Sunday, October 05, 2008

True Blood. . . and that wish to see your characters on the screen

Okay, I admit it: I'm a HUGE fan of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books. which is curious, because I've not always been a fan of vampire romances. I read one or two, early on, that were so graphic and savage and off-putting. . . I wouldn't even try another one for a long time. Then came Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and I got hooked on the idea of real characters, big ideas, and the intrinsic conflicts of humans battling something higher than us on the food chain. With humor. And pathos. And the ring of truth.

If I could find books like that, I'd read 'em in a heartbeat.

Lo, and behold. . . there ARE books like that. I stumbled across Charlaine Harris's unique "Sookie Books" about four years ago and liked them immediately. What intrigued me most was the idea of playing with the vampire mythology-- which I had assumed (wrongly) was sacrosanct and not to be messed with in the eyes of readers. I was delighted to find a number of other writers taking liberties with the legends and traditions and creating vibrant and fascinating worlds to explore.

Now HBO and director Alan Ball have turned Charlaine's books into a zinger of a TV series that has me glued to my couch and remote every Sunday evening at 9(8 central). So far, the material transferred to the screen has produced a totally different experience than reading the books. And--surprise, surprise-- I like it just as well.

The characters aren't quite the way I pictured them. No shock there. They can't exactly vacuum the images out of my head. Everyone who reads a book develops a different mental image of what characters and locations look like. That's the participatory part of reading. But the True Blood characters as still quite acceptable to me. I think a big part of that is because the books are 1st person and a TV program or movie is by necessity third person. And because they did some really good casting. Meet the Stackhouse family:

Another change is the way they fleshed out parts of the story that were limited in the books by the 1st person POV. For instance, Sookie's brother Jason is labeled a horn-dog in Sookie's thoughts, but we don't really see him BEING a womanizing jerk. On HBO, we see his mindless bed-hopping in living color and begin to understand who he really is. And those of us who have read the books know what's in store for him and wag our heads.

So the characters look different, the storyline is more detailed, and the violence and blood-thirstiness of some of the vamps is a lot more real and graphic when portrayed on the screen. I think in reading the books, I kind of downplayed the violence and gore in my own mind. And Merlotte's where Sookie works is more like a supper club than the roadhouse I imagined.

I am a little surprised at how they managed to keep some of the things I loved about the early books-- the fact that Sookie is "a good girl" and a loving granddaughter, and the fact that her grandmother talks to her about God and moral issues, and the fact that Sookie stands up to bigots and jerks and puts her butt on the line for people who need help. That is some cool stuff. And makes up for the heaping doses of gratuitous sex Jason brings to the show each week.

Occasionally I've been asked by readers if I'd like to see my books made into mini-series's or movies. I've generally said no. (Not that there has ever been much of danger of it happening! lol!) Because what makes a romance so powerful --the melding that allows the reader to experience the action and emotions along with the character-- is just not possible on the medium of a screen. My take is that too much of a romance is internal to translate well to celluloid. And, to be honest, there are few people in Hollywood who have the touch for that kind of emotional ride.

But now, watching what Alan Ball has done with Charlaine's books, I have to think there's hope that more romances, more big-ideas from the great writers in our genre will find their way to the big screen. Or the HBO screen.

And okaaaay, I confess-- there are a couple of my precious brain-children that I'd love to see on a TV or movie screen. Strangely enough both are novellas. . . one a Christmas Story that really yanked my heartstrings and the other was a wacky Halloween witch story that is probably one of the funniest things I've ever written. Anybody have an "in" in Hollywood?

So what about you? Is there a book or a series of books you'd love to see on the big screen? Do you have a favorite actor and actress in mind to play the leading roles?

And my fellow writers: Do you have a favorite book among your own books that you think was just made for the big screen? Who would you want to star in it?

(pictures courtesy of HBO!)


Kylie said...

Although the whole vampire thing leaves me cold these days, there was a time I was quite taken with Dark Shadows, a gothic showed daily after school in black and white. At the time there was nothing else on like it so I wonder now at how long it took for the sub-genre to grow so popular!

I'd like to see our own Lois's "Un" books on the screen LOL. They're so cute and clever I think they'd be an instant hit!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey all. Kylie has a great idea. Lois's books are so funny and smart they would translate easily to TV or movies. I say we lobby Hollywood!!! Does anybody know anybody????

Michele Hauf said...

I don't get HBO so haven't been able to check out True Blood. Nor did I get to see Tanya Huff's vamp series, of which the name escapes. Didn't care for Moonlighting last year. And seriously? Though I write about 'em, I'm not so keen on vampire shows. Buffy was amazing, and maybe set the bar too high for future shows.

As for my own books, I write every one, seeing it in my mind as a movie. I cast them all with actors or faces I'd like to see acting the parts. It would be awesome to see something I've written on the big (or small) screen. Though, a Bombshell series I did a few years back was optioned, and the production company actually has a trailer for the show at their site right now. I don't think I have to worry about that one making it to the small screen any time soon.
If anyone is interested check my blog, and page down to the Of Angels And Demons entry for a link to the trailer. Yikes!

Now as for you, Betina, I would watch any of your books on screen! You've such a wonderful warm humor that I think would translate well.

Helen Brenna said...

I'd love to see Lois's books on screen. And Janet Evanovich's.

I do the same thing Michele does. I see all of my books as I'm writing them, so I'd love to see anyone of them on screen. Although I can imagine it would suck if they didn't do a proper job.

Cindy - do you think your new series would make good movies? Any hopes of selling the movie rights now that you're a big NYT babe?

Kathleen Eagle said...

We saw "Appaloosa" Friday--*immediately*--and loved it. It's based on a Robert B. Parker novel. Maybe I'll talk about movies this week--we've seen 3 good ones in 2 weeks after a long dry spell.

I get HBO but not the vampire craze. The trailers for True Blood haven't drawn me in. I think of vampires as Bella Lugosi or The Addams Family (TV show, not the movie). They're altogether ookie.

Betina Krahn said...

Kylie-- I remember in college hurrying back to the dorm to see Dark Shadows. Though I have to say, I always thought the guy who played the vampire was kinda creepy. Gentlemanly, but creepy. Still watched faithfully!

I'm with you on Lois's "UN" books! I'd much rather see them on screen than my own stuff. Also, Cindy-- Helen's right. Some of your books would be dynamite on the big screen. Or is that just my imagination? lol.

Michele, I didn't know one of your Bombshells was optioned! Which one? Hey, I have to go see that trailer! (And thanks for the good words!)

Helen, I'm with you-- I know Evanovich's books were optioned a long time ago. Wonder why they haven't appeared on the screen somewhere. I'd like to see them.

And Kathy, I saw "Appaloosa" Saturday and was a little surprised by how psychological it was. And honestly, can Vigo get any more strong and admirable in a role? whew! And Ed Harris and Renee Zellwegger-- that naughty little minx. Not her usual wide-eyed, good-girl role.

Also saw "Miracle at St. Anna" this weekend-- Spike Lee's newest. Really moving and wonderful movie. Great characters and a most unusual setting and storyline. It stayed with me for a day or two after. Still pondering some of the choices and outcomes. Not your typical "miracle" movie at all. Whatever that is!

Playground Monitor said...

I haven't read those books and I don't get HBO so...

I saw the movie version of Linda Howard's LOVING EVANGELINE and screamed "Noooooooo!" so many times while I watched it that my husband came downstairs to see what was wrong with me. I told him it was the absolute butchering of one of my all-time favorite books. I'm always afraid all book-to-movie adaptations will be like that.

My sister and I both love the Stephanie Plum books and have spent years trying to come up with the perfect movie cast. The late Estelle Getty would have been perfect for Grandma Mazur and we think Olympia Dukakis would be perfect for Stephanie's mother. Sandra Bullock would be the perfect Stephanie (think "Miss Congeniality" and you'll see why). We're still undecided on Joe and Ranger (though The Rock is pretty high on our list).


Christie Ridgway said...

We recently switched to Showtime from HBO and I want to switch back to watch True Blood, Betina. I caught the first few minutes when they had an HBO free weekend of the first episode and knew I'd like it. I'm a fan of the Sookie books. I've listened to them all in audio form, which works really well for her books.

Would I like to see something of my own on the screen? Yeah, maybe.

Liza said...

I've never read any of the Sookie books, but I'm enjoying True Blood. I also love that I can on demand if I miss an episode.

I would love to see the In Death series by JD Robb. I have no idea who would play Eve and Roarke.

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, Christie-- that would be a hard choice. Showtime has Dexter and several other things like the Tudors, which I love. I'm hoping to see another season of them-- though it will be hard without Natalie Dormer in the female lead role.

And Liza, wow, on JD Robb's "In Death" series. That would be a fabulous series on TV, especially with the futuristic elements. Wonder why nobody's working on that. It's such a strong concept with such strong characters.

Personally, I'd kinda like to see Kathy Eagle's "The Night Remembers" made into a movie. I loved that book. vduxnvau

Debra Dixon said...

I got my niece hooked on Charlaine Harris and Sookie.

We don't get HBO so I didn't know they'd begun a series until my son was telling me about a series I would definitely like. (We have very similiar tastes in movies and tv so we're always trading DVD's and recommendations.)

He couldn't remember the character's name because he'd only seen the one episode and he didn't read the books, so he was shocked when he'd only gotten a couple of words out and I said, "That has to be Sookie Stackhouse from the Charlaine Harris books."

He thinks I know everything in publishing. (g)

Among my books, I think BAD TO THE BONE would be a great movie. I've cast it a million times. :)

Estella said...

I would love to see JD Robb's Death Series on tv.

Kylie said...

Ooh lots of good ideas here!

Cindy's books would translate so well because of all the high stakes action adventure with the sizzling romance.

And yes, Betina, the creepy vampire on Dark Shadows. Barnaby something? Not sexy at all. Maybe if he had been I'd be a paranormal babe all these years later!

I'd love to hear ideas from all of you who have seen good DVDs or movies lately. I've got a long recovery ahead and I might be treating myself to some matinees once in a while!

I had heard that Mel Gibson had optioned the JD Robb books but recently had let the option go so it's up for grabs. Don't know anyone who could do justice to Roarke, though.

Mostly when I see Nora's books made into movies for Lifetime I find myself cringing. If the actors aren't worthy of dialogue and plot it just ruins the experience for me.

Interestingly, Stephen King (huge fan) doesn't have good luck when they translate his books to film. His short stories seem to translate best. Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, etc. (which was one of those release a chapter at a time things I believe.)

Playground Monitor said...

If you didn't get to see "Sex and the City" at the theater, it's available on DVD now and well worth it - especially the shower guy. *wink, wink* I also rented "Made of Honor" and enjoyed it too. I like light-hearted fun movies, especially when I'm renting them while the DH is out of town.

When I had foot surgery back in February and had to spend two weeks off my feet, a good friend loaned me a bag of DVDs. The only one I can remember is "Holiday." I guess it was all the pain pills. :-/


Briana (BlueDragon) said...

I'm really enjoying True Blood. I was a big fan of Buffy and before that, Kindred: The Embraced, but Moonlight and that one on Lifetime (even though I'm a fan of Christina Cox) just didn't work for me. I give every one a chance, and they all disappointed me. Until True Blood. It's finally one worth catching every week.
I didn't know there were books, I'm just getting into the Anita Blake books, I may have to check them out though.
Buffy inspired some of my poetry back in the day, and the new series has sparked ideas for some of my art. I hope they keep up the good work.

Vampire and Gothic Poetry and Original art by Blair & Peacock