Susan Cooper

(born 1935)

'A writer of great integrity and skill'

Philip Pullman

An avid reader and writer

Susan Cooper was born in Burnham, Buckinghamshire on 23rd May 1935. Though living near London, Cooper was not evacuated during the war and therefore witnessed the full force of the Blitz as it struck the capital – she later wrote of her experiences during the war in her novel Dawn of Fear (1970).

Cooper attended Slough High School, a local grammar school where she pursued her love of literature. In interviews she has said that she cannot remember a time when she did not write – always creating stories, articles and plays for herself, brother and friends.

Susan Cooper studied English at Oxford University, where she became the first female editor of the university newspaper, Cherwell. After graduating she worked for the Sunday Times as a journalist and features writer – her immediate boss at the time being James Bond creator Ian Fleming. In her spare time she wrote fiction and the first Susan Cooper book was published in 1964 titled Mandrake. Although Mandrake was a fantasy novel for adults , a year later she published a book for children, Over Sea, Under Stone (1965) - the first in her acclaimed The Dark is Rising sequence.

Life in the USA

Soon after the publication of Over Sea, Under Stone Cooper moved to the USA to marry Nicholas Grant, a widowed MIT lecturer. At the age of 27 Cooper suddenly had three teenage step-children. While continuing to write columns for British newspapers she worked on her own books, publishing more novels for children and a biography of playwright J. B. Priestley. She also had two children of her own, Jonathan and Kate.

In the early 1970s she began writing a sequence of novels for children called The Dark is Rising, sequels to Over Sea, Under Stone. Again the books combined traditional Celtic and British imagery with adventure. In 1973 The Dark is Rising was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. It was followed by Greenwitch (1974), The Grey King (1975) and Silver on the Tree (1977). Widely praised and read, the series has gone on to become the most famous of all Susan Cooper books, being adapted for film twice. The Grey King was awarded the Newbery Medal, one of America's most prestigious awards for children's literature.

After the success of the sequence, Cooper enjoyed success on the Broadway stage with her play Foxfire which garnered praise and awards on its debut in 1982. The play, which focused on the Appalachian culture of north Georgia, was co-authored by Hume Cronyn and starred Cronyn’s wife Jessica Tandy. It received a Tony award and later, an Emmy, after being adapted for TV.

Throughout the following decades Cooper published picture books for children: The Silver Cow (1983), The Selkie Girl (1986), and novels:The Boggart (1993), King of Shadows (1998).

Cooper now lives in Massachusetts, near her children and grandchildren. Her most recent book was Victory (2006) a time travelling adventure about the life of Nelson. She is the recipient of two Tir na nÓg Awards, the Janusz Korczak International Literary Prize and the Margaret A. Edwards Award, a lifetime award for a ‘significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature’.

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