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6527212 April 28, 2010

True Creative Blood: Charlaine Harris

"... by reminding myself that I can’t do a lot of things that other people manage with ease, I maintain an even keel most days."

This week The New Yorker said, "Przekop clearly has a gift for language." Awesome! (Never mind that I'm still looking for a new publisher.) On most days, I have to remind myself of comments like this one to boost my confidence. Being able to write (and paint) gives me hope that I just may be good at something after all.

Why is that so important? Well, because there are so many things I suck at. To name a few: I can't cook; I think too much for my own good; I'm terrible with managing money; my head is too often in the clouds; sometimes I'm a poor listener; I'm messy, forgetful, impulsive, obsessive, impatient; sometimes my motives are misunderstood due to my approach; and the list goes on.

I think there's something bad in my blood.

My guest today, author Charlaine Harris, is having phenomenal success. She knows a thing or two about blood types. I was interested to read that she also thinks about all the things she's not good at. Perhaps once you've reached a certain level of creative success, those things keep you grounded?

Okay, I'll shoot for that.

Meanwhile, I'm in New York City today writing this at a place called Earth Matters. It's a bit of a dream come true--venturing into the big apple on my own, hanging out in a hip joint surrounded by folks who are writing, reading, and surfing the Web. Later, I'm headed to The Pearl Lounge to meet artists, photographers, gallery owners, and all kinds of creative, interesting folks (more on the Pearl in an upcoming post).

During my hour-long train ride from Philly, I thought of all the girls I've wanted to be at one time or another, and how I either failed, was rejected, or missed the boat. To continue last post's Wicked theme, there were so many times I could have sang, I'm not that girl. But today as I watched Hamilton, Newark and Secaucus rush by, I was happy that I sucked at, got bored with, or fell just short of all the girls I could have been, despite any pain I've suffered.

I could have taken a hundred other paths but the life I have today has emerged as the best possible scenario. I could have married my high school sweetheart, the one who shattered my heart in college, or the one who gave me a child and then ran away. I could have become a teacher or a physician. I could have progressed as a corporate executive with little time for anything else.

Screw all that. I'm too busy attempting to defy gravity. So what if I'm not that girl. I'm on top of the world, swinging on the star I gazed at as a lonely, confused 15-year-old determined to find happiness.

If folks talented enough to work at The New Yorker believe I have something to offer, I'll not waste that gift--that chance. So what if I can't cook? So what if balancing a checkbook or keeping track of my spending feels like having my skin peeled. Other people can do that stuff.

Thank God for them. Amen.

Similar to Charlaine, I'm not surprised about where I've landed, but I am surprised that I'm sitting in the Lower East Side on a Wednesday afternoon. It thrills me to consider where I'll be next year, or in five years. Life is a wild ride, and I intend to stay on it. I know now that I can survive multiple falls and still keep moving forward. Like Charlaine's mother observed, "Women do whatever they have to do."

So what if I'm not that girl. I'm the best kind of girl.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? Are you surprised by your success, or did you always believe it would happen?

I decided to switch my career after I’d been a mystery writer for many years. I decided to write a book with a touch of everything in it. It took my agent two years to find a place for the first Sookie novel; a lot of editors hated it. Finally, he found an editor (John Morgan) at Ace who would take the book. I’m not surprised I’m successful, but I am very surprised by HOW successful I am.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

I’ve had a lot of “ah-ha” moments when I was working on the Sookie books. Since I’m not a great planner, almost every month I have an “ah-ha!” There was the day I realized Sookie had fairy blood, the day I realized why Bill had come to Bon Temps, and the day I realized that Elvis was a vampire.

For you, is writing more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be a writer?

I think more about creation. I love making my own world come alive. I love being the queen of that world with the power of life and death.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)? Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I’ve never thought about this before. The only comparison I can draw is with athletes, who eventually must commit to one sport. If a gifted athlete keeps trying to play several sports, eventually she’ll exhaust herself or incur an injury that will put her on the bench for the whole season.

If I follow that analogy, I think it’s best to select a main focus and only “play” the other ones as entertainment; holidays, if you will.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

I’ve certainly had some terrible and destructive things happen to me in my life that I managed to spin into gold. I think the creative force uses what raw materials it has to hand, be they wonderful or awful experiences, and transmits those events into something useful to the writer --- either emotionally or artistically.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Of course I’ve had to deal with people who don’t understand why or how I do what I do. It’s like being a perpetual teenager, some days; perpetually misunderstood and disgruntled about it. However, by reminding myself that I can’t do a lot of things that other people manage with ease, I maintain an even keel most days.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Do you have any advice for those still struggling to make their creative mark? Is there ever a time when it's best to "give up" and find a new focus?

I’m sure there is a time to give up, but I’m never going to tell a struggling artist that he/she should abandon his art. That’s an individual decision, one that has to be based on many factors.

Do you ever wonder if what you're creating or expressing is as meaningful to others as it is to you? How important is that to you with regard to your overall goals?

I don’t care if people get my message or not. I’ve made it, it’s out there to accept or reject or ignore as the reader chooses.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Yes. There are lots of ways to be creative in your everyday life, but not all of these are driven by a specific talent. They’re just imaginative ways to make your life and the lives of those around you more interesting.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

“Women can do whatever they have to do.”

That’s what my mom always told me, and I think she’s right. She’s always felt that women are incredibly strong and resilient (on the whole), because they have to be to get through life – keeping a home running, raising children, and (now) working outside the home, too. My mom was raised in a different, but equally tough, time. I see the truth in that simple statement, and it’s kept me going when I felt like crumpling.

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