Charlaine Harris (1951–)
aka: Jean Charlaine Harris Schultz
Jean Charlaine Harris Schulz is a horror and mystery writer whose novels have a distinctive Southern setting and are often full of dark humor. Several of her “Southern Vampire” books have served as the basis for the HBO television series True Blood, which debuted in 2008.
Charlaine Harris was born on November 25, 1951, in Tunica, Mississippi, to Robert Ashley, a school principal, and Jean Harris, a librarian. Harris received a BA in English from Southwestern in Memphis (now Rhodes College) in 1973. She married her first husband, an army veteran, immediately after college. The couple later divorced, and Harris married Hal Schulz, a chemical engineer, on August 5, 1978; they have three children. Harris worked many jobs before becoming a professional writer, including working as an offset darkroom operator, setting type for newspapers, and working for Federal Express in the 1970s. She moved to Arkansas in the late 1980s.
Harris has said that she has written “since she could hold a pencil.” She wrote poems and had one-act plays staged while she attended Southwestern. Harris took a creative writing class at the University of Missouri–St. Louis led by Shannon Ravenel, who now heads Algonquin Press. Ravenel recommended Harris’s manuscript to Houghton Mifflin, which accepted the book for publication. The novel Sweet and Deadly (1981) deals with racial issues in a Southern setting.
After writing another standalone mystery, Harris began the “Aurora Teagarden” series in 1990, featuring a Georgian librarian with a sense of humor whose life becomes increasingly complicated as she keeps becoming involved with crimes. Harris ended the series in 2003 after eight books. In 1996 came the Shakespeare series set in the fictional small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas. These books feature Lily Bard, a well-educated cleaning woman. Bard is a darker and more troubled character than the heroine of the previous series. This series ended after five books in 2001, though it was reissued in 2004.
Her third series, the “Southern Vampire” series, is about a telepathic barmaid in Bon Temps, Louisiana, named Sookie Stackhouse, who becomes immersed in vampire politics. Harris produced thirteen novels in this series, as well as several short stories included in anthologies. In 2002, Harris was nominated for an Agatha Award for best novel and won an Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original, both for the “Southern Vampires” series debut novel, Dead until Dark (2001). The series ended in 2013 with Dead Ever After.
Harris’s fourth series, the “Harper Connelly” series, follows Harper Connelly, a woman who has been able to find dead bodies ever since she was struck by lightning. The first book in the series, Grave Sight (2006), is set in the fictional Sarne, Arkansas. Harris has written four books in this series.
Harris is a member of Mensa and many writers’ groups, including the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (of which she is a board member), and Arkansas Mystery Writers Alliance (of which she served as president). After a long residence in Magnolia (Columbia County), she moved to Texas, where she currently resides. In 2014, she published Midnight Crossroad, the first novel in a new series set in Midnight, Texas. That same year, she also published the first volume of Cemetery Girl, a graphic novel series co-written with Christopher Golden.
For additional information:
Charlaine Harris. http://www.charlaineharris.com/ (accessed April 19, 2022).
Friedman, Samantha. “Jean Charlaine Harris Schulz.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 2, 2007, pp. 1D, 4D.
Ward, Jean Marie. “Charlaine Harris: Putting the Bite on Cozy Mysteries.” Crescent Blues. http://www.crescentblues.com/4_4issue/int_charlaine_harris.shtml (accessed April 19, 2022).
C. L. Bledsoe
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