John Knowles was born in 1926 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He left home at age 15
to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire.
After graduating in 1945, he spent eight months in the U.S. Army Air Force's Aviation
Cadet Program, then enrolled at Yale University, which awarded him a bachelor's degree in 1949.
Knowles worked as a journalist and free-lance writer from 1950 to 1956. He traveled in
Europe during this period and began to publish short stories. The playwright Thornton Wilder
took an early interest in Knowles's fiction writing, encouraging him to write about compelling
experiences from his past. In 1957 Knowles became an associate editor at Holiday magazine.
The success of his first published novel, A Separate Peace, allowed him to resign this position
and devote his time to traveling and writing fiction.
Knowles has published eight other novels, a book on travel, and a collection of stories.
He has lectured widely and served as writer-in-residence at Princeton University and the
University of North Carolina. While none of Knowles's later novels received the critical
and popular acclaim that greeted A Separate Peace, reviewers have generally praised
his craftsmanship and his talent for describing local atmosphere. In his fiction, Knowles
often explores the effects of greed, competitiveness, and emotional repression on his
characters, many of whom are affluent Americans.