Joan Aiken was born in Sussex in 1924. She was the daughter of the American poet, Conrad Aiken; her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge, is also a novelist. Before joining the 'family business' herself, Joan had a variety of jobs, including working for the BBC, the United Nations Information Centre and then as features editor for a short story magazine. Her first children's novel, The Kingdom of the Cave, was published in 1960.
Joan Aiken wrote over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Amanda Craig, writing in The Times, said, 'She was a consummate story-teller, one that each generation discovers anew.' Her best-known books are those in the James III saga, of which The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was the first title, published in 1962 and awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been filmed. Her books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in this country for The Whispering Mountain.
Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children's books. She died in 2004.