Jane Austen's life is striking for the contrast between the great works she wrote in secret and the outward appearance of being quite dull and ordinary. Austen was born in the small English town of Steventon in Hampshire, and educated at home by her clergyman father. She was deeply devoted to her family. For a short time, the Austens lived in the resort city of Bath, but when her father died, they returned to Steventon, where Austen lived until her death at the age of 41. Austen was drawn to literature early, she began writing novels that satirized both the writers and the manners of the 1790's. Her sharp sense of humor and keen eye for the ridiculous in human behavior gave her works lasting appeal. She is at her best in such books as Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816), in which she examines and often ridicules the behavior of small groups of middle-class characters. Austen relies heavily on conversations among her characters to reveal their personalities, and at times her novels read almost like plays. Several of them have, in fact, been made into films.
Award-winning writer and literary critic Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Ireland in 1955. He studied history and English at University College Dublin, earning his B.A. in 1975. After graduating he moved to Barcelona for three years and taught at the Dublin School of English. In 1978 Tóibín returned to Dublin and began working on an M.A. in Modern English and American Literature. He wrote for In Dublin, Hibernia, and The Sunday Tribune. Tóibín became the Features Editor of In Dublin in 1981, and then a year later accepted the position of Editor for the Irish current affairs magazine Magill. His first book, "Walking Along the Border," was published in 1987, and his first novel, "The South," debuted in 1990. Tóibín wrote for The Sunday Independent as a drama or television critic and political commentator. He has penned several more novels and a travel book, plus edited anthologies and a book of essays, created a play, and written regularly for The London Review of Books. Tóibín's second novel, "The Heather Blazing," received the 1993 Encore Award, and "The Master" achieved the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Lambda Literary Award. Tóibín has been a visiting professor or lecturer at many American universities. In recognition of his contribution to contemporary Irish literature, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Ulster in 2008.
Audrey Niffenegger (born June 13, 1963 in South Haven, Michigan) is an American writer and artist. She is also a professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA Program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (2003), was a national bestseller. The Time Traveler's Wife is an unconventional love story that centers on a man with a strange genetic disorder that causes him to unpredictably time-travel and his wife, an artist, who has to cope with his frequent and unpredictable absences. The film version, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, is due for release in August 2009.