Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

by Rachel Baker on January 21, 2009

Dorothy and Thomas HooblerDOROTHY LAW HOOBLER was born in Philadelphia in 1941 and grew up in Crestwood, New York, where she attended public schools. She graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York, with a degree in history and went to New York City where she obtained a master’s degree in history from New York University. She and her husband Tom were married in 1971 while both were working at textbook publishers. Four years later, they published their first book, a biography of Margaret Mead intended for young children. Dorothy interviewed Mead for the project, and recalls her saying, “Someday I’m going to die, but I’m never going to retire.” Dorothy gave birth to the couple’s only child, Ellen, in 1976 and the Hooblers decided to try to make a living as freelance writers. By taking on work ghosting textbooks and other educational materials, they were able to survive and find time to write their own books as well. As of 2006, Dorothy and Tom have published under their own names some 90 books, with another due out in spring, 2007.

The first recognition of their efforts came from the Library of Congress, which chose their Album of World War I as one of four books to be mentioned on CBS TV as part of a project to encourage people to read. The Hooblers’ books have been cited many times for excellence by the New York Public Library in its annual publication Books for the Teen-Age and by the Parents’ Choice Foundation. They have also received significant awards from the National Council on the Social Studies and the Society for School Librarians International. In 2005 the Mystery Writers of America gave the Hooblers an Edgar award for their young-adult novel, In Darkness, Death.

THOMAS WILLIAM HOOBLER was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he attended Catholic schools. He began working in his father’s print shop while still a boy and earned his first wages as a proofreader at the age of ten. He obtained a degree in English in 1964 from the University of Notre Dame, where he was editor of the student weekly magazine The Scholastic. After working on a local magazine and spending a year at the Writer’s Workshop of the University of Iowa, Tom returned to Cincinnati to teach school. He received a master’s degree in education from Xavier University in 1970 and the following year, feeling stifled by the provincial atmosphere of his native city, moved to New York. He met his future wife Dorothy on the first day he was there. He worked on trade magazines and for a textbook publisher in the early 1970s. Besides the books he has published with his wife, Tom also wrote two science-fiction novels with his friend Burt Wetanson. One of them, The Hunters, was optioned many times for motion-picture production and is now under contract to a producer who first read it as a teenager.

In 2001, Tom appeared on the network version of the TV show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and with help from his wife (who was his phone-a-friend) he won $500,000. The Hooblers used part of the money to spend a month traveling in Italy and decided to use the rest to try to write a book for adults. For years, agents and editors had told them that they should confine their efforts to books for young audiences, but publishers have steadily lowered their expectations for the intellectual abilities of American youth, frustrating authors like the Hooblers who write “challenging” material. Helped by their new agent, Al Zuckerman, Dorothy and Tom obtained contracts for not one, but two, adult books. The first of these, Captain John Smith: Jamestown and the Birth of the American Dream, was published by Wiley in the fall of 2005. The second, The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein, was published by Little, Brown in May, 2006.

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