Biography

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 710

Canadian author Eileen Kernaghan was born in Enderby, British Columbia, in 1939, daughter of William Alfred and Belinda Maude Monk. The author grew up on a dairy farm near Grindrod, a small village of 600 residents at the north end of the Okanagan Valley. After finishing elementary school in Grindrod,...

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Canadian author Eileen Kernaghan was born in Enderby, British Columbia, in 1939, daughter of William Alfred and Belinda Maude Monk. The author grew up on a dairy farm near Grindrod, a small village of 600 residents at the north end of the Okanagan Valley. After finishing elementary school in Grindrod, young Eileen went to high school in Enderby, a town big enough to have a hospital but small enough that (a few years later) even the Mayor's dog was called "Sir."

Young Eileen started writing about the same time that she learned to read, at age five. When she was very young, she loved to read the exotic adventures in antique lands of A. A. Merritt, Clark Ashton Smith, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. "I read whatever I could find on my parents' shelves," Kernaghan said in an interview for a future issue of Canadian Children's Literature. "Jack London, Rider Haggard. . . and the tattered and musty copies of Weird Tales that an uncle had left behind. I was fascinated with stories of lost cities, forgotten kingdoms—anything that was arcane and exotic." Later on, she discovered Jack Vance, Mary Renault, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and Tanith Lee. Now the author says that she enjoys reading the works of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens as well as the new Canadian writers Gail Anderson-Dargatz and Ann-Marie MacDonald.

The earliest surviving manuscript of her writing is "Molly in Mouseland," which she described in an interview with Nancy Bennett for Scavenger's Newsletter as "a blatant rip-off of Lewis Carroll, written when I was eight or nine." Kernaghn added: "When I ran into my fourth grade teacher thirty-five years later, he told me he still had it in his files." She followed this story with a number of space adventures inspired by Flash Gordon. At twelve she sold a story of a boy's adventure in the north woods to the weekend magazine from the Vancouver Sun newspaper for $12.65. The next story she sent to the Sun was rejected, and it was twenty years before she submitted any of her fiction to a publisher again.

In junior high school young Eileen was the Grindrod correspondent for The Enderby Commoner newspaper. She was too shy to phone the neighbors and ask them for news, so her mother did the interviews for Eileen's articles.

After finishing high school, she attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and taught elementary school in the interior of British Columbia for several years. She married Patrick Kernaghan in 1959, and had three children in four years before beginning to write again.

Her first three book-length manuscripts were rejected by publishers, to her present relief. With the sale of a science fiction novelette, "Starcult," to Galaxy magazine in 1971, she became for about a month the only currently publishing science fiction author residing in Canada. That state of affairs quickly changed, as several authors resumed writing, others returned to Canada, and beginners made their own first sales. As of the year 2001, there are well over a hundred professional Canadian science fiction authors and several times that number of dedicated amateur writers.

Kernaghan has contributed to two poetry collections: Light Like a Summons (1989) and Quintet: Themes & Variations (1998), and has produced her own poetry chapbook in 1999, called The Dark Gardens of the Zodiac. She was also the coauthor of two nonfiction books: The Upper Left-Hand Corner: A Writer's Guide for the Northwest (1986) and Walking after Midnight (1990), the latter based on a documentary film by Jonathon Kay on reincarnation and near-death experiences. Her poetry and stories have appeared in the award-winning Tesseracts anthology series and in the Canadian speculative fiction magazines On Spec and TransVersions, as well as in many other professional and semi-professional publications.

Kernaghan is a part-time writing instructor and co-owner of Neville Books with her husband. A founding member of the Burnaby Writers' Society in Vancouver, the author is also an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and SF Canada (the Canadian association of professional science fiction writers). Another professional group of which she is a founding member is The Lonely Cry, a small group of writers who have a website and a newsletter to promote their books and readings. Kernaghan writes at home in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.

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