Philip Pullman was born in Norwich on 19th October 1946. The early part of his life was spent travelling all over the world, because his father and then his stepfather were both in the Royal Air Force. He spent part of his childhood in Australia, where he first met the wonders of comics, and grew to love Superman and Batman in particular.
From the age of 11, he lived in North Wales, having moved back to Britain. It was a time when children were allowed to roam anywhere, to play in the streets, to wander over the hills, and he took full advantage of it. His English teacher, Miss Enid Jones, was a big influence on him, and he still sends her copies of his books.
After he left school he went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English. He did a number of odd jobs for a while, and then moved back to Oxford to become a teacher. He taught at various middle schools for twelve years, and then moved to Westminster College, Oxford, to be a part-time lecturer. He taught courses on the Victorian novel and on the folk tale, and also a course examining how words and pictures fit together. He eventually left teaching in order to write full-time. His first published novel was for adults, but he began writing for children when he was a teacher. Some of his novels were based on plays he wrote for his school pupils, such as The Ruby In The Smoke.
Philip still lives in Oxford, and he writes in a shed at the bottom of his garden. The shed contains two comfortable chairs (one for writing in, one for sitting at the computer in), several hundred books, a six-foot-long stuffed rat which took a part in his play Sherlock Holmes and the Limehouse Horror, a guitar, a saxophone, as well as the computer, decorated with dozens of brightly coloured artificial flowers attached to it by Blu-Tack. Blu-Tack plays a big part in Philip Pullman's writing process. With it he sticks to the wall pictures, notes, posters, reminders, postcards, book jackets, anything that will stay there.
Another product of technology that Philip can't do without is Post-it Notes, the smallest yellow ones in particular. They are very useful for planning the shape of a story: he writes a brief sentence summarising a scene on one of them, and then puts them on a very big piece of paper which he can fill with up to sixty or more different scenes, moving them around to get the best order.
Philip Pullman believes firmly in the virtues of healthy exercise and a moderate diet - for other people. It makes them feel virtuous, and makes them feel good if not happy. The most exercise he normally takes is unscrewing the top of the whisky bottle. If he liked the taste of tobacco, he would smoke vigorously. He is fond of sport, and plays it by watching television. He is a big fan of Neighbours, but that is the only soap he watches, as Neighbours gives him quite enough to think about. He is married to Jude. Their son Jamie is a viola player, and their younger son Tom studies music at university.
In The Golden Compass, readers meet for the first time 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own - nor is her world. In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined. These ideas are of little concern to Lyra, who at the outset of the story, spends most of her time with her friend Roger, a kitchen boy. Together, they share a carefree existence scampering across the roofs of the college, racing through the streets of Oxford, or waging war with the other children in town. But that life changes forever when Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, prevent an assassination attempt on her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust.
It is at this time that children mysteriously began to disappear. Children, and only the children, are vanishing at the hands of what become known as the "Gobblers." Who the Gobblers are and what they want is unknown, but soon, children from far and wide are disappearing with out a trace, even Lyra's good friend, Roger. But before she can begin her search for Roger, Lyra is introduced to Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful and bewitching woman. Mrs. Coulter is a scholar and an explorer - seemingly everything that Lyra could ever hope to be. Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra under her wing and employs her as an assistant to help in the next expedition to explore the Arctic North. On the morning she is to leave Jordan College, the Master of the school gives Lyra an alethiometer, a rare and powerful instrument with the power to reveal the truth in all things.
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