Born in 1968, Matthew Tobin (M. T. in print, and Tobin to his friends) Anderson is a contemporary author who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Anderson attended a British boarding school for a time before graduating from Cambridge, and he later worked as an editorial assistant at Candlewick Press. He grew up in Stow, Massachusetts, where he sometimes saw reenactments of the U.S. Revolutionary War. In his discussion of Octavian for Horn Book magazine, Anderson vividly describes the town and the surrounding landscape, many parts of which are marked by history. Anderson has a strong interest in understanding the past, and perhaps even a stronger one in making sure we do not distort the past into a rosy, nostalgic dream. Anderson’s desire to see history clearly and as accurately as possible is evident throughout Octavian.
Anderson wanted to write from a very young age, and his teachers encouraged it. Other long-standing interests show up in Octavian as well. In interviews, Anderson refers to himself as a “frustrated composer” with a real lack of musical skill—and so Octavian is intensely skilled at music. Anderson family legends claim the family is related to Mark Twain. Although he has not been able to confirm this legend, Anderson’s affection for satire comes through in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (though it is a much drier and quieter satire than Twain’s is).