books, and probably won’t, but not because of the reviews about the ending. I’m really one to make my own opinion on things and know that there are too many people out there with so many different likes and dislikes to really weigh one opinion over another.

    As writers, we are taught to write from our hearts, and those that enjoy your voice will follow. Writing is a freedom of expression, and it is the expression of the writer. I understand she makes her living from her fans, but those fans chose to be her fans through her writing to begin with. When I read books by my favorite authors, I often find those within a series that I just didn’t like. Do I bash the author for writing it that way and not the way I want? Maybe after I read that last page, but then I move on to the next one. To be honest, I think people need to be a little more open-minded to the authors that they’ve followed for multiple books. Like you said, they’ve given them a decade of books they wanted and loved. Isn’t that worth something?

    • Emma says:

      Hi, L.J. It is worth something. If an author poured her heart and soul into a series, the fans should respect that.
      I don’t like every single book in any series, or every episode in a TV show. There are going to be some plots that aren’t that great, choices characters make that don’t sit right. There are highs and lows to every series. I think that in this case, there were more lows than highs towards the end, and that’s what has pissed off a lot of Harris’ readers of her Sookie Stackhouse series.

      • That’s what I keep hearing is the case. I’d probably be a bit miffed as well if every book towards the end left me feeling unsatisfied. I guess not having read them, it’s hard to say.

  12. Shannon says:

    Really good question, Emma. I lean towards the author doing what is right for the characters she gave birth to. Charles Dickens had two endings for “Great Expectations” -the one he originally wrote and the one his publisher wanted him to write. The one he originally wrote, though not feel-good, was more true to the story and the characters. I saw an interview with Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” where she said she made an unpopular decision with one of the Grey’s characters because she needed to take her story back from the fans, and I totally respect her for that. On the other hand, you know how I feel about the original ending for “28 Days Later” vs. the one that came after the audience test where the audience hated the original ending, and for good reason. It was horrifically depressing! And “Pretty Woman” had an original ending that the test audience hated and so it was rewritten. That movie would not be so popular and beloved if the ending hadn’t been re-done. I haven’t read the “angry” articles on the Sookie Stackhouse ending because I don’t want any spoilers, so it’s kind of hard to judge. At least the readers weren’t apathetic about it. That would be worse!

    • Emma says:

      “Doing what is right for the characters” – that is exactly what should happen in every piece of fiction. Re Shonda Rhimes, I’ve read similar things online about the writers of the TV Show, Supernatural. The fans of that show are very passionate and the writers have addressed fan discussion in some episodes. But where does it end? Should there be complete separation from the writer/creator and the fans? It’s hard to know where to draw the line. In this Internet/Online era, it’s hard to get away completely from fan reaction/suggestions/thoughts.

      I’m with you on the 28 Days Later ending. It wasn’t until I saw it on DVD that I realised what the ending really was. I was utterly depressed. I didn’t realise about Pretty Woman. What was the alternative ending?

      If Harris can console herself with anything, it’s the passion shown by her fans.

      • Shannon says:

        Apparently in the original ending of Pretty Woman, Richard Gere did not show up in the limo. He and Julia Roberts just went their separate ways. A writing instructor shared that with us to demonstrate that the audience wants to see the characters change and triumph over their faults. It was so funny, because when the teacher told us that was the original ending, one guy in the class said, “Well, that sucks!”

      • Emma says:

        He was totally right, that would have sucked big time. In romantic fiction, we need a HEA.

  13. setinmotion says:

    I seem to be in the same position you are with this series. I watched the first season of True Blood and got completely hooked and then read all ten books in a row, quickly as possible. Then, I just got over it and stopped reading completely. I can’t decide whether it’s because she essentially got with Eric (that’s what I was really hooked on ha!) or because the writing was so atrocious but I was done. If the ending is really so terrible though, I do feel sorry for the true fans.

    • Emma says:

      I read the first half dozen or so quickly and then took breaks with the next. It’s like my thing with Jodi Picoult. If you read more than a couple of her books at a time, you just burn out. It’s good to stop and read something else and come back later with fresh eyes.

      I read the last book in the Sookie series and Eric’s part was minimal. I knew I wasn’t going to get the romantic ending I wanted, so when I read the final book, eventually, it won’t be such a disappointment.

      • setinmotion says:

        Yep, I know exactly what you mean. Although I’m not a Jodi Picoult fan (I read 19 minutes and was partially traumatised haha) it’s the same with Chuck Palanuik – there’s only so much you can take!

        I hope some fans are happy with the ending at least. It’s the worst when you’re unhappy when your characters don’t do what you want

  14. Wow. I haven’t read the books yet because I tend to wait until a series is fully printed before I do (thank you, Robert Jordan for making me paranoid). After reading this, talking with my friend Nicole ~ who has read all the books ~ and reading a few of the comments, I’m torn! I might start with book one and see how I feel. I haven’t watched the TV series at all, so I don’t have that to influence me, but darn. I get fully invested in the characters to the point that I think they’re my real friends. I might have to skip this series or you’ll be visiting me in the psyche ward some day. 🙂 I just can’t decide!

    • Emma says:

      I’m after reading reviews from other bloggers I trust and those reviews are not flattering. A lot of people feel totally let down by the last book in the Sookie series and are saying they’re going to pretend they didn’t read it and make up their own ending.

      Maybe give the first novel a try when all the fuss and controversy fades away. And if you like it, I’d recommend you stop reading after book ten and make the rest up yourself!

  15. Fel Wetzig says:

    That’s crazy! I haven’t read any of the books (nor have I watched the series since I don’t have cable), but I have friends who are fans of the series and I’ve heard their ranting since they “finished” reading it. I use quotes because I don’t actually know anyone who has made it to the end.
    I didn’t have a drive to read it before, and I certainly won’t now.

    • Emma says:

      I’ll read it to finish off the series, but not for a good long while. The majority of people seem to feel totally let down by the last book.

  16. Elisabeth says:

    Oh, lord, this is a tough question. I think authors should be faithful to themselves and their outlines, but I think they also have a responsibility to give readers a satisfying ending. Of course, the definition of “satisfying ending” is subjective, so again, this is a tough question.

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