Arizona has been home to celebrated authors for decades. They’ve inspired generations and even become household names.
Their characters are there to help us grow, like Junie B. Jones, or terrify us, like Edward Cullen. Their work has explored the depths of the ocean and a galaxy far, far away.
Chances are you’ve either read their stories or watched an adaptation of one of their books and didn’t know the author had Arizona ties.
The state has been the backdrop for crime novels, poetry, comedy, self-help and more. Their works have sold millions of copies, topped best seller lists and sold out movie theaters.
Here are 11 Arizona authors you should know.
Abbey wrote, sometimes controversially, about nature and environmental issues. With classics like “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” Abbey captured the hearts of Arizonans with his passion for defending the wilderness. He died in Tucson in 1989 and was buried in a secret grave in southern Arizona with the epitaph “No comment.”
She was the voice of America’s housewives after her column, “At Wit’s End,” was syndicated nationally in 1965. Bombeck, a humor columnist, wrote about her life as a suburban wife and mother from the mid-1960s until the 1990s. In the 70’s, Bombeck and her family moved to Paradise Valley. Through her career, she published thousands of newspaper columns and 15 books — most of them became best sellers. Such was the case for her popular book, “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” She died in 1996 and was buried back in her home state of Ohio, but her gravestone is from the Arizona desert.
When this author wasn’t writing books, he was leading scores of expeditions to find historic shipwrecks and lost treasures in the depths of the ocean. His books reached The New York Times’ best-seller lists more than 20 times, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. He was perhaps best known for his first series, “Dirk Pitt,” about a marine engineer. His first non-fiction book, “The Sea Hunters,” describes his journey to find famous shipwrecks. Cussler died in Scottsdale in February. He is also the founder of the National Underwater & Marine Agency, a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to American maritime and naval history.
Alan Dean Foster
This science-fiction and fantasy writer lives in Prescott. Foster was the ghostwriter of the original novelization of “Star Wars,” which was credited solely to George Lucas. In addition to “Star Wars,” Foster has produced the novel versions of many films including the first three “Alien” films, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” “Star Trek,” “Terminator: Salvation” and the “Transformers” films. Among his numerous original stories are the “Spellsinger” and “Pip and Flinx” series, along with such rip-roaring space operas as “The Man Who Used the Universe.”
Gabaldon is an Arizona native and the daughter of a state senator from Flagstaff. She is known for her best-selling 1991 novel, “Outlander.” It was the start of a popular series that focuses on a 20th-century British nurse who time travels to 18th-century Scotland and finds love with a warrior. In 2013, the Starz television network ordered 16 episodes of an adaptation of Gabaldon’s book. Starz has renewed the television series for a fifth and sixth season. Gabaldon is currently working on book nine of the “Outlander” series.
Ask anyone to name a western writer and chances are they will say Zane Grey. During his career as a writer, Grey wrote 89 books, including 56 novels set in the West. His best-known novel, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” was published in 1912, the year Arizona became a state. Although he was born in Ohio, Grey spent a lot of time in Arizona and built a cabin on the Mogollon Rim that was destroyed in the 1990 Dude Fire; a replica was built in 2005.
J. A. Jance
The popular mystery writer grew up in Bisbee and is a graduate of the University of Arizona. She is best known for her Joanna Brady series that included 18 books about a female detective living in Bisbee with her daughter and husband. Jance started writing in 1982. Her first book, a slightly fictionalized version of a series of murders that happened in Tucson in 1970, was never published. Jance’s most recent book is part of the Ali Reynolds series titled “Credible Threat,” which was released on June 2.
This Phoenix writer and Arizona State University graduate is an award-winning author, public speaker and playwright. Katan has been treated for breast cancer twice. As a result of her experiences, she has written a memoir and a play about breast cancer. Her first memoir, “My One-Night Stand With Cancer,” received the Stonewall Book Award in 2006. Katan launched the #itwasneveradress campaign in 2015 after a meme she created that swapped the women’s bathroom symbol from a dress to a cape. Katan released her latest book, “Creative Trespassing,” in 2019.
Leslie Marmon Silko
Born into the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, this writer of poetry, fiction and essays moved to the desert outside Tucson in 1978, shortly after publishing her debut novel, “Ceremony.” In 2010, Silko released the critically acclaimed memoir “The Turquoise Ledge,” which draws on three decades of communion with snakes, spiders and the cosmic entities she calls Star Beings.
“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” is a quote made famous by millions of “Twilight” saga fans in the mid 2000’s. The Stephenie Meyer book trilogy turned blockbuster movies centers around a love triangle between a vampire, werewolf and human. Meyer was was raised in Phoenix and still lives here. In May, the author announced that a new Twilight book titled “Midnight Sun” would hit shelves on Aug. 4. The young adult book will tell the “Twilight” story from the eyes of the vampire, Edward Cullen. In addition to the “Twilight” books, Meyer has also published two thrillers for adult readers, “The Host” and “The Chemist”.
This longtime Valley resident is the author of the wildly popular “Junie B. Jones” books, about a spunky little girl with a “big fat mouth.” The character, a spaghetti-loving child navigating her way through elementary school, first appeared in 1992’s “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus.” The character originally was supposed to last for just four books, but Junie’s popularity took off. More than 20 books followed, with sales passing the 43 million mark in 2007. Park died in 2013 of ovarian cancer, but her books are still being read by children today.
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