Lionel Shriver was born Margaret Ann Shriver on May 18, 1957 in Gastonia, North Carolina. She changed her first name because of her preference for it. She was educated at Barnard College, and Columbia University (BA, MFA). She has lived in Nairobi, Bangkok and Belfast, and currently lives in London. Shriver wrote seven novels and published six (one novel could not find a publisher) before writing We Need to Talk About Kevin, which she called her "make or break" novel. She won the 2005 Orange Prize for her eighth published novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, a thriller and close study of maternal ambivalence, and the role it might have played in the title character's decision to murder nine people at his high school. The book created a lot of controversy, and achieved success through word of mouth.