Charlaine Harris: A Biography

Charlaine Harris: A Biography

by Debbie Jabbour

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“Oh my God. It was the man from Memphis.”

                                                    --Dead… See more details below



“Oh my God. It was the man from Memphis.”

                                                    --Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris

For a long time after Elvis Presley died in 1977, he would be seen regularly, popping up in any number of strange places: in the U.S., Canada, even in Australia. In the late 1980s he appeared quite regularly in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Two television specials explored the existence of an Elvis conspiracy to cover up his non-death. Elvis sightings have tapered off somewhat in the past few years, and even the most rabid fans have finally accepted that the King is, in fact, dead. Unless, of course, you are Charlaine Harris. Then you have a very different explanation of what really happened to Elvis.

Charlaine Harris is the unofficial queen of vampire fiction. Anne Rice might have come first, but it was Harris who really took the genre to a new level of contemporary popularity. Harris acknowledges that when she entered the field, it was relatively open except for Laurell K. Hamilton, whose vampire stories attracted followers, but quickly became too sexually graphic for some readers. Harris built on the field in a very different way, creating a highly realistic community of supernaturals, and many, many others soon followed. While writers like Stephenie Meyer might argue that they brought their own ideas to the table, the genre would not have taken life had Charlaine Harris not paved the way. She engaged readers and piqued interest in the notion that vampires and other supernatural creatures live amongst us every day, and she created vampire characters that really could be the guy or girl next door.

In Charlaine Harris’s supernatural family, one of the most intriguing characters is Bubba. We first meet Bubba near the end of Dead Until Dark (2001). Sookie is watching from her farmhouse porch swing when her co-worker Arlene arrives to pick up her children, whom Sookie had been babysitting. As Arlene and her boyfriend Rene (who is later revealed as the novel’s villain) are leaving, they are introduced to a “handsome vampire with thick black hair combed into an improbably wavy style” by Sookie’s new boyfriend, vampire Bill. As Sookie watches from a distance she notices that the newcomer seems very familiar, “husky, taller than Bill, and he wore old jeans and an ‘I Visited Graceland’ T-shirt.” Sookie comes to a realization of the newcomer’s identity in a moment that likely sent thrills through a permanent part of literary history:

“Oh my God. It was the man from Memphis.”

“Sookie,” Bill said warningly, “this is Bubba.”

“Bubba,” I repeated, not quite trusting my ears.

“Yep, Bubba,” the vampire said cheerfully, goodwill radiating from his fearsome smile. “That’s me. Pleased to meetcha.”

I shook hands with him, making myself smile back. Good God Almighty, I never thought I’d be shaking hands with Him.”

             Sookie meets Bubba in Dead Until Dark

Bill pulls Sookie aside and explains why some of the sightings are true, while warning her to never call Bubba by his real name. Apparently when the Man from Memphis had been brought to the morgue, one of the undead, who happened to be a huge fan, was working as the morgue attendant. Detecting a tiny spark of life, he “brought him over,” making him vampire. But the chemicals in the King’s system had not translated well, leading to an Elvis-not-Elvis vampire known as Bubba. After his installation as Sookie’s protector that night, Bubba soon becomes a friend, and he plays a significant role in the many plot twists of upcoming novels. When he can be persuaded to sing, of course, magic happens.


At a New Year’s Eve party that same year, she met Hal Schultz, a chemical engineer. He proposed on their second date, and on August 5, 1978, she married for a second time. Hal supported Charlaine’s desire to write, and gave her an electric typewriter as a wedding gift, telling her to “stay home and write your book.” Charlaine did just that.

In 1980 Charlaine Harris took a creative writing class at the University of Missouri which was taught by Shannon Ravenel, now the head of Algonquin Press. Ravenel recommended Harris’ manuscript to Houghton Mifflin, and in 1981, Harris’ first novel, Sweet and Deadly, which deals with racial issues in the South, w

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