The Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature at Rhode Island College




- Lois Duncan -

Brief Biography

Lois Duncan Steinmetz was born on April 28, 1934 in Philadelphia, PA. Her parents, Joseph Janney and Lois Steinmetz were both magazine photographers. Ms. Duncan attended Duke University from 1952 ó 1953. She later received a B.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1977. Lois Duncan began writing when she was ten and sold her first story at the age of thirteen. She has also worked as a magazine photographer and an instructor of journalism.

Duncan moved to New Mexico in 1962. She married her second husband, Donald Arquette in 1965. Duncan has five children, Robin, Brett, and Kerry from her first marriage and two, Donald Jr. and Kaitlyn (deceased) from her second. The murder of Kaitlyn prompted Lois Duncan to write Who Killed My Daughter, a different type of book, in an attempt to solve the mystery of the death.

In her career as a writer, Lois Duncan has produced more than 40 novels ranging from picture books to adult novels. She has received a large number of awards including the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1992 which honors living authors for a distinguished body of adolescent literature.

Books in Print

Young Adult Novels

Debutante Hill, Dodd, 1958.
Love Song for Joyce (Under the pseudonym Lois Kerry), Funk, 1958.
A Promise for Joyce (Under the pseudonym Lois Kerry), Funk, 1959.
The Middle Sister, Dodd, 1961.
Game of Danger, Dodd, 1962.
Season of the Two-Heart, Dodd, 1964.
Ransom, Doubleday, 1966, published as Five Were Missing, New American Library, 1972.
They Never Came Home, Doubleday, 1969.
I Know What You Did Last Summer, Little, Brown, 1973.
Down a Dark Hall, Little, Brown, 1974.
Summer of Fear, Little, Brown, 1976.
Killing Mr. Griffin, Little, Brown, 1979.
Stranger with My Face, Little, Brown, 1981.
The Third Eye, Little, Brown, 1984 (published in England as The Eyes of Karen Connors, Hamish Hamilton, 1985.
Locked in Time, Little, Brown, 1985
The Twisted Window, Delacorte, 1987.
Donít Look Behind You, Delacorte, 1989.


The Littlest One in the Family, illustrated by Suzanne K. Larsen, Dodd, 1960.
Silly Mother, illustrated by Larsen, Dial, 1962.
Giving Away Suzanne, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, Dodd, 1963.
Hotel for Dogs, illustrated by Leonard Shortall, Houghton, 1971.
A Gift of Magic, illustrated by Arvis Stewart, Little, Brown, 1971.
From Spring to Spring: Poems and Photographs, photographs by the author, Westminster, 1982.
The Terrible Tales of Happy Days School (poetry), illustrated by Friso Henstra, Little, Brown, 1983.
Horses of Dreamland, illustrated by Donna Diamond, Little, Brown, 1985.
Wonder Kid Meets the Evil Lunch Snatcher, illustrated by Margaret Sanfilippo, Little, Brown, 1988.
The Birthday Moon (poetry), illustrated by Susan Davis, Viking, 1989.
Songs from Dreamland (poetry), illustrated by Kay Chorao, Knopf, 1989.
The Circus Comes Home, photographs by father, Joseph Janney Steinmetz, Delacorte, 1992.
The Magic of Spider Woman, illustrated by Shonto BeGay, Scholastic, 1996.


Point of Violence (adult), Doubleday, 1966.
Major Andre: Brave Enemy (young adult nonfiction), illustrated by Tran Mawicke, Putnam, 1969.
Peggy (young adult nonfiction), Little, Brown, 1970.
When the Bough Breaks (adult), Doubleday, 1974.
How to Write and Sell Your Personal Experiences (nonfiction), Writers Digest, 1979.
Chapters: My Growth as a Writer (autobiography), Little, Brown, 1982.
A Visit with Lois Duncan (videotape), RDA Enterprises, 1985.
Dream Songs from Yesterday (audio cassette), Silver Moon Productions, 1987.
Songs from Dreamland (audio cassette), Silver Moon Productions, 1987.
Our Beautiful Day (audio cassette), Silver Moon Productions, 1988.
The Story of Christmas (audio cassette), Silver Moon Productions, 1989.
Who Killed My Daughter?; The True Story of a Motherís Search for Her Daughterís Murderer, Delacorte, 1992.
Psychics in Action (audio cassette), Silver Moon Productions, 1993.
Psychic Connections: A Journey Into the Mysterious World of Psi (nonfiction), with William Roll, Ph.D., Dell, 1995.


Locked in Time
*Edgar Allen Poe Award nomination
*Child Study Association of Americaís Childrenís Book of the Year

The Third Eye
*Edgar Allen Poe Award nomination
*Child Study Association of Americaís Childrenís Book of the Year

Stranger with my Face
*Ethical Culture School Book Award
*Library of Congressí Best Books citation
*English Teacherís Journalís Best Books of the Year for Young Adults citation
*University of Iowaís Best Books of the Year for Young Adults citation
*Best Novel Award, National League of American Pen Women

Voices of the Critics

Down a Dark Hall:
"...a fast paced contemporary Gothic novel...guaranteed to induce an epidemic of chills." --The Horn Book
"An unusual Gothic...the I-love-a-ghost-story crowd with embrace this one." --Publishers Weekly

A Gift of Magic:
"The intriguing theme of {ESP}, well-drawn contrasting character, natural sibling relationships, and animated dialogue add up to a thoroughly enjoyable story." --A.L.A. Booklist

Killing Mr. Griffin:
"Skillful plotting builds layer of tension that draws readers into the eye of the conflict. The ending is nicely handled in a manner which provides relief without removing any of the chilling implications." --School Library Journal

Summer of Fear:
"...will keep eager occult and suspense readers absorbed to the end." -- A.L.A. -

Daughters of Eve:
"...Duncan has successfully created a disturbing climate of latent evil ó couched withing the familiarity of teenage life ó where vicious acts go unpunished and villains triumph..."
ó A.L.A. Booklist
"...a savage novel full of troubled, angry characters...I was reminded of William Goldingís Lord of ó the horror of Lois Duncanís novel erupts just as violently at the end."
ó New York Times

Selected Book Summaries

Stranger with my Face
Laurie feels that she finally fits into the "group". She has a boyfriend and gets invited to all of the parties. However, something strange is happening. First she feels like someone is watching her even while she is in her own house. Then her boyfriend breaks off their romance because he says he saw her with another boy. Her friend accuse her of snubbing them and begin to avoid her. Laurie wants to know what is happening. Who is the girl who looks just like Laurie? Why donít her parents believe that something strange is happening in their lives? Is she going crazy or is something more horrifying occurring?

Down a Dark Hall
Kit Gordy is forced to enter a boarding school when her mother and new stepfather decide to take a year long European honeymoon. While the school looked good on paper, Kit finds that strange things are happening to her and to the other students. They are all producing great works of art, literature, and science while having no apparent background in these things Unable to escape the remote school alone and with no way of contacting her parents, she is soon caught up in a nightmare situation. As Kit begins to figure out what is happening, she tries to enlist the help of not only the other students but that of the headmistressí son. What is really happening at the school could be the end of all of the students but how can Kit stop the evil of the nightmares and the headmistress?

Daughters of Eve
It is a service club like many made up of the popular and the smart girls of the school. The Daughters of Eve club is advised by Irene Stark whom the girls love and go to for advice. No one realizes that Irene has a hidden agenda for the club. No one knows that she has been treated terribly by men all of her life. Now she has the means to get revenge. Using her considerable power over the girls, Irene stirs up a feminist urge in each of the girls. She incites them to look for mistreatment even where none exists. Soon, Irene has turned the girls into a feminist army who perpetuate brutal crimes against the men in their lives. Inevitably, tragedy soon strikes.

Unifying Elements in the works of Lois Duncan
Lois Duncanís works are held together by to main elements, mystery and extrasensory perceptions. This theme runs through most of the works. Mystery can be seen in works such as Locked in Time, Killing Mr. Griffin, and Ransom. The use of E.S.P. is in the novels The Third Eye, A Gift of Magic, and Down a Dark Hall. It seems a strange and tragic circumstance that these elements have both become such a large part of Duncanís personal life as she uses psychics to try to solve the mysterious murder of her daughter, Kaitlyn.

Suggested Teaching Activities
*In a pre-writing assignment for Killing Mr. Griffin, the students could be asked to respond to the following writing prompt in their class journals. Write about a time in your life when you went along with the crowd even though you knew it was wrong. Or write about sometime in history where this has occurred. This would be a lead into the novel.
*Using any one of Lois Duncanís mystery books, read the novel in class and include mini-lessons on plot, suspense, climax, etc...Use this as an introduction into writing a short mystery as a class assignment complete with illustrations.
*An activity to use in conjunction with Killing Mr. Griffin would be to ask the students to predict the outcome of the story. What will happen to the students? What punishment would fit the crime? Was a crime committed?


1. What is you favorite/ least favorite book you have written?

The most important book I have written is WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER?, because it was written to motivate informants about the murder of my youngest child. My least favorite book was undoubtedly one of my very early ones, which I can't even remember.

2. How do you come up with ideas for books? Do you write about personal experiences?

Usually a combination of personal experience and imagination.

3. How do you structure information for your books? How long does it take you to write a book?

To give a lecture on structure would take many hours. It takes me about a year to write a YA novel.

4. Who or what do you read? Who or what influences you?

My reading changes according to life situations. At the moment I am reading primarily non-fiction, except on airplanes, when I read suspense novels.

5. When did you first want to become a writer? Why did you choose young adult literature? How long did it take for you to first get published?

I always wanted to become a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines at age 10 and became published at 13. I was automatically thrust into writing YA literature, because that was all I knew about.

6. What did you think when "I Know What You Did Last Summer" was made into a movie?

I was appalled.

"Killing Mr. Griffin?"?

I liked that one.

7. Were you involved with the making of either movie? Did they consult you?

I had nothing to do with IKWYDLS. With Griffin, I visited the set and watched the filming of some of the scenes. In neither case was I consulted.

8. Did the producers change the stories for the movies?

Obviously, you haven't viewed one.

9. Did writing "Who Killed My Daughter" help you deal with what happened?

It helped us bring outside investigative agencies into the fray. It wasn't an exercise in stress relief.

10. Are you planning on making any other books into movies? (like "Don't Look Behind You")

I don't "make books into movies." I sell the options to producers. What happens next is out of my control.

11. Are you currently working on any books?


12. Have you ever considered writing a sequel to any of your books? Or starting your own series?


Page compiled in part by: Tracy Ready and Marci Long

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This web page was last updated on: 21 June 2007

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