Suzy McKee Charnas was born in New York City on October 22, 1939, to Robinson and Maxine McKee, who were both artists. She attended Barnard College, where she received a B.A. in 1961, and New York University, where in 1965 she received a master's degree in teaching. Indeed, she has spent much of her career teaching. She worked with the Peace Corps and taught history and English in Nigeria. In the United States she has taught history and African studies in junior and senior high schools, and more recently she has served as an instructor at writing workshops. In 1968 she married Stephen Charnas, a lawyer, and now has two stepchildren, Charles and Joanna.
Charnas, who has described herself as "a late bloomer" because her first book was published when she was thirty-four, is well-known for her work in adult science fiction. She received the Nebula Award in 1980 for her short story, "The Unicorn Tapestry," and two years later was nominated for the same award for her novel The Vampire Tapestry. In addition to novels and short stories, she has written scripts for the stage; The Bronze King was her first novel for children. She has said that her idea for the story began with an image of "a wizard's clubhouse." As the story evolved, however, the actual role of Sorcery Hall was diminished. Although Paavo, a wizard from Sorcery Hall, works closely with protagonist Valentine Marsh, this story largely focuses on the young Valentine's conflicts and battles with the evil forces of the kraken. In this novel, as in several others, Charnas reiterates images and issues of importance to her—particularly her interest in music and her analysis of sexism. Regarding gender stereotypes, Charnas has noted, "I try not to be either a purveyor or a victim of cultural distortions demeaning to my sex, and I have no patience with those who are proponents of those distortions."