Dan Chaon is an American educator and award-winning writer, the author of the national bestseller Ill Will which was recognized as one of the top 10 books of 2017 by a number of publications, including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Los Angeles Times.

Early Years

The future master of the word was born on June 11, 1964, in Sidney, Nebraska. In early childhood, Dan was adopted. He was raised in a family of a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom. The family lived in a tiny village that had a population of only 20 people and was located near Sidney.

In his interview for CBS, Dan talks about his passion for literary art that seeded in him at a very young age. He says that when he was only 5 years old, he already knew what he wanted to do for a living. He wanted to tell stories and though he didn’t know whether it will imply working as a film director, actor, or writer, he was confident that he will be telling stories.

From a young age, Dan was a huge fan of Ray Bradbury. The boy even started writing the imitations of Bradbury’s stories. Now, he says that it helped him learn how to write.

One interesting fact you should know about the writer is that when he was about 13 years old, Dan Chaon sent a letter to Ray Bradbury attaching one of his imitated stories to it. To his surprise, he received a reply from a famous writer, which was the beginning of a years-long correspondence. 

Later, Dan Chaon himself notes that this communication was one of the most important and predetermining moments that occurred in his life. He says that getting a response from someone he looked up to so much has encouraged him to keep going forward and influenced his career a lot.


After graduating from high school, Dan Chaon pursued his education at Northwestern University. In 1986, Dan graduated with a BA degree.

Later, he decided to continue his academic path. Dan enrolled in Syracuse University and he graduated in 1990 with a Master of Arts diploma.

Although Dan never gave up on his dream to become a writer and kept on writing stories throughout his entire life, he didn’t publish any works during his college years. The first works of the writer were released only after he graduated from Syracuse University.

An interesting fact is that Dan Chaon is a former professor. Although he was writing and publishing his own works, he was also teaching at Oberlin College. Given his passion for this subject, Dan was teaching Creative Writing and Literature. 

Dan’s career as an educator was quite long and successful. It is worth noting that he has quite a few recognized novelists and authors among his former students. However, despite the success in the educational sector, Dan Chaon decided to retire in 2018 to start writing full-time.

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Literary Path

The first work of Dan Chaon that was published is a collection of short stories called Fitting Ends (1996). In general, throughout his literary career, Dan released three short story collections, the first one of which was Fitting Ends, and the two others were Among the Missing (2001) and Stay Awake (2012). 

The writer’s second collection is called Among the Missing. When the collection was released it participated in the National Book Award and became a finalist. Finally, the last collection, Stay Awake was also widely recognized and appreciated. In particular, The Washington Post claimed that this collection is “powerful and disturbing.”

The writer also released three full novels. The first one, You Remind Me of Me was published in 2004 and, according to Elizabeth McCracken, is one of the most compelling, beautiful, and strangest books. The next novel was published in 2009 and is called Await Your Reply. It was also recognized and The New York Times even called it stunning.

The third and the most recently-written works of Dan Chaon was a real success. The novel is called Ill Will and it was published in 2017. Soon after its release, the novel became a bestseller and brought its author even more fame. The book was listed among the best books of the year by numerous publications, including The New York Times.

Dan Chaon has been featured in a number of anthologies. For example, his story “Fitting Ends” was included in the Best American Short Stories (1996). Another work, “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom” was featured in anthologies twice - first in The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses (2000) and then in The Pushcart Prize 26 (2002). And there also were other anthologies. Most of the works that appeared in anthologies were originally gathered in Dan Chaon’s own collection of short stories Among the Missing.

I realized that I had the choice. I could give this moment a meaning, or I could choose to ignore it. It just depended on the kind of story I wanted to tell myself.
― Dan Chaon, Ill Will

Powerful . . . A writer to savor . . .

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These stories are to be savored.

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Extraordinary... renews my faith in the unique capacity of literature

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A riveting thriller...

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A highly recommended work, not to be missed.

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Chaon has created another of those twilight realms of which he is an indisputable master.

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