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Laurell K. Hamilton (1963–)

A pioneer for strong female protagonists crossing multiple genres, New York Times bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton has written more than thirty novels, including over twenty in her “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series and nine in her “Merry Gentry” series. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake” series has had more than six million copies printed in sixteen languages and has also been converted into a Marvel graphic novel series. Hamilton has also written numerous short stories, a Star Trek novel titled Nightshade, and a tie-in novel for the Ravenloft setting of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing series. Hamilton’s work contains elements of gothic horror, detective fiction, and erotica.

Laurell K. Hamilton was born Laurell Kaye Klein on February 19, 1963, in Heber Springs (Cleburne County) to Suzie Klein. Her father left shortly after her birth, and her mother moved them to Sims, Indiana. After her mother died in a car accident in 1969, she was raised by her grandparents, Arkansas natives Elbert and Laura Gentry.

Hamilton was interested in horror fiction from an early age, citing Robert E. Howard as one of her earliest favorites. Hamilton has commented that Arkansas rural horror stories were part of her childhood, as well as the real-life horrors of recalling in detail the crash scene of her mother’s death (which her uncle showed her) and the physical abuse her grandfather inflicted on her grandmother.

An undiagnosed dyslexic as a child, she learned to read at age seven and began writing stories at age twelve. After high school, she entered the creative writing program at Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) but was removed from the program in her sophomore year because a teacher thought her penchant for including explicit sex and violence in her writing was a bad influence on other students. She chose to finish her English degree with literature courses and also obtained a degree in biology. She married her college sweetheart Gary Hamilton, but they later divorced.

Hamilton’s first novel was published when she was twenty-nine, after which she wrote two novels in the science fiction and fantasy genres within pre-established series. Her own unique character of Anita Blake, and her supernatural world setting, started as a short story titled “Those Who Seek Forgiveness.” Hamilton’s new style was initially difficult to market because it did not fit an established genre, and it took over two years to finally be accepted by a publishing company. Her first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was released in 1993.

According to Hamilton’s official website, her work contains a mix of “mystery, fantasy, magic, horror, and romance.” Detractors claim that gratuitous sex takes the place of plot or character development in her later novels. Hamilton stated in response, “Some of the Anita books have almost no sex in them, but when sex is necessary for the plot of a book or a character’s development, then I don’t shy away from it. Why should I?” Despite some readers’ complaints about a decline in the quality of writing as her series go on, Hamilton continues to enjoy lasting popularity and the adoration of a wide base of fans. In 2000, Hamilton was awarded the PEARL (Paranormal Excellence Award for Romantic Literature) for A Kiss of Shadows, the first book in the “Merry Gentry” series.

In addition to her prolific writing, Hamilton is also an active supporter of charities for dogs and wolves, including Pug Rescue and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In 2001, she married Jonathon Green, and they live in St. Louis, Missouri, with their daughter.

For additional information:
DeRose, Christopher. “Laurell K. Hamilton: Study in Momentum.” Crescent Blues 9.1. http://www.crescentblues.com/6_6issue/int_hamilton.shtml (accessed May 20, 2014).

Laurell K. Hamilton. http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (accessed May 20, 2014).

“Laurell K. Hamilton.” Newsmakers. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Online at http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CK1618004673&v=2.1&u=litt26051&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w (accessed May 20, 2014).

MacDonald, Jay. “Vampire Hunter Sinks Teeth into Merchandising.” BankRate.com. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/investing/20041115a1.asp (accessed May 20, 2014).

Ward, Jean Marie. “Laurell K. Hamilton: Getting Real with Things That Go Bump in the Night.” Crescent Blues 3:3.1. http://www.crescentblues.com/3_3issue/hamilton.shtml (accessed May 20, 2014).

J. Jobe
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 12/22/2016

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