10 Things You Didn't Know About Author Jane Smiley

2016 South Dakota Festival of Books One Book Author Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is the author of the 2016 One Book South Dakota selection Some Luck. Born in 1949, she grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and earned degrees in literature from Vassar College and the University of Iowa. Smiley taught at Iowa State University for 15 years before turning to writing full-time. Though you may be familiar with Smiley and some of her works, here are some intriguing facts about the best-selling author that you probably didn’t know:

1.  Smiley has written almost 30 works of literature.

Smiley has an impressive arsenal of works, from her first publication in 1980 to her most recent one in 2015. Together, she has written over 15 novels, two short story collections, five non-fiction books, five YA novels, and even one television episode for NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street.

2.  Smiley studied in Iceland for a year as a Fulbright Scholar.

 While working towards her doctorate, Smiley spent a year studying abroad in Iceland, which led her to write the epic saga The Greenlanders.

3. Charles Dickens is one of her idols.

As is Anthony Trollope, an English novelist of the Victorian era.

4.  She stands 6’2” tall.

She was attracted to her first husband, Yale basketball player John Whiston, because he was taller than she was.

5. Smiley is married, but remains friendly with her several ex-husbands.

Of her four husbands, she has been married to the last (Jack Canning) for 15 years. Her book Some Luck, the first in her trilogy, is dedicated to her current spouse and her several ex-husbands, who all contributed on some level.

6. She is a mother to five children.

Smiley has three adult children and two stepchildren.

7. She has a bit of an obsession with horses.

Smiley keeps horses at her home in the Carmel Valley of northern California and has even tried her hand at horse breeding. An equine theme appears in some of her works, including her racetrack novel Horse Heaven.

8. She has mastered many genres.

Smiley can’t be pinned to one type of writing. Her published works include an epic, a detective story, a tragedy, a comedy, a romance, a racetrack novel, and a trilogy.

9. She hitchhiked around Europe for a year.

Smiley traveled through Europe for a year with her first husband after graduating from Vassar. They returned to Iowa after he had been accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Iowa.

10. You can like Jane Smiley’s Facebook page to get updates on her work.

Smiley’s Facebook page is managed by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books. Weekly posts give updates on Smiley’s work and appearances in the news. Check it out here!


*For more information on these Jane Smiley facts, consult nprnews.org (For Her First Trilogy, Jane Smiley Returns to Iowa), nytimes.com (A Farm Family’s Century: Crops, Weather, War), Independent.co.uk (Jane Smiley interview: Pulitzer Prize winner on her new trilogy set in the Iowa Badlands), Wikipedia.

Read About Other Festival Authors Like Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is one of many popular authors to be featured as the One Book South Dakota author. The One Book program, started in 2003, is an integral part of the annual South Dakota Festival of Books. To read about more authors like Jane Smiley, click the link below.