Sullivan completed his B.A. in English at Cornell University, studied linguistics at Germany's Heidelberg University, and earned an M.A. in German at the University of Oregon.
In 1985 he backpacked 1000 miles across Oregon's wilderness. His journal of that adventure, "Listening for Coyote", topped the New York Times' year-end review of travel books and was chosen one of the 100 most significant books in Oregon history.
Since then he has written many novels, hiking guidebooks, and historical works. His memoir, "Cabin Fever", describes the 25 summers he and his wife Janell spent building a log cabin by hand along a roadless river in the wilds of Oregon's Coast Range. Each summer he still lives and writes at the cabin.
Sullivan reads in seven languages, plays the pipe organ, undertakes backcountry ski expeditions, and volunteers to support libraries.