Wilson, Joyce M(uriel Judson) 1921-(Joyce Stranger)
WILSON, Joyce M(uriel Judson) 1921-(Joyce Stranger)
PERSONAL: Born May 26, 1921, in London, England; daughter of Ralph (an advertising manager) and Beryl Judson; married Kenneth B. Wilson, February 28, 1944; children: Andrew Bruce, Anne Patricia and Nicholas David (twins). Ethnicity: British. Education: London University, B.Sc., 1942. Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Dog shows—competes in breed, obedience and working trials; canine behavior consulting.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Gillon Aitken Associates Ltd., 29 Fernshaw Road, London SW10 0TG, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Imperial Chemical Industries, Manchester, England, research chemist, 1942-46. Lecturer and writer on dog training.
MEMBER: Society of Authors, Institute of Journalists, United Kingdom Registry of Canine Behaviourists, Canine Concern England (honorary president), People and Dogs Society (honorary president).
AWARDS, HONORS: Short listed, 2001, for the Golden Bone Award for best dog writer of the year.
CHILDREN'S BOOKS; UNDER PSEUDONYM JOYCE STRANGER
Wild Cat Island, illustrated by Joe Acheson, Methuen (London, England), 1961.
Circus All Alone, illustrated by Sheila Rose, Harrap (London, England), 1965.
Jason, Nobody's Dog, illustrated by Douglas Phillips, Dent (London, England), 1970.
The Honeywell Badger, illustrated by Douglas Phillips, Dent (London, England), 1972.
Paddy Joe, Collins (London, England), 1973.
The Hare at Dark Hollow, illustrated by Charles Pickard, Dent (London, England), 1973.
Trouble for Paddy Joe, Collins (London, England), 1973.
The Secret Herds: Animal Stories, illustrated by Douglas Reay, Dent (London, England), 1974.
Paddy Joe at Deep Hollow Farm, Collins (London, England), 1975.
The Fox at Drummer's Darkness, illustrated by William Geldart, Dent (London, England), 1976, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1977.
The Wild Ponies, illustrated by Robert Rothero, Kaye & Ward (London, England), 1976.
Joyce Stranger's Book of Hanaák's Animals (poetry), illustrated by Mirko Hanák, Dent (London, England), 1976.
Paddy Joe and Thomson's Folly, Pelham (London, England), 1979.
The Curse of Seal Valley, Dent (London, England), 1979.
Vet on Call, Carousel (London, England), 1981.
Double Trouble, Carousel (London, England), 1981.
Vet Riding High, Carousel (London, England), 1982.
No More Horses, Carousel (London, England), 1982.
Dial V.E.T., Carousel (London, England), 1982.
Marooned!, Kaye & Ward (London, England), 1982.
The Hound of Darkness, Dent (London, England), 1983.
Shadows in the Dark, Kaye & Ward (London, England), 1984.
The Family at Fools' Farm, Dent (London, England), 1985.
Spy, the No-Good Pup, Dent (London, England), 1989.
Midnight Magic, Lions (London, England), 1991.
Animal Park Trilogy, Lions (London, England), 1992.
The Runaway, Lions (London, England), 1992.
The Secret of Hunter's Keep, Lions (London, England), 1993.
The House of Secrets Trilogy, Lions (London, England), 1994.
A Cherished Freedom, Severn House (London, England), 2001.
Cry to the Moon, Severn House (London, England), 2002.
ADULT BOOKS; UNDER PSEUDONYM JOYCE STRANGER
The Running Foxes, illustrated by David Rook, Hammond (London, England), 1965, Viking (New York, NY), 1966.
Breed of Giants, Hammond (London, England), 1966, Viking (New York, NY), 1967.
Rex, Harvill Press (London, England), 1967, Viking (New York, NY), 1968.
Born to Trouble, Viking (New York, NY), 1968, published as Casey, Harvill Press (London, England), 1968.
The Wind on the Dragon, Viking (New York, NY), 1969, published as Rusty, Harvill Press (London, England), 1969.
One for Sorrow, Corgi (London, England), 1969.
Zara, Viking (New York, NY), 1970.
Chia, the Wildcat, Harvill Press (London, England), 1971.
Lakeland Vet, Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
Walk a Lonely Road, Harvill Press (London, England), 1973.
A Dog Called Gelert and Other Stories (short stories), Corgi (London, England), 1973.
Never Count Apples, Harvill (London, England), 1974.
Never Tell a Secret, Harvill (London, England), 1975.
Flash, Collins & Harvill (London, England), 1976.
Khazan, the Horse That Came Out of the Sea, Collins & Harvill Press (London, England), 1977.
A Walk in the Dark, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1978.
The January Queen, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1979.
The Stallion, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1981.
The Monastery Cat and Other Stories (short stories), Corgi (London, England), 1982.
Josse, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1983.
The Hounds of Hades, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1985.
The Hills Are Lonely, Souvenir (London, England), 1993.
Thursday's Child, Souvenir (London, England), 1994.
A Cry on the Wind, Souvenir (London, England), 1995.
Perilous Journey, Souvenir (London, England), 1998.
A Cherished Freedom, Severn House (Surrey, England), 2001.
Cry to the Moon, Severn House (Surrey, England), 2001.
Call of the Sea, Severn House (Surrey, England), 2002.
OTHER; UNDER PSEUDONYM JOYCE STRANGER
Kym: The True Story of a Siamese Cat, illustrated by William Geldart, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1976, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1977.
Two's Company, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1977.
Three's a Pack, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1980.
All about Your Pet Puppy, Pelham (London, England), 1980.
How to Own a Sensible Dog, Corgi (London, England), 1981.
Two for Joy, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1982.
Stranger Than Fiction: The Biography of Elspeth Bryce-Smith, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1984.
A Dog in a Million, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1984.
Dog Days, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1986.
Double or Quit, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1987.
Wilson's manuscripts are held at Boston University.
ADAPTATIONS: Jason was filmed by Walt Disney Productions; The Fox at Drummers' Darkness was filmed as The Wild Dog; The Honeywell Badger and The Hare at Dark Hollow were adapted for television by the British Broadcasting Corp.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Short stories, serials, feature articles, book as yet untitled.
SIDELIGHTS: Joyce M. Wilson has written about animals for over thirty years under the pseudonym of Joyce Stranger. She studied to be a biologist, specializing in animal behavior. It is no surprise, therefore, that she calls the animal material in her books "autobiographical"; they are written about animals she has known—horses she used to ride, hares that lived near her house, or dogs she has owned. Wilson's books all promote the rewards of partnerships between humans and animals. She commented in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers that "for many people, an animal can provide a harmony lacking in day-to-day relationships with people."
Many of her books, including Jason, Nobody's Dog, Walk a Lonely Road, and Spy, the No-Good Pup, explore the theme of friendship between humans and animals. Other books tell of humans who, intentionally or otherwise, mistreat animals. The Honeywell Badger, for instance, is the story of two young children who are so set upon having a badger for a pet that they ignore the consequences of trying to tame such an animal. In the 1973 book Trouble for Paddy Joe it is Paddy Joe's poor training of his pet Alsatian, Storm, that causes the animal to become lost in the Scottish wilderness.
Several of Wilson's books are told from the animal's point of view. The Hare at Dark Hollow, for example, is the story of how a hare adapts to changes in its natural surroundings. "The Hare at Dark Hollow came from a hare that lived near us in the middle of a housing estate," Stranger once explained. "She reared her family on a tiny playing field and fed in the gardens. There were hares there until we moved to Anglesey, yet the field was only about an acre in size. Another hare was on our caravan site and used to lurk and watch stock car racing. There are hares all over Manchester airport."
One of Wilson's literary strengths, according to critics, is her ability to appeal to a wide audience of adults and children. A reviewer for Junior Bookshelf, writing about The Hound of Darkness, not only praised Wilson's "deep feeling for wild country and for nature in its harshest moods," but noted that it is "by no means a book for children alone, or even for them particularly."
Although Wilson's books concentrate on deepening her readers' understanding of animals and their needs, she does not go to extremes in defending animal rights. In The Family at Fools' Farm, for example, eighteen-year-old Jan is hampered in her attempts to keep her family together and make the farm profitable by the irresponsible activities of a group of animal rights activists. A critic in Growing Point called the book an "absorbing and stirring narrative," while a Junior Bookshelf reviewer stated that the book gives "an honest picture of what farming really means in daily repetitive hard work and disappointment when crops fail or animals are sick," but it also shows the joys and pleasures of "the fruition of plans followed out against all odds."
In Midnight Magic Wilson writes of twelve-year-old Mandy, who has been thrown from a horse and is now afraid to ride again. Wilson incorporates much information about horses and horse training into the story as Mandy takes riding lessons from Kristy, an elderly horsewoman who helps Mandy conquer her fear and learn to respond to each horse as an individual. In Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, essayist Gwen Marsh called the book "a remarkable tour de force even from a writer whose feeling for animals has always been her greatest strength."
One of Wilson's favorite themes is the uneasy but necessary balance that must be struck between people and animals, especially in rural or semi-rural areas. In A Cherished Freedom, for example, self-reliant Louise Pritchard learns how to accept help from friends and neighbors after her husband goes missing while delivering food aid in a war-torn country. The progress of her pregnancy makes keeping up their farm by herself especially difficult, but by giving a runaway teenager a place to live and a job, both are helped. Then a pack of dogs from a neighboring farm is let loose among her sheep, killing or maiming a significant number, and the farm is once again in jeopardy. Louise's neighbors come to her rescue, however, "in this lovely story that will enchant animal lovers with its vivid portrayal of farm life," remarked Patricia Engelmann in Booklist. Stranger again depicts the hardships of farm life in Cry to the Moon in which two approaches to land management in the Scottish Highlands are juxtaposed. Here, one farm is devoted to gamekeeping, a way of life that is in jeopardy because of the scarcity of game and the arrival of a family of wildcats on the property. Sheina, the gamekeeper's daughter, wants to save the wildcats, and is aided by Rob, who has turned the neighboring estate into an animal sanctuary. In Engelmann's Booklist review of Cry to the Moon she contended that "animals . . . are the true stars of Wilson's latest tale; people merely serve as facilitators." Again, young people who love animals will be intrigued by Wilson's close-up depiction of their lives, Englemann predicted.
Wilson told CA: "I have written since I was a small girl. I was given a bedroom of my own as I kept my sisters awake with stories at night. I love words and how they work. My father was a writer and wrote at night when he got home from the office. He used to give me a pad and pencil and tell me to write so he had peace to get on with his own writing. I did not begin writing for publication until my first child was about a year old (in 1948) and I needed some intellectual stimulation and money. I have written over seventy books and many short stories and articles, always animal based.
"I have spent much of my life among animals; watched wild animals for years from hides; helped out on farms, worked with dogs and taught owners of around twenty dogs a week how to teach their dogs good manners. I have always been fascinated by trying to understand the animal and how its mind works and feel so many people miss so much by living divorced from countryside, season, and animals of all kinds. I live in an isolated place, and write about folk who live in the same sort of place, often a farm or breeding establishment where the animals are their livelihood.
"Wildlife is so diverse and their habits are so fascinating. On British TV I love David Attenborough's wildlife programs . . . he knows so much and has seen so much. I would have liked to farm and most of my friends either breed or farm so I write about the countryside and the animals I meet. Though many of my books now are social history as farming has changed so much.
"I find many authors only research about animals and get things wrong, I try to get them right. My first well known book, The Running Foxes, was triggered by a book, which included foxes but had their habits all wrong. My animal books work because I watched the animals and studied animal behavior. I knew where the foxes laired and bred their cubs; where the hare hid, and watched her as she moved around and when she was caught by a fox or dog; I listened to a goose on an island as it died when the fox caught it. I hid in trees to watch badgers; I ride horses and I am in daily contact with many dogs. Farm animals are all around me—I can see sheep and cattle as I write. The world beyond the human is vastly exciting; it has much to reveal to us.
"[My writing process] is difficult, I get an idea and toss it around, make a synopsis and then try to do a certain number of words each day until it is finished. I may work with a serial editor who reads what I have written and makes suggestions."
Wilson told CA the most surprising thing she learned as a writer was "mainly not to force a story as the characters often take over and change its thread. Maybe a minor character suddenly takes the center stage and you have to change it. And also I don't argue with editors unless they are trying to make an animal do something it would not do. Oddly my life now has been shaped by my book's subjects as six of them were autobiographical on my dogs and provoked more fan mail than any. As a result a lot of what I write is to help people who have dogs and who wouldn't read nonfiction.
"People write and say they find [my books] helpful and often tell them things they didn't know, or reflect some part of their own lives, and make them feel better about things that have gone wrong in them. Such letters are very rewarding and I always hope that I do have something to say to my readers which will please and benefit them. The Stallion is about a woman suddenly widowed and how she makes a new and rewarding life for herself. I have had letters from so many widows who say it helped them to adjust and start again."
Although the choice is a difficult one, Wilson has a tendency to choose the book she's writing at the moment as her favorite. "Maybe it is the Call of the Sea, which I was writing in conjunction with my favorite serial editor. He died suddenly of a heart attack just before I finished it and never saw it. It is his memorial, as he taught me more than anyone else I have ever met. His name was Ian Sommerville and he was my editor for My Weekly (magazine), for over twenty-five years. That book has become special for me and is dedicated to him," she related to CA.
In a piece written for K9Phoenix, an online resource, Wilson talked about the role that animals, in particular dogs, play in her own life as an elderly adult: "In my own life, since my own family left home and married, my dogs have often helped me through traumas; the death of my parents; my husband's two strokes . . . the dogs were there to distract, needing care and attention, offering consolation in their own way, providing stability and affection. The animals in my books have always an important function, often changing the way in which people live."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 24, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997, pp. 251-275.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Booklist, April 15, 1969, p. 944; July 15, 1977, p. 1731; April 1, 2002; April 15, 2001, Patricia Engelmann, review of A Cherished Freedom, p. 1537.
Growing Point, November, 1985, review of The Family at Fools' Farm, p. 4524.
Junior Bookshelf, October, 1983, p. 215; December, 1985, p. 281; October, 1989, p. 245.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1967, p. 300.
Magpies, September, 1992, p. 31.
New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1977, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1977, p. 79.
School Librarian, June, 1986, p. 174; February, 1992, p. 21.
Times Educational Supplement, January 18, 1980, p. 41; July 17, 1981, p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement, November 23, 1973, p. 1430.
K9Phoenix,http://www.k9phoenix.freeserve.co.uk/ (June 17, 2002), "About Joyce Stranger."