Robin McKinley Biography

Robin McKinley Biography

Robin McKinley marks her life by the books she has read throughout the world. Her father was in the navy, so her family moved many times. McKinley learned to find solace in literature. She began writing professionally at the age of twenty-six. Her young adult books generally feature strong heroines that have personality traits similar to McKinley’s own, such as clumsiness and a general lack of interest in dating. She believes that girls should be “doing things” and hopes to inspire young women to do just that through her stories. Even her novels that focus on romance portray the heroines as strong women who do not betray their own goals in order to win a man’s love. Her most renowned books are the fantasy stories Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, both set in the fictional land of Damar.

Facts and Trivia

  • McKinley recalls just what books she has read where. For instance, she remembers reading The Chronicles of Narnia in New York, The Lord of the Rings in Japan, and The Once and Future King in Maine.
  • McKinley won the Newbery Medal in 1985 for her book The Hero and the Crown.
  • McKinley loves opera and long walks. She credits both of them with keeping her imagination strong.
  • McKinley has said that girls growing up go through a phase where they believe in destiny and feel that they are lost princesses.
  • In addition to her fantasy novels, McKinley has written updated versions of Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty.
  • While writing The Blue Sword, McKinley suffered an injury when a horse fell on her hand, and it delayed the writing for six weeks.

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley was born on November 16, 1952, in Warren, Ohio. Her mother was a teacher and her father a sailor in the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine. McKinley caught the travel bug as a young child, adapting to life in a navy family that never settled in one place for more than two years.

McKinley attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1970 to 1972, and in 1975 received her bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. After graduating, she taught secondary school, worked in a bookstore, and did editorial work for a publisher. In 1981 she moved to a horse farm in Massachusetts, where she indulged in a pleasurable combination of physical exertion in working with horses and imaginative endeavor in writing fiction. She currently lives in Maine, surrounded by her huge book collection.

McKinley's fiction for young adults reflects her interest in fairy tales and folklore. Her first novel, Beauty, retells the traditional fable of "Beauty and the Beast." It was highly praised by reviewers and selected for the "Best of the Year List" by Horn Book magazine in 1978, establishing McKinley as a promising young writer of fantasy. Her subsequent novels and short stories have all been fantasies, some original and others creative reworkings of old tales. The Hero and the Crown was named an American Library Association Notable Book in 1984 and received the 1985 Newbery Medal.

(The entire section is 227 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley was born on November 16, 1952, in Warren, Ohio. Her father's navy career took her across the United States and to Japan as she was growing up. She recalls various periods of her life not by where she lived, but by what she was reading at the time. McKinley attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1970 to 1972, and in 1975 received her bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. After graduating, she taught secondary school, worked in a bookstore, and worked as an editor.

Tall and, as a child, somewhat clumsy, she often felt like an outsider. Although she has had a passion for horses since the second grade and lived for two years on a horse farm, her riding ability comes from hard work rather than natural talent. There is something of Robin McKinley in Aerin, the heroine of The Hero and the Crown, who learns to handle a sword by long hours of practice until her muscles know the moves by rote.

McKinley writes about girls of action and about hope, honor, duty, and freedom. She believes that reading exerts a strong influence on a child's personality development, and when she was growing up, she was acutely aware of the lack of true heroines in most adventure stories. In the character of Eowyn in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, she found an exception to the absence of strong female characters. Eowyn's example encouraged her to fashion her own active heroines. Much...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Robin McKinley was born Jennifer Robin Carolyn McKinley on November 16, 1952 in Warren, Ohio. McKinley's father was in the Navy, so she grew up traveling— and reading. Among her literary influences are Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and T. W. White's The Once and Future King.

McKinley influences and experiences can be seen in her work: her main characters are invariably strong, moral and heroic young women with a fondness for horses and dogs. She attended a preparatory school in Bethel, Maine called Gould Academy. McKinley's interaction with fairy tale classics recalls her own girlhood, and this cherished time fuels her writing. Born a "Navy brat," Robin McKinley moved throughout her childhood. This resulted in few lasting friendships with other children. In response, McKinley developed a private, literary world and a rich imagination. Her imagination, her books, and her animal friends were McKinley's best companions while growing up, and the same may be said for Rosie—the princess who is cursed by an evil fairy and secreted away in Book One of Spindle's End. She has been quoted as saying that "[s]he believes . . . that most girls go through a time growing up when they believe they must have an innate greatness and destiny beyond the apparent; that they are in fact lost princesses, switched at birth."

McKinley attended Dickinson...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley was a self-confessed "navy brat." Her father, William, was an officer in the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marines. Her mother, Jeanne Carolyn (maiden name Turrell), was a teacher. Robin McKinley was born in her mother's hometown of Warren, Ohio, in 1952, but she did not have a rooted childhood. Her father's career necessitated several moves, to Arlington, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, California, New York, Fuchinobe, Japan, Rhode Island, and finally, Vinalhaven, Maine, upon her father's retirement. She has claimed repeatedly that the only way she could keep track of her life was by remembering the book she was reading at the time. She still remembers where she was when her mother told her about the assassination of President Kennedy, because she was reading The Hobbit in Japan. McKinley found books a substitute for "home" and became a voracious reader. Among her favorite authors were Rudyard Kipling and J. R. R. Tolkien. She also remembers the "Oz" books by L. Frank Baum, the "Narnia" books by C. S. Lewis, and Andrew Lang's "Fairy" books. Fantasy literature and fairy tales were early interests, as well as adventure stories.

Her reading developed her interest in becoming a writer. After reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, she decided that she wanted to be able to tell stories as vivid and believable as those told by Sara Crewe. She majored in English literature in college, graduating summa...

(The entire section is 575 words.)