By LINDY RYAN
It’s hard to be a horror reader and not know the name, Charlaine Harris. Really, it’s hard to be a reader and not know Charlaine Harris, regardless of your genre of choice. From her wildly popular series The Southern Vampire Mysteries, adapted into the hit TV show True Blood, to the supernatural Harper Connelly Mysteries series and the slightly sweeter Aurora Teagarden, Harris is the reigning queen of mysteries, and her gripping Gunnie Rose series is packed with enough post-apocalyptic thrills and dark magic to keep horror readers’ blood pumping, too.
RUE MORGUE recently had the opportunity to sit down with Charlaine Harris to talk about ALL THE DEAD SHALL WEEP, the fifth installment of her Gunnie Rose series, coming to bookshelves near you this September.
For RUE MORGUE readers who may be unfamiliar with Gunnie Lizbeth Rose (or more familiar, perhaps, with Sookie Stackhouse), can you tell us a little about the series and the world these books take place in?
I’d love to. This is my attempt at writing alternate American history. [Gunnie Rose is] set in the 1930s in an area that used to be Texas and Oklahoma but is now a country called Texoma. My protagonist is a female gunslinger, very young, who has one sellable skill: She’s a very accurate shot. And that’s how she’s making her living.
And that’s Gunnie Rose?
Yes, Lisbeth Rose, otherwise known as Gunnie.
You mentioned that the series is set in an alternate version of 1930s America, and in that version, the attempted assassination of President Roosevelt was successful. Add in real events like the Spanish Flu and the collapse of Wall Street, and we have a whole new world. What inspired you to write in this alternate history?
I didn’t really set out to write alternative history. That wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to tell the story of this character I dreamed up. But I had to build a world that could support her to do what she does, and that turned out to be an alternate America. So I kind of backed into it by accident.
But all the best things happen that way, don’t they? And, of course, there’s the Wild West and wizards and magic and Russian influence – part post-apocalyptic, part urban fantasy. What is the role of gunslingers like Gunnie Rose in this world?
It depends on which country you’re in. In her country and in the area that used to be the Great Plains, which is now New America, her role is essential because those areas are basically lawless, or at least the law is very flexibly enforced in those areas, and defenders of goods and people are in high demand because travel is precarious. And there are many roving bands of ruthless people who will do anything to get their way.
Gunnie Rose is a fierce and flawed heroine – a little rough around the edges but smart and dedicated, with so much of her personal life mixed up in her adventures. What is it like to write a character like Gunnie?
You know, sometimes I think that getting really into a character is what I suppose being a method actor is like. You get into the character and see what has shaped her, and you have to assume the same conditions when you’re writing. You have to write from the place [the character] sprang from, and sometimes, that’s easier, and sometimes it’s more difficult. With Gunnie, it just seemed to flow once I figured out what her world was.
ALL THE DEAD SHALL WEEP is the fifth and newest book in the series. What’s the latest for Gunnie Rose, and the family?
Oh, my goodness! Well, Gunnie and her sister Felicia are spinning up a little vacation together, along with Lizbeth’s husband, Eli, and his brother, Peter (who has a crush on Felicia, Lizbeth’s sister), and terrible things start happening, of course, since this is, you know, one of my books. Terrible things. And Gunnie is instrumental in figuring out who is behind all this and what she can do about it. Her husband and his brother don’t help a bit because they get captured, and Gunnie and Felicia have to free them, but in the process, we learn a lot about what’s happening with Felicia as her maturing happens rapidly. She’s free of the spell her father cast on her to keep her little and quick. And Felicia is growing up at an amazing rate, her hormones kind of going crazy, and then her magical ability just roars in … and it’s kind of terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. It’s a shock to everyone, and they all have to adjust to this new girl with her terrifying abilities, and Gunnie learns that she’s going to have to defend her sister for a while yet.
So I can only assume there’s more coming in the Gunnie Rose universe?
Yes, I’m writing the sixth book now.
Outside of Gunnie, you’ve written several different series and several standalones. Which is your favorite: series or standalone?
My heart is in my series. I wrote two standalones first thing, and after that, it’s been series all the way, though I do write a lot of short stories, too. I like to write series because I love to stick with the characters for a while and develop them. Writing a standalone can be fun, but it’s also like reinventing the wheel every time. You have to have your cast of characters. They have to be different. They all have to work to move the story along. And sometimes, it’s just fun to revisit characters and find out more about them.
How about a crossover, either your worlds or your characters? If that’s even possible, would you consider it?
The closest I’ve come is the Midnight Texas trilogy, where there are characters from every single series I’ve ever written – which I think is five or six now. Oh, that was just so much fun. It’s like a tip of the hat to my older work, and that was just pure fun for me.
Before we go, is there anything you’d like to share with readers?
I’m sorry I’m not traveling as much as I used to. I have to become more of a bionic woman before I can do that – replacing some joints and this and that. But it would be lovely to see my readers like I used to. And even with this long hiatus in American history, there are always books inside with you. I think a lot of people have come back to reading through the COVID experience, and I think that is probably the only good side of it.
I think it’s definitely a silver lining. I only hope, as a society, we aren’t creating our post-apocalyptic world.
I would hate for any of the things I’ve written to come true.
I love that! That’s a great, great quote.
So true. When I think of something terrible to do to one of my protagonists, I always go, “Oh, that’s too bad. I really should not do that.” But then, I kind of have to now that I’ve thought of it.
And on that note, thank you so much, Charlaine, for taking the time to chat with us today about Gunnie Rose and ALL THE DEAD SHALL WEEP!
ALL THE DEAD SHALL WEEP, the fifth in the Gunnie Rose series, releases on September 5, 2023, from Saga Press.