Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Charlaine Harris is best known for her paranormal mysteries -- a sly, wry blend of humor, horror, that has been called "cozies with teeth."
A native of the Mississippi Delta, Charlaine Harris grew up in a family of avid readers (her father was a teacher; her mother a librarian). She attended Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, graduating in 1973 with a degree in English and Communication Arts. Although she penned poetry and plays in school, her first serious foray into fiction was with two standalone novels, Sweet and Deadly and A Secret Rage, published (effortlessly!) in the early 1980s.
After her early success, Harris released the first installment in a series of lighthearted mysteries starring spunky, small-town Georgia librarian, true crime enthusiast, and amateur sleuth Aurora Teagarden. When Aurora debuted in Real Murders (1990), Publishers Weekly welcomed "a heroine as capable and potentially complex as P. D. James's Cordelia Gray." The book went on to receive an Agatha Award nomination.
Anxious for another challenge, Harris began a second series in 1996. Darker and edgier than the Teagarden novels, these mysteries featured taciturn, 30-something housecleaner Lily Bard, a woman with a complicated past who has moved to the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, to find peace and solitude. The first novel, Shakespeare's Landlord, was well-received. BookList raved: "Harris has created an intriguing new character in this solidly plotted story." [Much to the disappointment of her fans, Harris concluded the Lilly Bard sequence in 2001 with Shakespeare's Counselor.]
Although Harris achieved moderate success with these two series (which she laughingly describes as "cozies with teeth"), she would hit the jackpot in 2001 with Dead Until Dark, a sly, spoofy paranormal mystery starring a telepathic Louisiana cocktail waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, who falls in love with a vampire named Bill. The novel, a delightful hybrid of mystery, science fiction, and romance, was an instant hit with critics. ("Harris' Sookie has the potential to attract more readers than Hamilton's Anita Blake," raved the dark fantasy magazine Cemetery Dance.) Readers, too, adored the Southern Vampire Series and have rewarded the author with bestseller after bestseller. (In 2008, the Sookie saga came to HBO in a top-rated television adaptation, True Blood, starring Anna Paquin.)
With 2006's Grave Sight, Harris added yet another fascinating character to her stable -- a young woman named Harper Connelly whose youthful encounter with a lightning bolt has left her with the ability to find corpses and determine how they died. In addition to juggling characters and plots for her popular series, Harris has also contributed short stories and novellas to several anthologies of paranormal fantasy fiction.
Good To Know
In our interview, Harris confesses:
"I'm really a boring person. My family (my husband and three children) is the most important thing in my life. I go to bed early, I get up early. I love to go to the movies with my husband. My favorite things about finally making some money as a writer are (a) I can buy as many books as I want, and (b) I can hire a maid. The first job I had was working in an offset darkroom at a very small newspaper. I stood on a concrete floor all day and made minimum wage -- which then was $1.60 an hour. I hated it, and I learned a lot, though not necessarily about working in a darkroom. So being a writer is much better."