Robert A. Black, Novelist for middle-grade readers
Author Biography


If only Mom and Dad knew
what they were getting into...
I was born on September 21, 1964, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the first child of my father, Thomas E. Black Jr., and my mother, Joanne Halderson Black. It was my grandmother Halderson's birthday, and I was her first grandchild. How's that for a birthday present?
For the first four years of my life, I was an only child, as well as an only grandchild on the Halderson side of the family. Then in 1968, my brother Chuck came along, followed two years later by my sister Mimi. I've long since forgiven them for breaking my monopoly on family power.
Look! It's a baby brother!
My parents were math teachers (and still are), so just about everyone guessed that I'd grow up to love math and science. When I was a kid, it certainly looked like things would turn out that way. When I was four years old, people landed on the Moon for the first time. My parents got me out of bed at the incredibly late hour of ten o'clock so I could watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their historic first steps, and I was hooked on space from that moment on. Living in Indianapolis, I also became a big fan of auto racing, especially the Indy 500. Every May, I would fill my head with statistics about the cars and the drivers and the speeds at which they raced around the track.
My family in 1973, right after we moved into the house
where my parents still live. Dig those groovy 1970s outfits!
But other things were going on with me, too, without anyone really noticing including me. Looking back, I can see how much I was interested in stories as well. I was as interested in the story of how the Apollo missions unfolded as I was in the spacecraft that were flown or the science that was done. I was as interested in the story of how the Indy 500 unfolded as I was in the cars or the speeds. And I didn't always need words to understand those stories. Numbers can tell you stories too, if you know how to read them.
So all through my grade school, junior high and high school years, writing was something I imagined myself doing more than something I actually did. I tried writing a few stories, mostly imitations of TV shows I liked, but I never finished anything. Meanwhile, I was also building and flying model rockets, learning how to program computers, and winning awards in mathematics. I went off to college at Vanderbilt University, planning to study mechanical engineering.
My senior year in high school - keeping football statistics and programming the Apple II computers. Not writing - yet.
Halfway through college, everything changed. Studying mechanical engineering wasn't like what I thought it would be, and I found myself wondering whether I should try something else. After a lot of thinking, I decided it was time to write something and actually finish it instead of giving up in the middle. I chose a show I'd been watching on Nickelodeon called You Can't Do That On Television, and spent much of my summer in 1984 writing my first episodes. Once I was done, I found out how to contact the producers and asked them if they would consider my work. They agreed, but then I spent a very long eight months waiting for their decision. I was on the verge of giving up when they suddenly called one morning in April 1985. I was hired!
On the set of You Can't Do That On Television
with star Christine McGlade.
I spent the summer of 1985 working in the You Can't Do That On Television studio, polishing my own scripts and the others being produced, as well as helping on the set from time to time. I even got to appear on camera for a couple of scenes. Over the course of the next year, I wrote nine complete scripts and worked on half a dozen others. I would have gladly done more, but at that point the producers stopped making the show. I had to find somewhere else to take my life and my writing.
Both my parents and my producer had told me to go back to Vanderbilt and finish my engineering degree. Now that I'm older, I can see what good advice that was but back then, it felt like they were all telling me to forget about being a writer. I did go back and graduate, but I resented doing it, and once I was done I started looking for writing opportunities more than engineering opportunities.
The next phase of my life was a difficult one. It was a struggle to figure out where I wanted my life to go or how I could get it there, and to balance the writing career I wanted with the engineering career the rest of the world seemed to want for me. Eventually, after a lot of moving around and a marriage that didn't work out, I ended up in Southern California. I hoped to become a screenwriter in Hollywood, but several years of trying failed to give me the break I needed. In fact, my efforts taught me that I didn't want to break into Hollywood. I chose to write books instead, because I thought it would give me more of a chance to tell the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.
The mid-1990s - days of long hair and an old Volkswagon Beetle.
My family in 2001, on my parents' 40th wedding anniversary.
I had just started my year of writing full-time.
There was just one problem I had fallen back into the same routine I'd been in through high school and my first years in college, where I thought about writing but didn't do much more than that. Meanwhile, I'd had some success as an engineer, but it was making me miserable, to the point where I quit my job in the middle of 2001. At that point, I made another decision like the one I'd made in 1984 I decided it was time to stop merely thinking about writing a book and actually write one. I had some money saved up, so instead of looking for a new job right away, I wrote full-time instead. A year later, I had finished three books, two of which have now been published as Liberty Girl and The Real Life Channel.
These days, I'm working in engineering again, as a Quality Assurance Manager, but I'm also continuing to work on my books. You can find my recent book news elsewhere on this website. News about being a Quality Assurance Manager would probably bore you too much for me to write anything about it.
Signing a copy of Liberty Girl after a school visit. Today, there are four more people in my family -
three nieces and a nephew!
I like being "Uncle Bob!"


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