The Compleat Piers Anthony|
Biography and Pictures
Mostly borrowed from Bio of an Ogre.
Few authors have risen to the level of success of Piers Anthony. In his over quarter-century career, he has written martial arts action novels, fantasy, science fiction, space opera, post-apocalyptic adventure, horror, erotica—it's almost easier to enumerate the few categories that Piers Anthony hasn't written in! His total number of books is well into three digits now, making him one of the most prolific authors in the science-fiction/fantasy field (indeed, any field) as well as one of the most successful.
Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob was born August 6th, 1934 in Oxford, England. It was not necessary in England in 1934 to name a baby instantly; there was a grace period of a number of days. As the deadline loomed, his mother simply gave him all the names she could think of.
His parents both graduated from the University of Oxford, but Piers was a slow learner from the outset. He spent time with relatives and a nanny while his parents went to do relief work in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. They were helping to feed the children rendered hungry by the devastation of the war. When that ended, Piers and his sister joined them in Spain. So Piers left his native country at the age of four—and never returned.
The new government of General Franco in Spain, evidently error-prone and suspicious of foreigners doing good works, mistakenly arrested Piers' father in 1940. They refused to admit that they had done so, making him in effect a "disappeared" person, but he was able to smuggle out a note. Rather than admit error, they let him out on condition that he leave the country. World War II was then in progress, so instead of returning to England, Piers and family moved to America at age six. Piers' father was originally from America. They left on what Piers believes to be the last ship allowed out. Though he was too young to understand what was going on, in time he learned, and retained an abiding hostility to dictatorships.
His parents' marriage grew strained and finally floundered. Suffering the consequences of separation from his first country and his second country as well as the stress of a family going wrong, he showed an assortment of complications such as nervous tics of head and hands, bed-wetting, and inability to learn. It required three years and five schools to get Piers through first grade. He later gained intellectual ground, but lost physical ground. When Piers entered his ninth school in ninth grade he was at the proper level but not the proper size, being the smallest person, male or female, in his class. However, boarding school, and later college, became a better home for him than what he had had, and he managed to grow almost another foot by the time he got his BA in Writing at Goddard College, Vermont, in 1956. This was just as well, because that same year Piers married a tall girl, Carol Ann Marble (Cam), that he met in college. Piers stated that "I had to grow, literally, to meet the challenge." Their daughter Penny was born eleven years later, and their final daughter Cheryl in 1970.
Piers became an American citizen while serving in the U. S. Army in 1958. After his stint in the Army he settled in Florida where he lives today (near the North Village) on his tree farm near a large railroad ditch not unlike the Gap.
Piers had the hodgepodge of employments typical of writers. Of about fifteen types of work he tried, ranging from aide at a mental hospital to technical writer at an electronics company, only one truly appealed, the least successful, being a writer. But the dream remained. His first effort at writing was a story called Evening that was rejected by Galaxy Magazine.
Finally in 1962, at the age of 28, Piers' wife Cam agreed to go to work for a year, so that he could stay home and try to write fiction full time. Cam's vocation was computer programming. The agreement was that if he did not manage to sell anything, he would give up the dream and focus on supporting his family. As it happened, he sold two stories, earning $160. But such success seemed inadequate to earn a living. So Piers became an English teacher, didn't like that either, and in 1966 retired again to writing. This time he wrote novels instead of stories, and with them he was able to earn a modest living. He submitted his first novel, Chthon, which was also his thesis for his BA degree from college, in 1956, and it finally sold as a novel in 1966 and was published in 1967. As with the rest of his life, progress was slow, but a decade later he got into light fantasy with the first of his ongoing Xanth series of novels, A Spell For Chameleon, and that proved to be the golden ring.
Piers was a contributor to a variety of fanzines during the 1960's and 1970's, before the publishers' demands for his fiction became so great that he had little time left for fanzine work. Very early in his career, he showed a tendency towards series novels that could also be enjoyed as stand-alone works. This approach proved most successful for him with his wildly successful Xanth series, and later with the Apprentice Adept and the Incarnations of Immortality series, all of which have been best-sellers. These series have regularly earned Piers a place on various national best-seller lists and have made him one of the top echelon of science fiction/fantasy writers in terms of both reader popularity and sales success.
His first Xanth novel, A Spell for Chameleon, won the British August Derleth Fantasy award for 1977. His novel Ogre, Ogre may have been the first original fantasy paperback ever to make the New York Times bestseller list, and all his fantasies since then have been bestsellers. Translations of Piers' novels have appeared in over ten different languages.
His sales and income soared, and he became one of the most successful writers of the genre, with twenty-one New York Times paperback bestsellers in the space of a decade. In one year alone three of his novels placed on The New York Times bestseller list. The Spokane Public Library gave him the Golden Pen Award for being their favorite fantasy author in 1982.
Because little girls like animals, and Penny and Cheryl were no different, in 1978 they bought nice horses, and that experience, coupled with knee injuries in judo class, became the inspiration for Split Infinity. Piers Anthony is not the protagonist—he says he lacks the style—(no pun intented)—but Penny's horse Blue was the Mundane model for the Night Mare Imbrium (Imbri).
His success enabled Piers to send his two daughters to college, and "drove the wolf quite far from our door." The girls are grown and gone and Piers and Cam now live on their tree farm, and would love to have a wolf by their door, but do have deer and wild cat and other wildlife. Piers is an avid environmentalist. His autobiography to age 50, Bio of An Ogre, is now out of print. There is scheduled to be a sequel, How Precious Was That While, and he is looking for a publisher at the moment. At that time he had had 50 books published, now it is well over 100.
But a writer does not live by frivolous fantasy alone. Today Piers is turning back to serious writing with direct comment on sexual abuse in Firefly, and on history in novels like Tatham Mound, which relates to the fate of American Indians, and the Geodyssey series, covering man's past three and a half million years to the present, and Volk, which shows love and death in Civil War Spain and World War II Germany. So Piers is closing the circle, returning in his writing to the realm he left as a child. His literary personality is splitting, with the fantasy paying his way in Caesar's coin, and the historical research addressing the god of this agnostic. There has always been a serious side to Piers' writing, even in his fantasy, and his readers respond to it. Piers answers 100 to 200 letters a month, so he remains in close touch with them. They tell him that he has taught many of them to read, by showing them that reading could be fun, and that he has saved the lives of some, by addressing concerns such as suicide. Piers dates his letters with his fantasy months, such as "AwGhost," "OctOgre," and "FeBlueberry," but he takes his readers as seriously as he takes his writing. A number of them of his fans become collaborators in a series of joint novels. Piers is a workaholic, and loves his profession. He has, over the years, had an ongoing battle with critics (whom he calls "cri-tics"), who choose to see only the frivolous level. It is doubtful whether his work will ever in his lifetime receive much critical applause, but Piers believes in its validity for the longer haul. So do his readers!
His house is hidden deep in the Iverness, Florida forest, in Citrus County, almost impossible to find. Piers is now on the internet and has been surfing around exploring the mundane world. He dislikes travel and rarely appears at conventions or book signings, however recently he traveled to Maryland (Washington, D.C. area) to do a book signing at Borders. He appeared with Julie Brady, his co-author on Dream a Little Dream.
Piers is a strict vegetarian, an environmentalist, an agnostic, and a concientious objector to war. In a recent interview that Marisol (of PATH) did with Piers, he was asked about his vegetarianism and his opinion of the situation in Kosovo. (Reprinted with permission.)
"It is true: I am vegetarian because I don't like killing, directly or indirectly. But I am not a pacifist, as those who have crossed me have discovered, and I do believe in taking action where necessary. I'm a good friend and a bad enemy. The situation in Kosovo is complicated, and a full answer would be girt about by many hedges and qualifications, but the short answer is that I feel on balance that the US/NATO should intervene and send in ground troops. What the Serbs have been doing there is unconscionable and must be stopped. This does not mean that the Albanians are completely right -- they have their horrors too -- or the Serbs completely wrong, just that we can't in conscience let this mayhem continue. But I must add this: I feel that my status as a novelist does not make me any better qualified to comment than any other person. People tend to think that "celebrities" have some superior wisdom. That's a laugh." ... Piers Anthony Interview by Marisol Ramos, ©1999.
What Piers says about his fan mail: "My mail has been a problem since Xanth started. Originally I typed answers to every letter, but as the total rose to more than 100 a month it cut seriously into my working time. I tried using a secretary, and that speeded it up, but made it less responsive. When I computerized I gradually worked out a system to facilitate letters, and handled as many as 200 in a month, averaging 150 for several years. Only in the past year have I gotten online and learned to handle email."
"At present I answer about 100 letters a month, and read 300 emails. HiPiers acknowledges them all with form responses, but I read them all, and often add personal notes, which I write in pencil on the printouts, and HiPiers transcribes those. So it works well enough, though the emails seem to be increasing from 10 a day, and there could be a problem in the future if this continues. HiPiers averages 4,000 hits a day, so readers could really swamp me if they tried. I appreciate their restraint. The thing is, my attention is personal, even if a form response goes out. I save the suggestions I can use, and there are a hundred or so in each Xanth novel."
"It would be easier to write a novel without reader input, but I feel the fiction is richer for it. I don't want ever to be guilty of what my critics claim: doing formula without original elements. My readers ensure originality, in spot elements, and often in significant ones too. So it's like the problem of the opposite gender: you can't live with it or without it, whichever side you're on. I wish my readers took less of my time—about a third of my working time goes to them—but I love and need them all."
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