Fresh out of college with no idea what to do with my life, I rode a motorcycle across the country—from Massachusetts to California. Blame it on reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
The rugged trip taught me many things. And I picked up the local newspaper in every town. I liked reading about local people—hearing about their lives, their neighborhoods, their struggles. And not long after that 4,000-mile motorcycle trip, I took a reporting job in America’s most fabulous storytelling region: The South.
For ten years, I wrote features for daily newspapers in Richmond, Virginia. Mostly, I wrote about ordinary people doing extraordinary things—the 80-year-old woman who grew up dirt poor but in old age suddenly became a celebrated poet; the family of six whose father was diagnosed with brain cancer and who refused to lose hope; a city councilwoman who was half-crazy (okay, maybe fully crazy) but truly served her constituents; a chaplain for Virginia’s death row who listened to the inmates confess before execution. The stories came my way like weighty blessings—I was unworthy of writing them, yet they begged to be written. Among other awards, those stories earned two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize.
The people who told me their stories deserved to win the awards; I didn’t.
After having kids, I left daily journalism and started writing fiction. Raleigh Harmon, forensic geologist and sometime FBI agent, kicked her way into existence and had no plans for going away. Today, in addition to the many mysteries that feature her work as an adult investigator, there’s also a parallel Raleigh Harmon prequel mystery series, which shows her fight for survival as a teen, and her search for meaning during the brutal high school years.
My husband, Joe, and I live in the mountains of Washington state with our two totally amazing sons. Joe’s a blues musician from Queens NY—so, yeah, a wise guy. And our sons are wise guys, too, proudly carrying forward the family tradition of sowing wild oats—just ask their school administrators.
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