|Born||September 22, 1940|
Jackson, Tennessee, U.S.
|Alma mater||Baylor University|
|Genre||Crime, horror, suspense|
|Notable works||Red Dragon|
The Silence of the Lambs
William Thomas Harris III (born September 22, 1940) is an American writer, best known for a series of suspense novels about his most famous character, Hannibal Lecter. The majority of his works have been adapted into films and television, the most notable being The Silence of the Lambs, which became only the third film in Academy Awards history to sweep the Oscars in major categories.
Harris was born in Jackson, Tennessee, but moved as a child with his family to Rich, Mississippi. He was introverted and bookish in grade school and then blossomed in high school. He attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he majored in English and graduated in 1964. While in college, he worked as a reporter for the local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald, covering the police beat. In 1968, he moved to New York City to work for Associated Press until 1974 when he began work on Black Sunday.
Little is known about Harris's personal life as he avoids publicity and did not grant any interviews between 1976 and 2019. At Baylor University he met and married Harriet Anne Haley, a fellow student, in June 1961. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Anne, before they divorced in August 1968. Harris remained close to his mother Polly throughout his life and called her every night no matter where he was. He often discussed particular scenes from his novels with her. Polly died on December 31, 2011.
He lives in South Florida and has a summer home in Sag Harbor, New York. His long-term domestic partner is Pace Barnes, a woman who, according to USA Today, "used to work in publishing and is as outgoing as he is quiet." Harris' friend and literary agent Morton Janklow said of him: "He's one of the good guys. He is big, bearded and wonderfully jovial. If you met him, you would think he was a choirmaster. He loves cooking--he's done the Le Cordon Bleu exams--and it's great fun to sit with him in the kitchen while he prepares a meal and see that he's as happy as a clam. He has these old-fashioned manners, a courtliness you associate with the South." In his first major interview in 43 years, to The New York Times in 2019 to promote Cari Mora, he revealed himself to be a nature lover, and a long-time visitor and volunteer of the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, an animal rescue center in Miami, Florida for 20 years. The staff were not aware of who Harris was until a few years prior to when the interview was conducted. He described fame as "more of a nuisance than anything else".
Fellow novelist Stephen King remarked that if writing is sometimes tedious for other authors, to Harris it is like "writhing on the floor in agonies of frustration", because for Harris, "the very act of writing is a kind of torment". Novelist John Dunning said of Harris, "All he is is a talent of the first rank." In 2019, he elaborated on his process, as well as the difficulty, describing it as "passive [...], sometimes you really have to shove and grunt and sweat. Some days you go to your office and you're the only one who shows up, none of the characters show up, and you sit there by yourself, feeling like an idiot. And some days everybody shows up ready to work. You have to show up at your office every day. If an idea comes by, you want to be there to get it in."