Frequently Asked Questions


F.A.Q. about Scott O'Dell

There are many questions that readers have about Scott O'Dell and his work.  We hope this additional information will answer your questions.  

Q. When did Scott O'Dell become a writer?

Scott always loved to read, but he didn't think of becoming a writer until his parents told him that he was related to the great British writer, Sir Walter Scott. It happened while he was still in elementary school. When Scott heard about his famous ancestor, he decided that he would write historical novels, too.

Q. Where did Scott get his ideas for books?

Most of the ideas for his books came from reading history or biography or from stories he heard on his travels. When he was in Bermuda, for example, he heard about the English ship that was wrecked off the coast on its way to Jamestown, Virginia. The survivors came ashore and lived there for more than a year before they built a boat and went on to Jamestown. That was the start of The Serpent Never Sleeps, his story about Pocahontas and Jamestown.When he was on the island of St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, he heard about the rebellion of 1733, when the slaves rose up against the Danish plantation owners. That became My Name is Not Angelica, the story of a captured African princess.

Q. What writers did Scott admire?

Besides Sir Walter Scott, Scott found his greatest inspiration in the works of Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather. His favorite books by other authors were Moby Dick, Billy Budd, The Great Gatsby, and The Good Soldier. 

Q. Which of Scott's own books was his favorite?

Scott always said that asking a writer which was his favorite book was like asking a mother which is her favorite child!  Meaning, it's very hard to choose. But, when pressed, Scott would say that he had two favorites, Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Road to Damietta.

Q. Scott wrote so many books about Native Americans, which Nation did he belong to?

Scott was deeply interested in Native Americans and outraged by the treatment given them by explorers, by settlers from Europe, and by the United States government. Through his books, he hoped to bring this injustice to light. However, none of his own ancestors were Native American.

Q. Where did Scott go to school?

Scott started school in a one-room schoolhouse in Portugese Bend near Los Angeles. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Occidental College, the University of Wisconsin, Stanford University, and the University of Rome.  He never received a degree, because he took only courses that interested him---philosophy, history, psychology and literature. 

Q. Did Scott have any children?

Scott had two stepchildren, Susan, a girl and David, a boy. Both had families of their own, so Scott had four grandchildren, Lauren, Scott, Caitlin, and Brandon. If Scott were alive today, he would be a great-grandfather, because his granddaughter Lauren started her own family and is the mother of Bronte Elizabeth, named after the famous Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann, who were English writers of the 1840s and 1850s. He would also be great-grandfather to Spencer, his grandson Scott's son, who was born in 2011. He would also be a great-grandfather to Catilin's step-son, River. 

Q. Did Scott have any pets?

Yes. Scott loved animals and owned many dogs.  His last dog was a blue-eyed Siberian husky named Nylak, who was the model for Black Star in Black Star, Bright Dawn. Scott was also adopted by a cat, who wandered into the yard. She was thin and hungry, so he fed her in the garage. One cold day he decided to feed her inside the house. She moved in---and never left. Prior to this, he had a standard breed poodle named Beauregard. 

Q. Did Scott have any hobbies?

Besides reading, Scott liked to garden, build stone walls, fish and travel. He traveled to all the places he wrote about. He loved the sea, and for a time had his own boat, which he took to British Columbia, Alaska, the islands along the Southern California coast, and Baja California. His ocean voyages gave him the idea for The Cruise of the Arctic Star.

Q. Did Scott like sports?

In High School, Scott was a track star!  While at Stanford University, he was on the boxing team. Although in later years he did not participate in any sport, he followed baseball, football, and boxing closely. He was a fan of the San Diego Chargers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Have a question that's answered no where in this site? You can write to Elizabeth Hall (Mrs. Scott O'Dell) and she'll answer your question within a few weeks!