Robert Hellenga teaches English at Knox College in Illinois. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, two Illinois Arts Council grants, and a PEN Fiction Award
The Sixteen Pleasures is Hellenga's first novel, for which he did extensive research in Florence and took a bookbinding course at the Newbury Library. The idea of including The Sixteen Pleasures in his fictional story of Margot Harrington began in jest, as there are many, many jokes throughout English literature on this erotic Renaissance book. Somewhere along the line, it became the engine of the book. The character of Margot was inspired by Hellenga's three daughters, all of whom have traveled extensively and told him of their experiences.
It took Hellenga three years to write The Sixteen Pleasures and another three to get it published. He is currently doing research in Bologna, Italy, for his next novel. He lives in Illinois with his wife and three daughters.