Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 494

Elizabeth George was born Susan Elizabeth George in Warren, Ohio, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Later, she lived in Orange County in Southern California. While a college student, she met and married Ira Toibin in 1971. Divorced after twenty-four years, she later married Tom McCabe, a...

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Elizabeth George was born Susan Elizabeth George in Warren, Ohio, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Later, she lived in Orange County in Southern California. While a college student, she met and married Ira Toibin in 1971. Divorced after twenty-four years, she later married Tom McCabe, a retired firefighter. After tiring of the increasing population density in California, they built a home on Whidbey Island, Washington. George has no children.

In preparation for each book, George spends a considerable amount of time in England. She prides herself on getting details right, yet points out that it is not possible to avoid some mistakes. Even though the writing of each novel generally takes about ten months, she estimates that from conception to publication generally takes about two and one half years.

As with most writers, George loved reading from a very early age, although she was not drawn to mysteries until she discovered English mystery novels. Her parents’ enjoyment of literature led her to begin writing short stories at the age of seven. Impressed by her daughter’s dedication, George’s mother gave her a 1930’s typewriter. While in high school, George first attempted writing a novel.

All of George’s education took place in California, from St. Joseph’s Grammar School in Silicon Valley to her first college years at Foothill Community College, followed by graduation from the University of California, Riverside. At the University of California, Berkeley, she took courses to add to her professional credentials, continuing with more classes at California State University, Fullerton, where she earned a degree in counseling/psychology, studies that would later serve her well in her novels. Needing further credentials to teach secondary school, George did more work at the University of California, Riverside. Among her many awards is an honorary degree from California State University, Fullerton.

George taught briefly at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, but her liberal views and activism in union affairs led to her firing. Portraits in her home of leftist activist César Chávez and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo show a side of George that might surprise readers of her early fiction, with its upper-class British characters. Her later novels, however, sympathetically depict a bitter underclass of the poor and mixed-race inhabitants of Britain.

Although the California courts ordered the Mater Dei school to rehire George and others who had been let go, George was already teaching English at El Toro High, where she remained for thirteen years until A Great Deliverance was published. For a time after George left high school teaching, she taught creative writing in several colleges in the United States, Canada, Scotland, and England.

George once said to a reviewer that writing gives her creative balance. To another, she confided that writing keeps her from feeling depressed. Her pleasure in writing, along with her joy in teaching, has led to her sharing her knowledge about the craft of writing with many others.

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