Laini Taylor spins tales of strange lands, forbidden romances, and hope as the everlasting game changer for young adult readers. As a recent favorite in the genre of YA literature, she lives the fantasy she creates for her audience, whether young or old, and has fun doing it.
Taylor was born on December 11, 1971, in Chico, California. She is a self-proclaimed “navy brat,” having moved along with her family during her childhood to several states and countries, such as Hawaii, Virginia, California, Italy, and Belgium. She graduated from Fountain Valley High School in Orange County in 1989 and from UC Berkeley in 1994 with an English degree. She also took three semesters at the California College of the Arts, studying illustration.
Taylor worked several jobs before she began a career as a novelist. She worked as a travel book writer, a bookseller, a waitress, and an illustrator/designer. Though she admits she’s always had a love of writing, it wasn’t until her early thirties that she began to publish her works, starting with a few graphic and illustrated novels in collaboration with her husband, fellow illustrator/author Jim Di Bartolo. Taylor’s first (graphic) novel, The Drowned (2004), set during the turn of the nineteenth century, unites gothic and fantasy elements with the mysterious past of Theophile, an asylum patient who sees the unseen and encounters several dark figures throughout his journey home, such as witches, priests, deceased loved ones, and orphans.
A few years later, Taylor published her first duology, the Dreamdark series, with illustrations by Di Bartolo. The series, which consist of novels Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger (2009), narrates the perilous adventures of brave young fairies who fight tooth and nail against the insidious darkness overtaking their peaceful forest kingdom. Silksinger, the sequel, won the 2009 Cybils Award for children’s and YA literature for its “three-dimensional world-building, believable characterization, lyrical writing, and nonstop adventure.”
In 2009, Taylor published Lips Touch: Three Times, a fantasy short story anthology with, again, accompanying illustrations by Di Bartolo. The collection’s three short stories narrate the twisted destinies of three young girls who, each in her own way, get caught in the soul-coveting schemes of such mythical tricksters as two-faced goblins and manipulative demons. The anthology was a finalist for the National Book Award that same year. Taylor shared in a recent interview that she had originally planned to sell the stories to magazines before her husband convinced her to turn them into a book.
Laini’s most well-known fantasy series, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, saw the light of day through its first eponymous novel in 2011, followed by Days of Blood and Starlight (2012) and Dreams of Gods and Monsters (2014). Set in present-day Prague, the trilogy follows a young art student with a mysterious past and strange (otherworldly) guardians whose life changes drastically when she sees an angel in the flesh for the first time, an angel whose mission is to kill her and her “kind.” Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the most esteemed novel of the trilogy, won the Audie Award for Best Fantasy Audiobook in 2012 and the Oregon Spirit Book Award for children’s and YA literature. It also landed the number 1 spot in Amazon’s Top Ten Books of 2011 and was dubbed The New York Times Notable Children’s Book of the same year.
Critics and reviewers have lauded Taylor’s fantasy writing as rich, intricate, and dreamlike, pointing out her strengths in crafting colorful and expansive worlds, multidimensional characters, and breathtaking stories. When asked in an interview why she decided to write fantasy fiction, Taylor replied, “Fantasy is what made me a reader and a writer . . . I could write about anything.”
Taylor currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and their daughter, Clementine. She recently wrapped up her latest fantasy series, Strange the Dreamer, last year, following up the first eponymous novel with Muse of Nightmares, the duology about an orphan boy seeking a lost world through his dreams.
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