Stephanie Plum is a fictional character and since 1994 the protagonist in a series of novels written by Janet Evanovich. She is a spunky combination of Nancy Drew and Dirty Harry, and - although a female bounty hunter - is the opposite of Domino Harvey. She is described by the author as "incredibly average and yet heroic if necessary."
Evanovich claims the inspiration for Stephanie's character came after watching Midnight Run starring Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro, adding, "If Mickey Spillane wrote Archie and Veronica, Stephanie would be Betty." As the series has progressed, Stephanie has become more stable and responsible, and a better bounty hunter. "But truthfully," Evanovich says, "Stephanie has stayed the same more than she’s changed."
As of July 2008, Stephanie has appeared in fourteen full-length novels, three holiday novellas, and a short story in a compilation of various authors' works.
Janet Evanovich admits that Stephanie Plum's character is inspired by her own, in both history and "similar embarrassing experiences." Evanovich says, "I wouldn't go so far as to say Stephanie is an autobiographical character, but I will admit to knowing where she lives."
Like Evanovich, Stephanie originates from Trenton, New Jersey, the city where the series is set. Stephanie grew up in the Chambersburg neighborhood known to locals as "the Burg", and - like Evanovich - attended Douglass College, although Stephanie graduated "without distinction". The Burg is often portrayed in the series as a close-knit community, from which people rarely leave. Stephanie often finds former classmates and neighbors still living in the Burg, only a few streets away from their childhood home.
After graduation, Stephanie married Dickie Orr, then promptly divorced him after discovering he cheated on her with rival Joyce Barnhardt. Immediately before the first book, One For the Money begins, Stephanie is laid off from her job as a lingerie buyer, which propels her to blackmail her cousin Vinnie, owner of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, into giving her a job as an apprehension agent or bounty hunter. She originally hoped to find a secretary job at the Bail Bonds office but the position was taken, leading her to want the bounty hunter position. Before she starts working for Vinnie she finds herself pursued for being delinquent with car payments. Stephanie's financial situation is still rather perilous, partially due to her poor financial skills, and she often finds herself seeking alternate ways to earn money in order to pay her bills.
When the series begins, Stephanie Plum is single and living with her hamster, Rex, in an apartment building with predominantly elderly neighbors. She revisits her parents who live several miles away in the Burg for meals, "family time," and pineapple upside-down cake. While Stephanie finds her family stressful, they often give her tips or connections which assist in her job.