Born Jessica Rowley Pell Bird in 1969 in Massachusetts, United States, she is the daughter of W. Gillette Bird, Jr. and Maxine F. Bird. She began writing as a child, penning her thoughts in diaries as well as inventing short stories. The summer before she went to college she wrote her first book, a romance novel. After that, she wrote regularly, but for herself. Bird attended Smith College where she double majored in history and art history, concentrating on the medieval period. She then received a law degree from Albany Law School and worked in healthcare administration for many years, including as the Chief of Staff at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 2001, Bird married John Neville Blakemore III. Her new husband encouraged her to try to get an agent and market her manuscripts. She found an agent, and in 2002 her first novel, a contemporary romance called Leaping Hearts, was published. Several years later, Bird invented a world populated by vampires and began writing single-title paranormal romance novels under the pen name J.R. Ward. These novels are a series, known as the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
Bird likes to write series novels which incorporate characters from her previous books. She likens the process of creating a series to "meeting friends through other friends". Her heroes are most often alpha males, "the tougher, the cockier, the more arrogant, the better", while the heroines are smart and strong.
The Romance Writers of America awarded her the RITA Award for Best Short Contemporary Romance in 2007 for her novel From the First. She has also been nominated six times for Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Awards, winning once for Lover Awakened. She was also number 2 on the New York Times Bestsellers List of 2014.
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