Rob Thomas, the son of Bob and Diana Thomas, was born on August 15, 1965, in Sunnyside, Washington. When he was ten years old, his family moved to San Marcos, Texas. Because of this relocation from a rural to urban area, where he attended an inner city school with a multicultural population, Thomas experienced culture shock. This generated a feeling of being an outsider. Thomas first planned to be a novelist in junior high school. He played football for San Marcos High School, which helped him feel less like an outsider and enjoy school. He also played the bass with local bands. These experiences shaped his future depictions of jaded Texas teenagers and postmodern popular culture.
In 1983, Thomas graduated from high school then enrolled at Texas Christian University where he again played football. The next year, he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. During college, he studied journalism because it promised a more financially secure career than fiction. Thomas acquired credentials for a teaching certificate and completed a bachelor's degree in history in 1987. He aspired to write for magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. He began teaching at a local school in 1989.
As an adult, Thomas was a member of two rock bands. With five high school friends, he formed Public Bulletin in 1984. That group was renamed Hey Zeus four years later. Thomas also played for the band Black Irish. He toured with his band in southern states during summers and wrote lyrics for several albums (Call You Mom, 1989; Swimming Lessons, 1991; and Screen Door Kind, 1993). He devoted seven years to performing music instead of pursuing journalism because he had fun and he enjoyed hearing people sing along with lyrics that he had written. On his twenty-eighth birthday, Thomas realized that he had achieved as much success as possible with the band and quit. At that time, he reconsidered his writing ambitions as a means to express his creativity. He decided to write what interested and pleased him and not for a specific audience.
By 1994, he was employed by Channel One, a national student news show based in Los Angeles, for one year. In his spare time he decided to write a novel by penning a page per morning at first, then increasing his productivity. Within ten months, he finished a draft of his first book, Rats Saw God (1996). Two months later, on June 12, 1995, an agent agreed to represent Thomas, and he quit his job to return to Texas. In October 1995, Thomas's agent secured a publisher, Simon and Schuster, and Thomas signed a two-book contract. Thomas's first novel was well received by critics and readers, winning the 1998-1999 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award and 1996 Austin Writer's League Violet Crown Award for best fiction. A 1997 top ten American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, Rats Saw God was cited as an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a YALSA Top Ten Best Book, an SLJ Best Book of the Year, and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. It was also chosen for numerous states' readers' selection lists. Thomas's success resulted in a multi-book contract.
Thomas was an advisor to UTmost, the undergraduate magazine for the University of Texas. While he taught journalism at Reagan High School in Austin, Texas, Thomas wrote Slave Day (1997) which was inspired by a video he saw at Channel One. Slave Day was representative of Thomas's accurate depiction of jaded high school students and faculty and told from eight points of view. School Library Journal awarded Slave Day a starred review. Satellite Down (1998) was based on his experiences at Channel One, and protagonist Patrick Sheridan becomes disillusioned with his sudden media stardom and runs away to discover his roots in Ireland. Thomas traveled in Ireland to portray that novel's setting accurately. In contrast to his previous works, Green Thumb (1999) is a science fiction tale for younger readers but had similar themes as his other works. Thirteen-year-old...
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