Robert Louis Stevenson is a name synonymous with intrepid adventure and the outdoors. His brilliant Treasure Island was published 64 years ago this summer, and we took a look back on where this writer came from and what inspired his journeys.

Robert Louis StevensonYA Mag: Would you term yourself first and foremost as a writer or explorer?

Robert Louis Stevenson: They are one in the same for me. I got my start as travel writer, which back then wasn’t nearly as luxurious as it is today. My first book, An Inland Voyage, is actually a travelogue of a canoe trip I took with a friend from Belgium into France. It was glorious, rugged, challenging and a deeply rewarding experience.

YA: What was the inspiration for Long John Silver, from Treasure Island?

RLS: I met a rather vociferous patient at an infirmary in Edinburgh who would grow to become a friend and collaborator. He had a wooden leg.

YA: Would you consider Treasure Island to fit the bill for YA fiction of today?

RLS: Well, it was first serialized in a children’s magazine entitled Young Folks in 1881! Really, the work is a coming-of-age story.

YA: What were your biggest challenges as a writer?

RLS: Coming from a proper Scottish family of the 1850s and 60s, pursuing a life of Letters was not seen as a practical route. There was some pressure on me, mainly from my father to read the Law and be called to the Scottish Bar, but everyone soon realized that my true calling lay elsewhere.

Another one of my challenges, unfortunately, was my health. I always seem to be battling one ailment or another, and doctors never could decide what it was that beleaguered me: mild tuberculosis, bronchiectasis or some even say sarcoidosis. I died at 44 though, which wasn’t particularly too young for the time. And I had my fair share of adventures!

YA: Where was the most beautiful place you traveled to?

RLS: Perhaps somewhere in France, where I spent a lot of time. The outskirts of Paris, particularly Fontainebleau, come to mind. But this is particularly hard to answer, since I am especially well traveled for someone of my time. My journey to the South Pacific in 1888-9 with my family is probably my crowning achievement, as is my last place of residence, on an island in Samoa.