THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT ME
COWBOYS AND MOHAWKS
I was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, but my family moved to Missoula, Montana when I was five, so that my mother could study creative writing at the University of Montana. At twelve, inspired by the fashions I'd encountered on our family's recent year-long expedition to Europe, I became punk's first official embassador to Montana. Sadly, my attempts were not appreciated by the local cowpokes.
A MODEL CITIZEN
At fifteen I received a scholarship to attend high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachussets. Overjoyed at the prospect of fleeing Missoula, I grew my mohawk out, bought myself a pair of chinos and some Tretorns, and headed east. To the delight of my parents, I passed the next three years under the short-lived guise of a model citizen. I studied hard, made friends, and, to my complete surprise, graduated with a sizable scholarship to Columbia University.
SMELLS LIKE TEEN ANGST
Drunk on teen angst and Campari, I decided to defer my acceptance to Columbia. I spent the next year drifting and working my way around Europe. I moved furniture with monks and ex-convicts in Paris, spent several weeks in a monastery in Burgundy, waited tables in an Italian restaurant in Scotland, worked as a sketch model and in a pharmaceutical factory in Frankfurt, and loaded tomato trucks in Greece. But my most impressive feat was hitchhiking from Brindisi, Italy to Barcelona, Spain, with only 1000 Italian Lire (about a dollar) in my pocket. I returned to the States in the spring of that year and spent the summer working in a salmon cannery in Alaska.
THE FUTURE LOOKS DIM
After a miserable year at Columbia, I headed back to Alaska for a second summer at the cannery. Lured by the romance of fish guts, poor wages, and mind-numbing labor, I finally decided that my best course of action would be to put my Ivy League education on hold indefinitely and move to Key West, Florida. There I held the glamorous jobs of hotel maid, forklift driver, cabbie, and waitress. Three years of sun, sand, drugs, and alcohol later, I climbed into my rusted Subaru and drove north. Back to Montana this time, and another try at a University diploma. But an education just wasn't in my cards. Defeated by a frigid Missoula winter, I got back into my little car and headed for the coast. When my clutch cable broke in Seattle, I decided to make it my home.
AND NOW, DENNY'S
It was just my luck to arrive in Seattle long before the meteoric tech boom of the late 90's. Before Amazon or IPO's turned the grungy bars of Belltown into fifty-dollar-a-plate steak houses. In my Seattle, it took three weeks to find a job at Denny's. (And only one day for me to quit.) But I hung on and spent the next few years waiting tables and tending bar, working my way from filthy Pioneer Square to the Bobo streets of Capitol Hill.
FABIO TO THE RESCUE
Realizing my life was going nowhere fast, I decided it was time for a change, in the form of either a dreaded return to school, or a miraculous lottery win. But as fate would have it, there was a third option in store for me. At a party one night a friend of mine and I decided we would write a romance novel together. How hard could it be, we asked ourselves, to become the next Jackie Collins? Fueled by cheap red wine, and self-mockery, we sketched out a loose plot and characters. Something about a beautiful orphan, a handsome painter, a seaside house in Maine (never mind that neither of us had ever been to Maine), and the ghost of the painter's dead wife. It was fabulous, we agreed. We'd alternate writing the chapters, and in no time we'd be living in a penthouse in New York.
In the sober light of morning, my friend must have recognized the foolishness of our plan, but I got to writing. Four months later I had completed my first novel. A bodice ripper, yes, but it was three hundred pages long, and I'd done it all. I never did sell it, and there's still no penthouse in New York, but my romance novel taught me I could write. I went on to write another novel, a thriller this time, that would eventually become EASY MONEY. It was published by Henry Holt in 1998. I was twenty-seven years old.
IT'S NO PENTHOUSE, BUT...
In the years since, I've published three more novels that have been translated into a dozen foreign lanuages and am currently at work on my fifth. After spending five wonderful years back in Missoula following the publication of my first novel, I have recently relocated to Lexington, Virginia, in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. I live with my husband, Keith, our daughter, Vivica, and our cranky cat, Frank. I am a full time writer.