S.M. Harris was born in 1947. Since he was the youngest in his high school graduating class, his parents sent him to Europe to pick up an extra year, where he attended Ecole Des Roches in Switzerland for one year and two years of college at American College of Switzerland. On returning to America, he graduated from Stanford and received his MA from Northwestern.
He spent several years as a property manager, a travel agent and receptionist in an art gallery. In 1985, he saw an ad on a supermarket bulletin board for Bunco Theatre, a Santa Monica based group dedicated to educating senior citizens about crimes perpetrated against the elderly. He volunteered as a helper—to move props, sets, etc. Since actors were scarce, he was drafted into playing the resident perp in all their skits. From there he found himself writing some of the material for the group. This experience piqued his interest in theater and set him on a different course in life.
He took as many classes in playwriting as he could through UCLA Extension and began submitting his class projects to theatres around the country. In 1991 he was invited to Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York to attend their summer conference in the Catskills—this began a journey which led him to move to New York. An Ensemble Studio lab project, Colleen Ireland (about a 90 something retirement home resident and her great-granddaughter), was nominated for Best Play at the Playwrights Forum Festival 2002 in Spokane. Colleen was produced for the first time in Spokane and then by Diverse City Theatre Company in New York, where it received a positive review from The New York Times. Spindrift Way, a follow-up to Colleen, received its world premiere at The Senior Theatre USA Festival in Baltimore in June 2008. There are now twelve Colleen plays in the series.
The Northeast Quarter began as a full length play. It was initiated in the Works in Progress Writers Lab at Manhattan Theatre Club under the direction of Chris Ceraso. When it became apparent that the scope of the story was restricted by the confinements of the proscenium, Harris developed it into his first novel.