While Billingsley's first novel, Well Wished (1997), was warmly received by critics, a year ago she was a virtual unknown within a publishing climate that regarded fantasy as a specialty genre. Today, her name is on the lips of booksellers and reviewers throughout the country.
Franny Billingsley was not always a writer. She graduated from Boston University law-school in 1979, and worked for 5 years as a lawyer — a profession which she “despised.” In 1983, Billingsley visited her sister in Barcelona, Spain where she was “entranced by a lifestyle in which people did not make a lot of money yet lived richly and artfully.” Realizing that she needed to change her life, Billingsley quit her job and moved to Spain with all of her favorite children's books. “Books like A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and The Narnia Chronicles seemed like the perfect antidote to hideously wearisome legal documents,” remembers Billingsley, who began writing children's books while living in Spain.
When Billingsley returned to the United States, she took a job as the children's book-buyer at 57th Street Books, a major independent bookseller on the South Side of Chicago. “I worked at the bookstore for twelve years and I loved it because it helped me get back to the things that matter to me: people, ideas, and imagination. I wrote throughout this period. My early books were simply awful, but I did not let rejections and criticism stop me from writing. I worked hard at learning how to write and finding my strengths. It was not until I began writing fantasy that I found my voice. I believe that, ultimately, talent is less important to writing a good book than is determination.”
Franny Billingsley lives in Chicago with her family and currently writes children's books full-time.