Not many are as well read with Piers Anthony as they are with such famous authors
like Poe or Shakespeare. There are just a few random people here and there who
know of him, maybe a bit more than that at times if you are lucky. But those
who pick up one of his books will find themselves deep inside the mind of a
man whose creativity knows no boundaries. Within the pages of his numerous novels,
short stories and essays lay unfathomable numbers of people, places and things
that nurture your inner most emotions into being.
Anthony has created whole worlds beneath his pencil, and one sometimes wonders
how he has done this. What things in his life have contributed to his many works?
One may ask how he has written so many works of art that seem to pull his readers
in, trap them, make them laugh and cry, smile and frown, and think as well,
and most of all...set them free from their bleak realities for at least a little
Within these following pages are the inspirations of Anthony and what has happened
in his life that has made his writings the way they are. They will explain the
occurrences of his childhood and middle life that shaped his imagination, and
what things he has written to touch the lives of others. This will take a glimpse
into the mind and world of the fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi author Piers Anthony,
a man living between two worlds.
Anthony was born on August 6, 1934, in Oxford, England, making him a Leo (Anthony
5). This seems to have been the first step to being a future creative genius.
It is said that Leos possess a great need and desire to create and lead the
way into new things and ideas (Yahoo! Astrology). Piers Anthony was actually
not his full name. His mother has named him Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob,
his mother having figured he may become famous one day and gave him the extra
names to draw on for pseudonyms should he ever need one (Anthony 5). Today,
Anthony uses his first and second names for his pseudonym.
The readers of the Anthony's novels may see the reoccurring harmonicas in the
stories and this is because of something that happened during the author's childhood.
Around his sixth birthday, Anthony took a voyage to America on the ship Excalibur
and the birthday was celebrated while on board. One of the gifts he received
was a harmonica. He loved the gift and not only loves harmonicas until this
day, and has a very nice one of his own now and that is why they appear in his
works (Anthony 16).
Upon arrival in America, Anthony was enrolled in the first grade at a school
located in Media, Pennsylvania (Anthony 20) and then was later transferred to
a boarding school in New York State (Anthony 23). Here he learned some lovely
songs and fell in love with the concept of day following the dark. One of the
songs that stayed with him was called "Wake Nicodemus" and was about
a black slave during the Civil War (Anthony 25):
Twas a long weary night/
We were almost in fear that the future was more than he knew/
Twas a long weary night but the morning is near/
And the words of our prophet are true.
There are signs in the sky that the darkness is gone/
There are tokens in endless array/
While the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn/
On hastens the event of the day. ("Wake Nicodemus")
Anthony's best friend at the time was a young black boy named Craig Work (Anthony
25). Both his friend and the song seemed to have played a roll in his view on
racism, which is reflected in several of his writings. "It has been the
custom of racists to claim that some of their best friends are black, making
a mockery of the term "friendship"; my best friend really was, and
racism is anathema to me. This, too, was to have an effect on my adult career"
(Anthony 25). The proof of such can be found in one of his Xanth novels
called Xone of Contention, in which a black girl named Breanna is the
While Anthony was still in first grade, his family moved to a farm in Vermont,
miles away from the nearest town (Anthony 33). The whole area was surrounded
by forests, which Anthony came to love. "I retain a deep liking for the
forest, and it shows in my fiction" (Anthony 33). In most of his novels,
the Xanth series especially, forests are a large and important part of
While Anthony and his family were in Vermont, his parents began fighting a little
because of their extreme differences of opinion between his father's love of
the country and his mother's love of the city. "I believe this became the
final stress upon their marriage, this difference in life styles, and this too
is reflected in my fiction" (Anthony 34). This did affect his future writings,
shown by some of his works that contain conflicts between two separate environments.
One very good example is his series of books known as the Adept series.
In the series, there are two parallel worlds, one of which is almost all rural
and the other is almost all urban.
At the farm in Vermont, the family lived without electricity (Anthony 34). This
played a major factor on his adult career, and while may not have been found
within his works, certainly affected the way he wrote them. "For many years-
well over a decade- I wrote my novels in pencil and typed them on a manual typewriter,
preferring to be independent of electricity, as we were there" (Anthony
The next influential occurrence in Anthony's younger years happened when he
was 11 years old, at a school called Rose Valley. While there, Anthony fell
in love for the first time (Anthony 49). Though it was only "puppy love"
it was as strong as any other kind (Anthony 49). From this point on, his ideas
of the perfect woman were molded from this girl named Herta Payson (Anthony
49). "Puppy love? That's what they call it. But my definition of the ideal
women was molded by the image of that girl. For many years I required my wife
to wear her hair long, to her discomfort, and my daughter Penny has never had
her hair cut short. It shows in my fiction: Long hair is what makes a woman
feminine" (Anthony 49). Examples of this are in almost every work of his,
in one way or another. Many of the heroines in the stories that he would come
to write had long, lovely hair. He eventually wrote about Rapunzel as well (Anthony
During the middle and later years of Anthony's life, a few very important things
affected his life and inspired him to write. One of these things was simply
having children (Anthony "Thank you for your note
"). He was
married to his college sweetheart in 1956, three days after he graduated from
Goddard with his Bachelor of Arts degree (Anthony 87). After a few failed tries
to have children, they finally succeeded on October 12, 1967 with their first
daughter whom they named Penny (Anthony 138). "Having children led to my
awareness of fantasy of interest to children, and the Xanth series reflects
that, though they are adult novels" (Anthony "Thank you for your note
During Penny's infant existence, it took Anthony an entire year to write his
book Marcoscope (Anthony 140). Thus, having a child effected his writing
greatly in both content and the creating there of. Anthony went on to write
such fantasy series as the Apprentice Adept Series, Incantations of
Immortality Series, Tarot Series, and many more.
Penny also affected his writings later in her life. "My daughter's interest
in archaeology led to my involvement in the excavation of an Indian burial mound,
and the major novel of my career, Tatham Mound" (Anthony "Thank
you for your note
One of Anthony's books, called Letters to Jenny, which was reprinted
in December of 1994, and was the product of one of the more horrible occurrences
in his life that affected his writings. The book is a compilation of letters
from seven years (so far) that Anthony had written to a girl named Jenny (Anthony
"Thank you for your note
"), who lay in a coma after being struck
by a drunk driver. This also led to the creation of a character in the Xanth
novels called Jenny Elf (Amazon.com "Letters to Jenny").
After extensive researchh, it has been decided that the life of the fiction,
fantasy and sci-fi author, Piers Anthony did, in fact, have a direct effect
on his writings. People, places, things and events have found their way into
his works after making their mark upon him. Examples of this are music and songs
from his childhood, his family life, and his childhood friends and memories
that were mentioned before. The occurrences within Anthony's life have shaped
the worlds that he has created and determined what he has placed in them. His
works hold the truths of living, and contains the lessons that Anthony has learned
throughout his many years.
Anthony, Piers. Bio of an Ogre. New York: Ace Books, 1988.
---. "Thank you for your note
" E-mail. 5 February 2001.
"Yahoo! Astrology." Leo profile. http://astrology.yahoo.com/us/astrology/profile/leo.html.
Work, Henry Clay. "Wake Nicodemus." http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/2636/lyrics.htm#wake.
"Amazon.com: buying info: Letters to Jenny." http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812522826/ref=ase_crescentbluesele/105-1223774-2911157.