Warning: This post may include spoilers

Charlaine Harris recently released the last Sookie Stackhouse book titled Dead Ever After. The reaction to the leaked ending held much more vitriol than expected. A surprising number of fans canceled book orders, blasted Harris on her Facebook page, and even went so far as to threaten her because of Sookie’s final relationship. Harris, clearly affected by the unexpected outrage, has indicated she may cancel her book tour and con appearances due to not wanting to meet the angst of her fans in person. Is it possible that Harris may have buried her writing career with the final Southern Vampires book?

Bleeding Pen

As a writer getting ready to self-publish my first novel, I can only dream of having so many fans that the reactions it drums up – good or bad – make headlines. Harris made a successful series that spawned its own HBO show True Blood. While the show has ended up becoming more of a spin-off with the original characters rather than following the true storylines of the novels, its popularity has brought much success to the overall series with Harris being a favorite author at many cons like San Diego Comic-Con.

Last year, I attended the True Blood panel at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA with Sam Trammell (Sam), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette), Joe Manganiello (Alcide), and Carrie Preston (Arlene). During the Q&A, a fan asked if the actors minded that their stories took a turn from the original material. I think Manganiello, who was the most well-read of Harris’ novels, said it best when he said that the characters themselves stayed true to the books in terms of what made them who they are, but that it was okay that the show took the action in a different direction. Of course, Ellis had to be the happiest about that since his character doesn’t survive in the books as long as he has in the show.

So the fan base for the books and characters is larger than most franchises. And it’s great that Harris has created enough fervor for them not only to have a successful career but also to have such enthusiasm. However, no author wants to have their life threatened. Nor can it be a picnic for her to read the absolute attack on her work.

Having read the book, I can say that I’m surprised at so many fans saying that they did not see who Sookie ends up with at the end coming. As one who’s read all the books (or really listened to the very excellent audiobooks), I can say that Harris has led up to the pairing at the end since book one. For anyone to be surprised by it means that there are some readers who ignored the foreshadowing that has happened throughout since book one and are relying on their current favorites that I believe have been bolstered by the show rather than the books.

Also, there are fans who are now denigrating the entire series based on the final book.  There are thirteen books in total. One book that disappoints should not take away from the rest. Readers have the right to not be pleased with any aspect of what’s written, but this is the age of reviews. Reviews can make or break books, make or break authors, and the reviews of Harris’ final book are hard to read. If you want to take a look, check them out at Goodreads, in the book’s Amazon forum, or the reviews on Amazon (beware of spoilers).

From a feminist perspective, it’s disappointing to see how many wanted Sookie to end up with one of the most misogynistic characters of the entire series. It’s not surprising to see this with the popularity of other similar relationships like from Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. But when are we going to celebrate when a female character chooses the right partner – one who helps build a better relationship and treats her like an equal. Instead, fans are crying out because Sookie doesn’t end up with the one lover she’s had who’s abused her emotionally over and over as well as brought her to physical harm all because he’s “hot”. We wouldn’t stand for this in real life, so why do women demand it in fiction?

Ending a popular series can bring disappointment to many fans when something they love is changing or will no longer have any new stories added. It’s a risk to take, but one that will allow authors like Harris to move on to other projects. She’ll be working on a graphic novel next which definitely brings her to another arena. And who knows, the way the story ended, Harris has left the door wide open to return some day.

I’m at the beginning of my series, and I doubt I will have even a small fraction of the fan base that Harris has managed all these years. But what I can take away from seeing the fracas out there online over her series is that it’s important to build incredible characters for fans to love or hate. Without them, the stories and the series won’t live. There will be no “Team” Anybody to duke it out with each other. However, I would hope that any readers I do pick up would be better at expressing their joy or disappointment. I’m sure Harris has had some difficult nights lately, and I hope she endures and grows a tough callous from this experience. But I doubt it will be the last we see of her and her success.

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