Birthday: September 4, 1924
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Virgo
Born in: Rye, East Sussex, England
Famous as: Writer
Quotes By Joan Aiken
Spouse/Ex-: Julius Goldstein (1976-2001), Ronald George Brown (1945-1955)
father: Conrad Aiken
mother: Jessie MacDonald
siblings: Jane Aiken Hodge, John Aiken
Died on: January 4, 2004
place of death: Petworth, West Sussex
Who was Joan Aiken?
Joan Aiken was one of the most loved and noted English writers who specialized in writing supernatural thrillers and charmingly quirky children’s novels. She was bestowed with the prestigious title of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire MBE, for her contributions in the field of children’s literature. Additionally, she was also conferred with Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and Edgar Allan Poe Award. Born to British writer Conrad Aiken, since young Joan developed a knack for story-telling which only bettered with time. Having completed her formal education, she turned to writing children’s novels and fiction stories at a young age. In her lifetime, she wrote on various genres including magic, fantasy, adventure and thriller. In total, she came up with almost 92 novels including 27 novels for adults, as well as plays, short stories and poems. Her most famous classic, ‘The Wolves of the Willoughby Chase’ went on to become the magnum opus of her career. Following the super success of the novel, she penned a series under it.
Childhood & Early Life
Joan Aiken was born as Joan Delano Aiken to Conrad Aiken and Jessie MacDonald on September 4, 1924 in Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex. She was the third child and second daughter of the couple.
While her father was an established poet and American Pulitzer Prize winner, her mother was a Master’s graduate from Radcliffe College. Both her elder brother and sister were writers too.
Her parents divorced in 1929. Following their separation, her mother married an English writer Martin Armstrong, while her father tied the knot twice. Young Aiken and her siblings stayed with her mother.
She gained her early education from her mother, who trained her academically until she turned twelve. Later on, from 1936 to 1940, she studied at Wychwood School for Girls in Oxford. She did not enrol at the university.
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Having a family legacy of writers with her parents and siblings all tuning into the profession, it was only natural for young Aiken to join the bandwagon. She turned to writing at a young age.
By the age of sixteen, she had already penned her first full-length novel and the following year, had her first short story for adults printed in a publication. It was in 1941 that her first children’s story was broadcasted on the BBC’s Children’s Hour.
From 1943 to 1949, she worked for United Nations Information Centre in London as a librarian.
In 1955, following the sudden demise of her husband, she joined the magazine, Argosy.
At Argosy, she took up various profiles and worked in the editorial department in several capacities. Furthermore, it was at Argosy that she learned the small little nuances of writing, which helped her turn into a professional writer.
From 1955 to 1960, Argosy was the primary magazine in which her short stories were published. Meanwhile, she also came up with two collections of children’s stories and children’s novel during this time.
Having established a reputation for herself as a children’s writer, she gave up her job at Argosy and turned to the profession of writing full-time. Every year, she churned out two or three children’s book and thrillers. Additionally, she also contributed several articles, introductions and talks on children's literature and on the work of Jane Austen.
In 1962, she came up with her magnum opus work. Initially titled ‘Bonnie Green’, this children’s novel became known by the name, ‘The Wolves of the Willoughby Chase’. It went on to gain enormous positive response from its readers.
Following the success of the novel ‘The Wolves of the Willoughby Chase’, she came up with 12 more novels on similar subject that subsequently became known as ‘Wolves Chronicle’ or the ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series’ or the ‘James III series’. It included a prequel, ‘The Whispering Mountain’ and 10 other sequels.
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In her lifetime, she had penned more than hundred books, which include a dozen collections of fantasy stories, plays, poems, historical novels and modern tales for adults and children.
She is noted for penning spine-chilling thriller novels for children such as ‘The Windscreen Weepers’, ‘The Shadow Guests’, ‘A Whisper in the Night’, and ‘A Creepy Company’. In the same genre, she wrote an adult novel as well which was known by the name ‘The Haunting of Lamb House’.
Awards & Achievements
For her significant contribution to children and adult literature, she was conferred with two prestigious awards in her life, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1969 and the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1972.
She made it to the runner up position for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, after her book was recognised as the year's best children's book by a British subject.
She was bestowed with the honorary title of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1999 for her service as a children’s short story writer and novelist.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1945, she tied the nuptial knot with Ronald George Brown, a journalist by profession who took worked for UNIC. The couple was blessed with two children. Tragically Brown passed away in 1955.
In 1976, she married New York landscape painter and teacher, Julius Goldstein. The two divided their time between Petworth, West Sussex and New York. In 2001, Goldstein too passed away.
She breathed her last on January 4, 2004 at the age of 79. She was survived by her two children.
Not many know that this established children’s short story writer and novelist who is credited for the novel, ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ was a lifelong fan of ghost stories, particularly those of M. R. James, Fitz James O'Brien and Nugent Barker.