Paula Fox was born in Manhattan, New York on April 22, 1923. She briefly studied piano at the Juilliard School and spent 3 years at Columbia University but didn't graduate. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a salesgirl, a model, a worker in a rivet-sorting shop, a lathe operator at Bethlehem Steel, and a teacher of troubled children.
She wrote books for children and adults. Her children's books included Maurice's Room, Traces, Blowfish Live in the Sea, One-Eyed Cat, and The Eagle Kite. She received the Newbery Medal for The Slave Dancer in 1974 and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her body of children's work in 1978. Her books for adults include Poor George, The Widow's Children, A Servant's Tale, and The God of Nightmares. Desperate Characters was adapted into a film starring Shirley MacLaine and Kenneth Mars. She also wrote two memoirs entitled Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe. She died on March 1, 2017 at the age of 93.