It's the birthday of Philip Pullman, (books by this author) born in Norwich, England (1946). His father died in the air force when Philip was seven, and was awarded a medal after his death, and Philip grew up believing his father had been shot down. He learned much later that his father died in a plane crash, and that he had been dropping bombs on the Mau Maus in Kenya, who had no weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down a plane.
His favorite stories as a kid were the cowboy and gangster shows on the radio, ghost stories, and also comics, especially Superman and Batman. He said, "I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It's important to put it like that: not 'I am a writer,' but rather 'I write stories.' If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you're in danger of thinking that you're the most important thing. But you're not. The story is what matters, and you're only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order."
He went to Oxford, but he earned the lowest class of degree. He said, "I thought I was doing quite well until I came out with my third class degree and then I realized that I wasn't — it was the year they stopped giving fourth class degrees otherwise I'd have got one of those." He got a job teaching English to middle schoolers, and he published a novel called The Haunted Storm (1972). He usually acts as if The Haunted Storm doesn't exist when he discusses the books he has written, although it did win an award for young writers — he was only 25 at the time it was published.
Pullman was a popular teacher, and he got his start with children's literature by writing plays for his middle school students to perform. Out of those plays came the books that launched his career as a respected and popular writer, books like Count Karlstein (1982) and The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), the first in his series starring the spirited Victorian heroine Sally Lockhart.
But the books that really made him famous are a trilogy called His Dark Materials, named for a passage in Milton's Paradise Lost:
"Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixt
Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds."
The first book was published as Northern Lights (1995) in Britain, but in the United States they called it The Golden Compass. The books tell the story of two children, Lyra and Will, who journey through shifting worlds, learning about a mysterious particle called Dust that the Church believes is the physical embodiment of Original Sin. They eventually take down the Kingdom of Heaven. The books are full of armored bears, witches, gypsies, people with animal companions who represent their souls, and portals between parallel universes. Despite this, Pullman said, "I've always resisted calling it a fantasy, just to be perverse, and tried to maintain that it's a story of stark realism."
His most recent book is The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (2010), a retelling of the story of Jesus, which divides him into two separate figures: Jesus, a loving and radical preacher, and Christ, his smart and manipulative twin who twists his brother's message and establishes a power structure in order to ensure that Christianity survives. Philip Pullman said: "I have always written what I wanted to write. I have never considered the audience for one second. Ever. It's none of their business what I write! Before publication, I am a despot."
When he writes a book, he writes down scenes on Post-It notes, and then he puts them all on a giant piece of paper and rearranges them. He said that he believes in exercise and healthful eating, but that he himself doesn't practice either of those things, and that the most exercise he usually gets in a day is unscrewing the whiskey bottle.
lifted from The Writer's Almanac