Patricia McKillip

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Patricia Anne McKillip, who was born in Salem, Oregon, on February 29, 1948, has been a storyteller and writer for almost as long as she can remember. The second of six children, she often entertained her siblings by making up stories. Then, as she recalls, "At the beginning of my fourteenth summer . . . I sat down and wrote a thirty-page fairy tale. . . . I never stopped writing after that." McKillip has written primarily in the fantasy genre, citing as influences the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and her study of literature at California State University, San Jose, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1971 and a master's degree in 1973.

McKillip's range of fantasy is considerable. Her first novel, The House on Parchment Street, tells the story of two ordinary children who are suddenly visited by a character from the past. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and the Riddle of the Stars trilogy, which comprises The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind, are examples of high fantasy and include depictions of dragons, fantastic animals, magical powers, and heroic quests. It is for those novels that she is most well known. In 1975, she received the World Fantasy Award for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and in 1979 was nominated for the Hugo Award for Harpist in the Wind. More recently, she has experimented with combining the genres of fantasy and science fiction, as in Moon- Flash and The Moon and the Face.

Although much of her writing has been labeled children's literature, her high fantasy novels are read by adults as well. Of her readers, McKillip says, "I never deliberately decided to write for children; I just found them particularly satisfying to write about. . . . When I decided to . . . write what I considered an adult fantasy, I was amazed when [it was published] as a young adult novel."


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Born in 1948, Patricia McKillip traces her career as a novelist back to her fourteenth summer, when her father was stationed in Britain. The family lived in an old English country house across from a graveyard. The local atmosphere evoked all sorts of stories in her mind. McKillip began writing fairy tales, which she read to her younger brothers and sisters. One of the stories she started that summer turned into The House on Parchment Street, (1973) a ghost story and her first novel to be published—a little over a decade later.

McKillip continued to write throughout high school and college—attending California State University at San Jose. Starting out as a music major, she switched to history and literature. Having acquired a wide knowledge of mythic lore and motifs, she received a B.A. in 1971 and an M.A. in 1973. During this time McKillip was determined to get published as fast as possible, as she did not believe that she was suited to a full-time job.


(The entire section is 724 words.)