TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England, the only child of David and Eileen Pratchett, of Hay-on-Wye. He passed his eleven plus exam in 1959, earning him a place in a technical school (High Wycombe Technical High School). Pratchett described himself as a "nondescript student", and in his Who's Who entry, credits his education to the Beaconsfield Public Library.

His early interests included astronomy; he collected Brooke Bond tea cards about space, owned a telescope and desired to be an astronomer, but was no good at mathematics. However, this led to an interest in reading British and American science fiction. In turn, this led to attending science fiction conventions from about 1963/4, which stopped when he got his first job.His early reading included the works of H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and "every book you really ought to read" which he now regards as "getting an education"

At the age of 13, Pratchett published his first short story The Hades Business in the school magazine. It was published commercially when he was 15. Pratchett earned 5 O-levels and started 3 A-level courses, in Art, English and History. Pratchett's first career choice was journalism and he left school at 17 in 1965 to start working for the Bucks Free Press. However, he finished his A-Level in English, and took a proficiency course for journalists.

Pratchett got his first 'break' in 1968, when working as a journalist. He came to interview Peter Bander van Duren, co-director of a small publishing company. During the meeting, Pratchett mentioned he had written a manuscript, The Carpet People. Bander van Duren and his business partner, Colin Smythe (of Colin Smythe Publishing) published the book in 1971, with illustrations by Pratchett himself.The book received strong, if few reviews. The book was followed by the science fiction novels The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata, published in 1976 and 1981, respectively.

After various positions in journalism, in 1983 Pratchett became Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board in an area which covered three nuclear power stations. He later joked that he had demonstrated "impeccable timing" by making this career change so soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, USA, and said he would "write a book about his experiences, if he thought anyone would believe it".

The first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic was published in 1983 by Colin Smythe in hardback and by New English Library in paperback. The publishing rights for paperback were soon taken by Corgi, an imprint of Transworld, the current publisher. Pratchett received further popularity after the BBC's Woman's Hour broadcast The Light Fantastic as a serial in six parts, after it was published in 1986. Subsequently, rights for hardback were taken by the publishing house Victor Gollancz, which has remained Pratchett's publisher, and Smythe became Pratchett's agent. Pratchett was the first fantasy author published by Gollancz.

Pratchett gave up working for the CEGB in 1987 after finishing the fourth Discworld novel Mort, to fully focus on and make his living through writing. His sales increased quickly and many of his books occupied top places of the best-seller list. According to The Times, Pratchett was the top selling and highest earning UK author in 1996. Some of his books have been published by Doubleday, another Transworld imprint. In the US, Pratchett is published by HarperCollins.

According to the Bookseller's Pocket Yearbook from 2005, in 2003 Pratchett's UK sales amounted to 3.4% of the fiction market by hardback sales and 3.8% by value, putting him in 2nd place behind J. K. Rowling (6% and 5.6% respectively), while in the paperback sales list Pratchett came 5th with 1.2% by sales and 1.3% by value (behind James Patterson (1.9% and 1.7%), Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham and J. R. R. Tolkien). His sales in the UK alone are more than 2.5 million copies a year.

Terry Pratchett married his wife Lyn in 1968 and they moved to Rowberrow, Somerset in 1970. Their daughter Rhianna Pratchett, who is also a writer, was born there in 1976. In 1993, the family moved south west of Salisbury, Wiltshire, where they currently live. He lists his recreations as "writing, walking, computers, life". He describes himself as a humanist and is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.

Pratchett is well known for his penchant for wearing large, black hats, as seen on the inside back covers of most of his books. His style has been described as "more that of urban cowboy than city gent."

Concern for the future of civilisation has prompted him to install five kilowatts of photovoltaic cells (for solar energy) at his house. In addition, his childhood interest in astronomy has led him to build an observatory in his garden.