William Sleator Biography

William Sleator Biography

William Sleator predated Saw (and Saw IISaw IIISaw IV, and Saw V) with his young adult novel House of Stairs, in which a group of teenagers find themselves locked in a windowless, doorless house full of traps and surprises. While not as grisly as the torture-buffet created by Jigsaw in the Saw films several decades later, House of Stairs is a quintessential Sleator creation. Though he is frequently labeled as a science fiction writer for young audiences, Sleator’s stories also combine elements of horror and mystery as they explore a variety of issues. Themes of identity and family relationships are strong undercurrents in Sleator’s work. Throughout his books, adolescence is not merely a world of angst, but of genuine terror, with the antirealistic elements often precipitating the characters’ coming of age.

Facts and Trivia

  • Writing was not Sleator’s first passion. As a high school student growing up in Maryland, he first garnered attention for his musical aptitude. Sleator wrote many original compositions during his school years.
  • Sleator’s mother, a pediatrician, is credited with groundbreaking work in the identification, assessment, and treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.
  • Sleator studied at Harvard University and graduated with a degree in English in the late 1960s.
  • Thai culture was influential in Sleator’s work. The author spent part of each year in Thailand, and the other part at his home in Boston.
  • Sleator was gay or bisexual, and one of the first authors to prominently feature characters hinted to be gay in young adult fiction.
  • His brother, Daniel, is a professor of computer science and has done pioneering research in that field.

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

William Warner Sleator III was born February 13, 1945, in Havre de Grace, Maryland, to William Warner Sleator, Jr., a university professor, and Esther Kaplan, a physician. He grew up in University City, Missouri, near St. Louis. As a child, Sleator was interested in music, studying the piano and cello for a number of years and writing musical compositions with macabre titles, such as "Guillotines in Springtime" and "The Haunted Easter Egg." According to Sleator, he was surrounded by scientists as a youth and enjoyed reading science fiction.

In 1967, Sleator received a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and spent the next year in England, where he studied musical composition and worked as a pianist at the Royal Ballet School. He returned to the United States in 1968 and spent the next nine years as a rehearsal pianist for the Boston Ballet. Following that, Sleator took a job as assistant to children's book illustrator Blair Lent and soon began writing for children and young adults.

Sleator's first book, The Angry Moon, was illustrated by Lent and was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 1971. Sleator has continued his collaboration with Lent and has composed the score for Lent's animated film Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky. Most of Sleator's recent books aimed at young adults fall into the science fiction genre and have proven to be extremely popular. His books have won a number of awards, including making the American...

(The entire section is 298 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

William Warner Sleator III was born on February 13, 1945. Sleator says that he began writing when very young and that even then he was interested in the stranger aspects of life. Though raised among a family of scientists, the young author was interested in the arts, becoming a pianist, composer, and writer. Perhaps his combination of interests in art and science led to his interest in science fiction, which he read avidly.

By high school, he was composing music that reflected his preoccupation with the macabre, giving his works titles such as "Guillotines in Springtime." He entered Harvard as a music major, though he later admitted that he was miserable at Harvard, with his unhappiness reflected in unhappy compositions. He seems to have been very productive while in college, writing musical scores for school dramatic productions and a multi-volume journal. While at Harvard, his artistic interests seem to have taken a significant turn, because he changed his major to English before graduating in 1967.

Sleator moved to England for a time to study musical composition while working for the Royal Ballet School as a pianist. He had a fortuitous event while in England, staying in a cottage in the woods that had been used as a pest house for people with smallpox. The cottage's walls even had graffiti on them from the 1700s. His stay at the cottage was the inspiration for his first published young adult book Blackbriar. When he moved back to the United...

(The entire section is 431 words.)