John Jakes was born in Chicago in 1932 and began writing professionally during his freshman year at Northwestern University, where he was studying acting. He decided to trade the stage for the typewriter when, at 18, he sold a 1500-word science fiction story for $25. Jakes enrolled at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, and earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing in 1953 and a master's degree in American literature from Ohio State in 1954. He created his widely produced stage version of A Christmas Carol (Dramatic Publishing) in 1989 and in 2005 conceived and wrote a new, shorter version as a touring show for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina of Hilton Head; it played successfully to 18 schools and civic venues in a single month. This version is also being published by Dramatic Publishing. As a novelist, Jakes has authored 18 consecutive New York Times bestsellers including the eight-volume Kent Family Chronicles, the North and South Trilogy series and his most recent historical novel, The Gods of Newport (November 2006). Jakes is a member of the Authors Guild, The Dramatists Guild and American P.E.N. He and his wife, Rachel, have four children and 11 grandchildren and divide their time between homes in South Carolina and Florida.