In my books, you’ll always find someone spending a bit of time by a lake, river or ocean somewhere in the world. I love an endless view of water for as far as the eye can see.
I was born just after midnight in Erie, Pennsylvania, up on the Great Lakes (the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth). On a clear day you can see Canada. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t wait to go to the beaches at Presque Isle, the peninsula of 11 beaches that stretches from Erie into the lake. I was about two years old when my father held me by the hand in those waters and taught me to swim. As a teenager, I came with my friends to have fun or alone to sit and write poetry. It’s the place my soul calls home. Sitting on a beach in the morning, anywhere, is the best kind of meditation for me.
As legend has it, I was wordy early on. I constantly wanted someone to read me a book. I memorized Peter Rabbit before age two. By age eight, all that reading was turning into writing poems and plays, whatever came into my head. I forced my brothers, friends, cousins, anyone available to act out my scripts. If you came to my house to play with dolls, you could find yourself out in the yard on a big blanket while I narrated the plot ….. “we’re in the middle of a raging ocean.” Which, if my Dad hadn’t cut the grass for a while, was kind of believable. We’d huddle on the blanket while I instructed my friends to hang on because we had to save our babies!
My grandmother once told me I was a rolling stone that gathered no moss, and I admit I’ve roamed around through a number of careers and lived in a wide range of places. I’ve lived in Philadelphia, Huntsville, Alabama, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Phoenix and now in the Chicago area, where I build security awareness programs while writing on the side. Despite living in so many places, I still consider myself a Western Pennsylvania girl at my core. My mother is from McDonald, a small town southwest of Pittsburgh and the inspiration for the setting in The Narrow Gate. We headed to McDonald at least one weekend a month during my childhood, and sometimes longer in the summers, to see my grandmother and a large flock of aunts, uncles and cousins. My brothers and I have many happy memories of sitting on my grandmother’s porch swing, swimming at Raccoon State Park, picnics, fireworks, and a seemingly endless supply of homemade bread and cookies. What came with that experience was a deep sense of heritage and belonging.
I don’t know if all my books will be set in Western Pennsylvania, but I do know that its lush green mountains, warm sunny beaches, and salt of the earth kind of people are part of my soul, rolling up now and then to remind me of who I am and cascading over into my work here and there. Sometimes, in my writing, I try to recreate that feeling of coming home to family, and other times I explore what I can only imagine it must be like not to have the experiences I’ve been blessed with.
I’ve been writing a long time and the times in my life when I’ve let it go have been the worst years, while the times when I make writing as much a part of my existence as breathing, have made me happier and more successful at everything I touch in life. I’d love to be writing all day, every day, but often my life and work experiences inform my written work.
In The Storyteller, author Jodie Piccoult says, “All writers start with a layer of truth, don’t they. If not, their stories would be nothing but spools of cotton candy, a fleeting taste wrapped around nothing but air.” I hope you enjoy my novels, you sense my layer of truth, and you come away feeling entertained, moved, and satisfied with my books.
Favorite Books: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn; Trinity by Leon Uris; Room by Emma Donoghue, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Favorite Movies: When Harry Met Sally, Finding Forrester, Birdman, The King’s Speech, Avatar, Spotlight