On this day in 1951, novelist Charlaine Harris, creator of the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse series, about a telepathic barmaid and a group of vampires and other supernatural creatures in small-town Louisiana, is born in Mississippi.
Harris, who was raised in Tunica, Mississippi, graduated from Rhodes College in Tennessee in 1973 with a degree in English. Afterward, she worked various jobs as a typesetter before publishing her first novel, “Sweet and Deadly,” in 1981. The book, a traditional mystery set in a small Southern town, was a modest commercial success, as were the two series of novels Harris went on to launch: Aurora Teagarden, about a spunky, crime-solving librarian, and Lily Bard, about a cleaning lady with a complicated past who investigates murders.
Harris’s breakout success—the Sookie Stackhouse novels (also known as the Southern Vampire series)—came when she grew tired of writing conventional mysteries and moved into the paranormal world. Following multiple rejections from publishers, she sold her first Stackhouse book, “Dead Until Dark,” which debuted in 2001. “Dead Until Dark,” along with the other novels in the series, is narrated by the mind-reading Stackhouse and set in Bon Temps, Louisiana, a fictional rural town populated by humans, vampires (who drink synthetic blood), shape-shifters and witches, among others. The Arkansas-based Harris has published more than 10 Stackhouse novels, all of which combine elements of the mystery, fantasy and romance genres, and have “Dead” in the title, including “Club Dead,” (2003) “From Dead to Worse,” (2008) and “Dead in the Family” (2010). The books inspired HBO’s popular “True Blood” TV series, which premiered in 2008.
In 2005, Harris debuted a new mystery series about a young woman named Harper Connelly who as a result of being struck by lightning can locate dead people and hear their final thoughts. Harris’ varied cast of characters has earned her a widespread following, and in May 2011 she became the fourth author ever to sell 1 million e-books for the Amazon Kindle e-reader, after Steig Larsson, James Patterson and Nora Roberts.