From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
He was born in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, England, the son of Robert J. Fowles, a prosperous cigar merchant, and his wife, Gladys Richards. After attending Bedford School and Edinburgh University, he studied at New College, Oxford, where he studied both French and German, although he dropped German and concentrated on French for his BA. After his studies, he worked as a teacher in France, Greece (where he met Elizabeth Whitton, the woman he would later marry), and England. The success of his first published novel, The Collector (1963), meant that Fowles was able to stop teaching and start a literary career.
In 1968 Fowles moved to Lyme Regis in Dorset, which he used as the setting for his novel The French Lieutenant's Woman. In that same year he adapted The Magus (a novel based on his experiences in Greece and written before The Collector) for cinema, but the film was not a success. The French Lieutenant's Woman was made into a film in 1981 with a screenplay by the British playwright Harold Pinter (subsequently a Nobel laureate in Literature) and was nominated for an Oscar.