Growing up in Mississippi, Charlaine Harris thought that all grown-ups read mystery novels.
"That's what my parents read. They were big mystery and thriller readers," she said. "So naturally, that's what I read."
As it turned out, that's what she began writing, too, starting with her 1981 debut, "Sweet and Deadly."
These days, Harris is most known for her Sookie Stackhouse series that became the basis for the HBO hit show, "True Blood," starring Charleston native Sam Trammell.
Harris, who headlines the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston this weekend, did not know Trammell was from Charleston but spoke highly of the actor.
She speaks highly of all the actors in the show, though she is quick to say her role was to provide inspiration to the show's creator and producer, Alan Ball.
"I wouldn't characterize it as a collaboration," she said. "We clearly understood each other's role in the situation before we ever signed the papers. I did not want to write any scripts. I thought I should leave the show to the experts in doing such a thing. Some writers insist on being involved, but I just had no interest."
The show is in its fifth season and has been renewed for a sixth; Harris, meantime, has written 12 books in her series and will conclude it with the next one.
Harris said when she first saw the show, she was "enchanted by how it looked," though it looked nothing like she envisioned when she wrote her books.
"I'd lived with those characters in my head for five or six years by then," she said. "Nothing another person could build would look like the person in my head."
The Sookie Stackhouse series follows two others Harris undertook.
The first, eight books long, featured as its protagonist a Georgia librarian named
Aurora Teagarden, who Harris said sprung a bit from her life.
"You're supposed to write what you know, and I didn't know a lot at that point. My mom was a librarian, and I loved libraries. I thought perhaps if I wrote about a librarian, libraries would buy the book. Gradually, her character evolved into the kind of interesting person I would like to know."
Harris said she knew it was time to end the series when she had a hard time thinking of things that could happen to her main character.
"I really would like to write one more book about her, if I can ever find the time," she said.
Next up was a series featuring a cleaning lady and karate student from Shakespeare, Ark., named Lily Bard, which included five books.
"The Lily Bard books were pretty dark, but I felt like doing something outside the mystery realm," Harris said.
And then came the vampires.
A longtime fan of author Anne Rice, Harris also re-read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" as she prepared for her vampire series.
But she believed if her characters were to have credence, they needed to live in her world.
"I wanted to write about a woman who was dating a vampire," she said. "And I wanted to write about the consequences to her in her society. It seemed to me that a person who would do such a foolish thing would have to have a very good reason for doing it."
The stories are set in a mythical town in northern Louisiana - Harris figured Rice had southern Louisiana covered. And she decided on a mythical town so she could create its look.
Also, if you use a real city or town in a novel, readers notice if you make mistakes.
"They'll write you if you have the streets running the wrong way or if you can't park on that side of the street from 2 to 5," Harris said.
TV series and New York Times Bestseller list aside, Harris said the next book in the series would be its last.
"I've said everything I need to say," she said. "I don't want to let readers down when my heart's gone out of it."
Readers - and Harris is encouraged that there are lots of avid readers out there - have been appreciative fans, lining up at festivals and conventions to meet her.
Harris said she actually likes that part of her job.
"It's easy for me and I love it," she said.