J. C. Oates was born in 1938 near the small city of Lockport, New York State, and grew up in the working-class environment of her grandparents’ farm in Erie County, which she lovingly recalls in many of her novels and stories.
After attending high school she studied at Syracuse University, NY from 1956, where she frequently published in the university’s literary magazine.
In 1960 she received her B.A. degree at the top of her class and then transferred to the University of Wisconsin where she received an M.A. in English in 1961. In the same year she married Raymond Joseph Smith, a fellow English student. In 1962 she was appointed to a teaching position in English at the University of Detroit. The social tensions of this city had a lasting impact on her writing and her first novel, With Shuddering Fall (1964), announced her familiar themes of madness, violence and sexual passion.
From 1968 to 1978, she taught at the University of Windsor in Canada, where she published two or three new books per year, though she maintained her full-time academic career. Finally she accepted a position of professor and writer in residence at Princeton University, NJ. Here she and her husband, who was on the academic staff, too, founded a literary magazine, the Ontario Review. Since 1981 she has been a distinguished professor there.
It is no exaggeration to say that Joyce Carol Oates is one of America's most versatile, serious and prolific writers of our time. Meanwhile she has written hundreds of short stories, and more than sixty novels, novellas, young adult and children’s fiction—partly under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly. Moreover, Joyce Carol Oates is a successful playwright, a poet, and the author of a number of critical works, newspaper articles, and last but not least the editor of various anthologies.