photo credit: Jill Krementz
(Please note that this page was compiled by IPL staff who corresponded with this author in 1996. It has not been updated since. Robert Cormier passed away on November 2, 2000.)
Robert Cormier was born and has always lived in Leominster, Massachusets. He grew up there, went to school there, courted and married there, and raised four children in the house where he and his wife, Connie, still live. "I never intend to live anywhere else," he says." There are lots of untold stories right here on Main Street."
Cormier, who was a newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years is inspired by news events and, in some cases, by circumstances in his own life for the basis of his plots. And, he has an outstanding ability to create stories which capture human interest. No critic has ever captured more succinctly Cormier’s ability to make us see what motivates behavior which is often called evil but which becomes understandable when seen through the eyes of his characters." I take real people and put them in extraordinary situations," he said in an interview in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. "I’m very much interested in intimidation. And the way people manipulate other people. and the obvious abuse of authority."
Robert Cormier began writing, he says," in the seventh grade… I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to get something down on paper." And it has been said of him that he was in love with his typewriter. He has won many prizes for his journalism and his novels for young adults. Included in his awards is the Margaret A. Edwards Award of the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association. This award is presented in recognition of those authors who provide young adults with a window through which they can view the world, and which will help them to grow and understand themselves and their role in society." I am delighted to be the recipient of this award," he says," because it is such a clear reflection of what I’ve always hoped my novels could do–show adolsescents the bigness of what’s out there and that happy endings are not our birthright. You have to do something to make them happen."
Cormier loves to travel and has visited almost every state in the U.S. A trip to Australia where he dipped his hand in the Indian Ocean thrilled him beyond measure. He also loves jazz, movies, and staying up late ( to hear jazz and watch movies) and his true heroes are writers like Graham Greene, Thomas Wolfe, and J.D. Salinger. Cormier’s books have been translated into many languages and consistently appear on the Best Books for Young Adults lists of the American Libary Association, THE NEW YORK TIMES, and SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL.
This information was excerpted from material provided by the publicity division of Delacorte Press.
Some titles by Robert Cormier:
AFTER THE FIRST DEATH
THE BUMBLEBEE FLIES ANYWAY
THE CHOCOLATE WAR
I AM THE CHEESE
TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO
WE ALL FALL DOWN
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
Frequently Asked Questions
- Did you like writing FADE?
The writing of FADE was virtually a labor of love. Because I wanted the reader to willingly suspend disbelief when the fade arrived, I tried to create a real world (Frenchtown), a real family, a real boy (the most autobiographical writing I’ve ever done).
- What inspired you to write THE CHOCOLATE WAR?
THE CHOCOLATE WAR was inspired by my son who, as a statement of principle and with the approval of my wife and I, decided not to sell the chocolates during his school’s annual sale. Although nothing terrible happened to him, I as emotionally affected by—what if? What if it all backfired? What if he’d be harassed, intimidated to sell the chocolates. WHAT IF? is the spark that starts all of my writing.
- What is the story behind the title TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO?
TUNES FOR BEARS TO DANCE TO—how we want to touch, to communicate with each other and often fail to do so despite our longings and our loneliness.
- Why did you put the psychological tapes in I AM THE CHEESE?
All the bike ride scenes were written first in I AM THE CHEESE. When the second level developed—the Witness Program—I devised the Brint/Adam tapes so as not to disturb the flow of the bike ride.
- Why did you find it necessary for the character, Kate Forrester, to die in AFTER THE FIRST DEATH?
I felt doom descending on Kate all during AFTER THE FIRST DEATH. She was an amateur pitted against professionals and amateurs usually comit errors sooner or later. I am often asked why I killed Kate— my answer: I didn’t kill her. Miro did. But he didn’t mean to.
- Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite author, the mentor of my mature years, is Graham Greene, the author I try to emulate not imitate. His novels are constant sources of inspiration for me. THE END OF THE AFFAIR, one of the great novels of this century, never fails to move me and make me feel like writing. J.D. Salinger and his short stories are writings I turn to all the time. Earlier influences: Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Saroyan. Later: Brian Moore, John O’Hara (APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA, another great 20th century novel.). I love detective stories— they always deliver a beginning, middle and end, a satisfying climax or ephiphany.
- What are your favorite books?
- What are your best writing situations?
I don’t need special circumstances. My newspaper years taught me to write amid noise, confusion, phones ringing, people talking, all kinds of interruptions. All is need is a typewriter— and time.
- When are the times you usually get most of your ideas?
Although a terrific idea may sometimes occur as I’m driving the car or just before falling asleep, the magic virtually happens for me when I’m at the typewriter, writing, the characters developing, the words singing and dancing on the page.
- What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time I read, read, read. I love the movies, watch them on the VCR. I love old music–from U2, ABBA, Beatles, Rolling Stones to Dixieland Jazz, the blues, Louis Armstrong, early Bing Crosby. Exercise—I walk two miles a day.
- What inspired you to be an author?Do you ever give up?
I can’t remember wanting to be anything but a writer. Wrote my first poem at 12 in the seventh grade. I have never stopped and cannot contemplate ever stopping—until everything stops.
- What are you writing now?
I am halfway through a new novel—but it seems that I am always halfway through a new novel.
- Do you enjoy being an author?
I love being a writer. I love the act of writing even the days when the words don’t come and the writing seems dull and the characters won’t come to life. But at least I get something down on paper, something to rewrite later. The enemy is the blank page— ending the day with blank pages is somehow like committing a sin.
- Which of your books do you like the best?
My books are like children— I find something to love, something special in all of them. But I have a special feeling for THE CHOCOLATE WAR. With this novel, I discovered the young adult audience and that audience discovered me. My life was literally changed by the publication of this novel.
- What advice do you give to young people who want to be authors?
We all start out with the same alphabet. We are all unique. Talent is not the most important thing — discipline and dedication are. Craft can be learned but desire and longing are innate. Despite the demands of school and just being young, try to write SOMETHING every day — a description, a captured emotion, a simile, a metaphor. Read, for crying out loud! A writer must read the way a ball player must go to the ballfield every day to practice. Everything is possible in this world of ours— and so’s publication.