Like many of you – no doubt – I’ve been reading up on all the hoopla surrounding the leak of Dead Ever After, hereafter referred to as DEA. I won’t go into the actual spoiler. I won’t even go into what I think about the ending that Charlaine Harris chose for her most famous character. Nope. I want to discover why so many people are so very upset. Like everything in history, there is no one clear-cut answer. It’s multi-layered, like parfait. So bear with me and by all means comment below if you agree or disagree with my theory. Be nice – no bashing! (Unless you’re bashing Bill Compton. That’s okay.)
The Birth of a Character
Eric Northman was introduced to the Southern Vampire Mysteries in Book 1 of the series: Dead Until Dark. The book was first published on May 1, 2001. For argument’s sake let’s pretend that Ms. Harris came up with the series a couple of years before and spent some time outlining and putting things together for the first book. That means that the characters were born sometime in 1999. Maybe earlier – does anybody know? Therefore, Ms. Harris’ mental image of Eric Northman might have looked a little like this:
Yes, that is Fabio, romantic novel model extraordinaire from way back when. You don’t think so? Consider the source: Ms. Harris is 61 years old, about my mom’s age, and I remember my mom reading her novels in the late 80’s and 90’s (and me borrowing them) and fawning over Fabio. He was THE sex symbol of that time. He fits the parameters for being Eric Northman, at least in physique: long blond hair, blue eyes, muscular and tall (Fabio is 6’3”, I looked it up).
There is no way for Ms. Harris to have chosen the then-unknown actor Alexander Skarsgard as her Eric Northman. For one, he was only 23 years old in 1999. For two, he was tall and lanky, not as he looks now. Think “orange-mocha-frappuccino” lover Meekus, instead of U.S. Marine Brad Colbert. Same Alexander, but Meekus is NOT Eric Northman.
Now, think of Fabio in his younger days, when he used to pose for book covers. Yeah… love him or hate him, when Ms. Harris wrote Eric Northman for the first time, she imagined someone that looked like this:
It’s True Blood’s Fault
We’ve all heard the story of how Alexander Skarsgard sent his tape to be considered for a part in True Blood. When he did that, the only character that had been written was Bill Compton, so we were all like, “AAAAH! HE CANNOT BE BILL!” Of course, this came to light after he’d been cast as Eric Northman and well into the role. To be fair, one thing that Alan Ball got right was the casting of the male characters. He f-ed up the females, but all the males are dead on. Now tell me that Sam Trammell is NOT Sam Merlotte, and I’ll tell you you’re wrong. From the handsome Stephen Moyer as Bill (and, let’s face it, nobody can hate Stephen Moyer – he’s too cute in real life), to Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette, to the extremely handsome Alexander Skarsgard as Eric, they are all exactly how the character would look like to any of us readers.
Let me tell you guys how I came about to read the Southern Vampire Mysteries: In 2008, when the first season of True Blood aired, I heard nothing but great things about it, but never really go into it. Then in the summer of 2010 I had the opportunity to buy the first 6 books of the series for the insanely low price of $10. I couldn’t pass it up, not after discovering how much I enjoyed vampires when reading Twilight (don’t judge me!). While I waited for my books to arrive, I caught the first couple of episodes of True Blood On Demand. I was hooked! And when I started reading the books I was able to picture all the characters as I’d already seen them on the show. It was perfect!
Who else had this experience? Who else bought the books AFTER watching True Blood?
So here I was, about to start Season 3, reading my books voraciously as well as several times each, and I get to the fourth book and… OH, MY GAWD! Sookie and Eric end up together, as in TOGETHER-TOGETHER. No more of those false starts and near misses. They get it on and it’s sexy, and Sookie is happy, and Bill can go suck an egg for all we care. But more than that, I already know what Eric looks like and my mind can’t let go of Alexander Skarsgard in the shower with (my version of) Sookie. And I’m ecstatic! He’s so handsome, he’s so tall, I love his acting, and now in the fourth book he’s with Sookie.
My Mind Wandered
Right after reading the first six books, I discovered fanfiction. Bad idea! Now, not only do I have these wonderful books that I paid for, I can read other stories about Eric and Sookie and how wonderful their love is and how cool it would be for them to be together! For free, no less! I bought the rest of the books that were missing from my collection, and… well… I wasn’t very happy with the turn of events surrounding Sookie and Eric. Let’s be clear: I wasn’t JUST reading the books, I was also watching True Blood with a very firm conviction of what Eric looks like, how he behaves, and a sincere wish that he’s redeemable and Sookie is the one to do it. Books and TV melded together in my brain to give me one not-so-clear story, but it wasn’t a mystery! To me “Southern Vampire Mysteries” is a misnomer. They should have been the “Southern Vampire Romances.”
My wonderful brain conjured up different stories for Sookie and Eric and I offered them up like many of my fellow “fanficers” have done for years. My offerings to the disappointed readers hit the mark. Some people sometimes say they don’t know if they read a particular topic in the books or if it was fanfiction! And I know how that feels, because even I get my facts confused between True Blood and the books. Like, for example, is anybody else aware that in the “real” Fangtasia there is no raised stage where Eric and/or Pam sit? That is a True Blood thing.
In the end I got the story I wish Ms. Harris had written, with tons of romance and very little mystery: Alive After Dark – the common sense story of how Sookie would have met and fallen in love with Eric.
But… The Big Mistake
So here we are with tons of versions of the “Sookie and Eric” story, with a clear picture of what a gorgeous man Eric is supposed to be, with a set of mystery books that had a pinch of romance thrown in, and a Southern lady author who writes for money instead of art. Yeah, I said it! Time and time again Ms. Harris has said she doesn’t follow her readers suggestions. That is her prerogative, to be sure, IF she was writing to please only herself. She has said a few times that is what she does: not to please others, but to please herself. That is a lie. She writes to please her publisher and her pocketbook, or she wouldn’t write at all. I would like to think that a very smart writer would not have agreed to go beyond the eighth book in a series – if she had no plans to do so – just because it’s part of a package that includes selling her characters to HBO. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure what the bargain entailed, but it’s common knowledge by now that the series was going to end at Book 8, not Book 13.
Why was this a mistake? Because Book 8 had to be rewritten to fit into a 13-book series, so Ms. Harris chose to throw Sookie and Eric back together. Oh, no! Oh, yes… she made us happy. But Sookie and Eric were supposed to be a one-time thing never to be repeated. Book 8 filled us readers with hope, even though it was always a tenuous romance at best. There we were, watching Alexander Skarsgard be Eric, wanting Sookie and Eric back together in the books, wishing for Season 4 of True Blood to start already…! And the ending that Ms. Harris always had in mind for Sookie was put in the back burner. Her readers’ hopes for a Sookie and Eric romance were reignited. But it was never quite right between them because Ms. Harris wasn’t “feeling it.” She was merely lining her pocketbook.
Am I bitter? Not really. Ms. Harris never meant to write a romance. It says so right there on the spine of any of her books: MYSTERY. It was never supposed to be a romance, and Ms. Harris seems to be flabbergasted by the level of pissed-off-ness that the spoiler caused. If we had all read the books as what they are – that is, the Southern Vampire MYSTERIES – then our collective “WHAT?!” would have been muted. Ditto if the series had ended during its natural cycle of 8 books. But we all read the “Southern Vampire ROMANCES,” with Sookie and Eric as the leads, with Eric’s face very much ingrained in our subconscious by the appearance of very-popular and ultra-handsome Alexander Skarsgard, and with the expectation that, since the two characters were thrown back together in Book 8, they will continue to be together no matter what.
We have been played
I’m sure if Fabio had played Eric Northman on True Blood, we wouldn’t be having this problem. Instead, we got this:
I spaced and said Fabio, but it was Vladimir Kulich who inspired the Eric Northman character. I can see it: