Rye, Sussex, England
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Her father was a writer. A stepbrother and a sister became writers. So there was little doubt of Joan Aiken's future profession.
The third child of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and his Canadian wife, Jessie McDonald Aiken, Joan Aiken saw little of her father when she was growing up. Her parents had divorced when she was young. In her twenties, she often fought with him, but she came to love him in her forties, before his death in 1973.
After the divorce, her mother remarried, and Aiken was taught at home until finances allowed her to attend boarding school. She went to Wynchwood School in Oxford at age twelve.
Aiken grew up with few people around. She was a loner at school. As a teen, she frequently disobeyed rules. In 1941, when she was still a teenager, one of her stories was broadcast on the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Children's Hour. As she attempted to publish more writing, however, more stories were returned with rejection letters.
Aiken worked as a clerk for the BBC from 1941 to 1943. She worked for St. Thomas' Hospital in London in 1943. She was secretary and librarian for the United Nations Information Office in London from 1943 to 1949. In 1945, she married Ronald George Brown, with whom she had two children. Brown died in 1955. Aiken married Julius Goldstein, an American painter, in 1976.
Aiken was features editor for Argosy magazine from 1955 to 1960. She was advertising copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency in London in 1961. She left to become a full-time writer. In 1988, she was writer-in-residence at Lynchburg College.