Charlaine Harris was born in Tunica, Mississippi, and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area in the middle of a cotton field. Though her early works consisted largely of poems about ghosts and, later, teenage angst, she wrote plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and started writing novels a few years later. After publishing two stand-alone mysteries, Harris launched a light-hearted mystery series 'starring' Georgia librarian Aurora Teagarden. The first of the eight books, Real Murders, was shortlisted for Best Novel in the 1990 Agatha Awards. In 1996, she released the first of the much darker Shakespeare mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who makes her living cleaning houses. Charlaine Harris then wrote the first of her Southern vampire mysteries starring Sookie Stackhouse, the quirky, telepathic waitress who works in a bar in the fictional Northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Dead Until Dark won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery. It also won Harris a whole new fan club of devoted readers and pushed her into the bestseller lists. The Sookie Stackhouse series, in which Sookie has to deal with vampires, werecreatures and other supernatural folk - not to mention her own complicated love life - was also instrumental in creating the urban fantasy genre.