Alan Garner spent his early childhood in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, England, and he remains associated with the area. Many of his works are drawn from local legends and locations. Such works include The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, and The Owl Service. He attended Manchester Grammar School (where a library is named after him) and studied classics at Oxford.
"He spent most of the first eight years of his life in a small, white sickbed....'By day, it amounted to sensory deprivation. I lay in a bedroom that was whitewashed and had cheesecloth stretched across the windows...I was so bored, I would create my own out-of-body experiences....At night, it was worse. When you're lying in the semi-darkness, and the moon is coming up, and half of you is paralysed, there is no end to the terrible things a heap of clothes can change into.'" 
His early books were fantasy, marketed for children, though he was not ever comfortable with being labeled simply as a "children's writer", saying he had no intention one way or the other about writing specifically for children.
His most recent works (Strandloper and Thursbitch) are more suited for adult readers. The Stone Book (which received the Phoenix Award in 1996) is poetic in style and inspiration. Garner pays particular attention to language, and strives to render the cadence of the Cheshire tongue in modern English. This he explains by the sense of anger he felt on reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight": the footnotes would not have been needed by his father. This and other aspects of his writing are the subject of Neil Philip's A Fine Anger, (Collins, 1981), which offers a detailed analysis of his work.
His most recent novel is Thursbitch. Other works have won the Guardian Award, the Carnegie Medal, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, as well as the Chicago International Film Festival 1st Prize for his educational film "Images."
His collection of essays and public talks, The Voice That Thunders, contains much autobiographical material (including an account of his life with bipolar disorder), as well as critical reflection upon folklore and language, literature and education, the nature of myth and time. Garner is an accomplished public speaker.