Charlaine Harris, best known for her series of Sookie Stackhouse supernatural mysteries -- the basis for the hit HBO series "True Blood" -- will be the headliner for the annual Book Festival, scheduled for Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center.
Harris is the first presenter announced for the event, and continues the festival's recent tradition of getting a major author to headline the event. Nicholas Sparks was the featured author in 2010, and Lee Child headlined the festival last year.
"We have a meeting each December and we look at some of the more well-known authors who we think would draw a big crowd," said Pam May, the Book Festival's chairwoman. "She was high on our list, and she was available, and we're very excited about that."
Harris, a native of the Mississippi River delta, has been writing for more than 30 years. Her early work consisted largely of poems about ghosts and teenage angst, but she began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis. She then switched to novels, with "Sweet and Deadly" published in 1981.
In 1990, Harris published "Real Murders," the first in her lighthearted eight-book series starring Georgia librarian Aurora Teagarden. In 1996, she began her Shakespeare mystery series, featuring amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who cleans houses. That series ran for five books, ending in 2001.
That same year, Harris began her Sookie Stackhouse series with "Dead Until Dark," which won the Anthony Award, a prestigious mystery award, for Best Paperback Novel. The series, set in the fictional northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps, follows Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress, in her adventures with vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. The 12th book in the series, "Deadlocked," will be released next month.
The award-winning "True Blood" television series, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is in its fifth season and counts Charleston native Sam Trammell among its stars.
May said the connection with the TV series was one of the factors in bringing Harris to the Book Festival. "We're excited because of the connection with 'True Blood,'" she said. "We know that's crazy popular, and we believe that may bring in some people who wouldn't normally come to the Book Festival."
Harris has written four mysteries about another protagonist with strange powers. Harper Connelly, who can tell the cause of death of any body, debuted in 2005 in "Grave Sight."
Harris' appearance at the West Virginia Book Festival is set for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, in the coliseum at the Civic Center. May said announcements about other authors at this fall's festival should be coming soon.
"We don't have any contracts signed yet [other than Harris], but the schedule is pretty much in place, she said.
The festival, which attracted about 7,000 attendees in 2011, is presented annually by the Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail.