Home ---- Biography ---- My Books---- Contact ---


I grew up in Lockerbie, a small market town in southwest Scotland, where my father was the Presbyterian minister. A lot of my childhood memories center on the freedom my siblings, Peter and Ann, and I had to explore the fields and woods around our home. One of our favorite places to play was the Boggy Bit, a stretch of wasteland that someone had tried to drain, but had given up on. It was scored by a large number of parallel ditches, which disappeared into a marsh. We spent hours there catching minnows, sticklebacks and tadpoles, and picking wildflowers.

One summer we mapped the Boggy Bit, naming every ditch and plank bridge, and made up involved adventure stories about the imaginary inhabitants of our land. Perhaps that piece of marshy ground provided the crossover between nature study and fiction that eventually led me to write both science books and fantasy. They weren’t far removed from one another in The Boggy Bit.

I attended Edinburgh University, obtaining an honours degree in Genetics, although there wasn’t so much to learn about genetics back then. This led to a job as a statistician at East Malling Research Station in the south of England. The kidsFrom there I emigrated to Canada, where I met my future husband, Norm. We ended up in Corvallis, Oregon, where Norm taught Entomology at Oregon State University. I took up writing, while raising four children, Richard, Judith, Susan and Karen.

After writing articles for children’s magazines, such as Ranger Rick and Nature and Science, and a book on insects, I tried my hand at fiction. A lot of those early fiction books were set in Scotland, giving me the chance to travel back there in my mind.


SmailholmI’ve published biographies of several famous scientists – Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus and Aristotle. I’ve also written about not-quite-so-famous scientists, such as David Douglas and Henri Fabre. Fabre in Children of Summer is an eccentric entomologist. One of the joys of that book was working with the gifted illustrator, Marie Le Glatin Keis. Marie and I traveled to France together to visit Fabre’s museum and some of his old haunts. It was a happy journey and Marie introduced me to sketching.

Writing tends to be a solitary occupation, but I have enjoyed several joint projects, including three Nature Discovery books, co-written with my daughter Karen Stephenson and publisher Nan Field. I’ve also done a couple of biographies with Karen (Scientists of the Ancient World and Aristotle) and have collaborated with archaeologist Gwinn Vivian on writing Chaco Canyon and with Pam Cressey on Alexandria, Virginia. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with Wendy Madar at Lychgate Press, who is bringing several of my out-of-print fiction titles back to life and is the publisher of From a Place Far Away.

M & N

On every article and book I’ve written from my very first (Exploring the Insect World) I’ve had all sorts of help and encouragement from my husband, Norm. Although he has retired from Oregon State University, he still follows the life cycles of the bugs that live in the streams that run through our property. I’ve never written a book about Norm, but he’s been there in all of them.




Sketches from Children of Summer used with permission of the illustrator,
Mari le Glatin Keis

Return to Top


Home   Biography   My Books   Contact

Webpage updated: July 17, 2016

Webpage © Dianne Designs in Oregon