Excerpted from They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan. Copyright © 1990 by Lois Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Lois Duncan grew up in Sarasota, Florida and from early childhood she knew she wanted to be a writer. She submitted her first story to a magazine at the age of 10 and made her first sale at 13. Throughout her high-school years, she wrote regularly for young people's publications, particularly Seventeen Magazine.
"My first book was a young adult novel because I wrote it at age 20, and teenage subject matter was all I knew about," Duncan says. "Today, although I write other types of books as well, I still choose to write primarily for teenagers because I love the sensitivity, vulnerability and responsiveness of that age reader."
Duncan is best known for her brilliant psychological suspense novels. She was drawn to this genre because those were the books he enjoyed reading. Of her writing technique, she once said, "Although I've been told that some authors start writing with only a general idea in mind and let their stories evolve on their own, I couldn't work that way. My books are tightly plotted and carefully constructed; every sentence is there for a reason. Personally, I can't imagine writing a book without knowing exactly how it's going to end. It would be like setting out on a cross-country trip without a road map."
Her next writing project was, by necessity, of a totally different nature. "There was no way I could force myself to create a fictional mystery when our real-life mystery was consuming me," she says. "For sanity's sake, I decided that I had to switch channels." The result was The Circus Comes Home, a book for all ages about life behind the scenes at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Duncan's home town was winter quarters for the circus in the 1940s, and her photographer father, Joseph Steinmetz, captured its magic on film. His remarkable photographs of elephants climbing onto the circus train, Emmett Kelly, the clown, in a bubble bath, and the Flying Wallendas teaching their four-year-old to walk the high wire provide stunning illustrations for Duncan's colorful essay about "a life that was fashioned of sawdust and star dust."
Duncan's most popular teenage novels have had to do with psychic phenomena, a subject that she admits she used to consider fantasy. "Today I believe differently," she says. "My experiences with psychic detectives during Kait's murder investigation have forced me to change my mind about what is and isn't possible. I feel a responsibility to let my readers know that ESP, as represented in books of mine such as A Gift of Magic and The Third Eye, is a reality." Other popular novels for teens by the author include Killing Mr. Griffen and I Know What You Did Last Summer, both of which were recently adapted for film.
Her nonfiction book, Psychic Connections: A Journey into the MysteriousWorld of Psi, written in collaboration with William Roll, Ph.D., projectdirector for the Psychical Research Foundation, introduces teenagers to thefascinating world of parapsychology. Based on laboratory research anddocumented case histories, Psychic Connections addresses such subjectsas astral projection, near-death experiences, apparitions and hauntings,poltergeists, clairvoyance, telepathy, and practical applications of ESP, suchas the use of psychic detectives by law enforcement.
author fun facts
Born: April 28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education: University of New Mexico
Currently lives: North Carolina
Favorite . . .
. . . hobbies: photography
. . . foods: rare roast beef, spaghetti, avocados, tomatoes, shell fish, anything chocolate
. . . clothes to wear: shorts and bare feet in summer; jeans and sweat shirts in winter
. . colors: yellow
. . . books: everything
Inspiration for writing: It's what I do. Like breathing.
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