American writer John Irving is born in Exeter, New Hampshire. Irving never met his real father and was raised by his mother and her second husband, who taught Russian history at Phillips Exeter Academy, which Irving attended. Having decided during his teens that he wanted to become a writer, Irving graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1965 and went on to study fiction writing at the University of Iowa, where he received a master of fine arts degree in 1967.
Irving supported himself by teaching English at Mount Holyoke and at the University of Iowa throughout the 1970s while writing several novels. His early works, including Setting Free the Bears, (1969) The Water-Method Man, (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), did not receive much attention. However, his 1978 novel, The World According to Garp, became a hit, spending six months on the bestseller lists. The book, detailing the life and death of fictional novelist T.S. Garp, was made into a movie starring Robin Williams in 1982.
Irving was able to stop teaching to write full time after the publication of Garp. His recent novels include The Hotel New Hampshire, (1981) Cider House Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meaney (1989), which was made into the movie Simon Birch in 1998, and A Widow for One Year (2004). Twice married, Irving is the father of two sons.