CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sylvia Rexrode's hands were shaking as she held onto her ticket and waited Saturday afternoon for her number to be called at the Charleston Civic Center to get her book signed by her favorite author, Charlaine Harris.
"This is really big for me. I'm so nervous," said Rexrode, 27, of Fayette County. "As soon as I got my hands on her books, I was stuck. I'm a huge fan."
Harris is a New York Times bestselling author known for her vampire mystery series, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. The books are the basis for the hit HBO show, "True Blood."
Harris was the headliner at this weekend's 12th annual West Virginia Book Festival, where she spoke to hundreds of fans about the benefits of growing up as an outcast.
"I didn't have the most comfortable junior high and high school experience. I wasn't one of the popular kids, but that paid off for me. That standoffishness helped me harness my imagination and really put it to use," said Harris, who grew up in rural Mississippi. "There's no friend like a book. You never need to be lonely or bored when you have a book in your hand. That's my deepest belief."
Harris, who is praised for making a paranormal town in Louisiana filled with werewolves and shapeshifters seem relatable to readers, has been forced to come of out her shell in recent years.
"Everything began to escalate at a terrifying rate. The next thing I knew, I was standing on the red carpet in Hollywood, like 'How did I get here?' It was crazy," she said of her instantly successful book-to-TV adaptations. "I didn't set out to write a supernatural book; I set out to write about Sookie. She is a very strong character."
The final Stackhouse novel of the 13-book series, "Dead Ever After," will be released in May, and Harris is already working on a brand new series set to launch in 2014.
Harris headlined the event, along with authors Craig Johnson, Dan Chaon and Tamora Pierce.
As Harris spoke to her fans, other book enthusiasts filled the Civic Center to browse the used book sale and meet their favorite authors.