I didn’t learn the word “peripatetic” until I was well into my thirties. It means moving or traveling from place to place, and it certainly describes my life. Growing up, my father’s career as a school psychologist and then a special education administrator meant that our family moved several times. I was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and lived in Brandon, Wisconsin until I was six. Then we moved to Muncie, Indiana, the towns of La Junta and Cheraw, Colorado, and finally to Paoli, Indiana, where I went to high school. In all of those places, I was surrounded by the warmth and familiarity unique to small communities. It’s no wonder that the novels I write are set in a small town that espouses those same qualities.
I went to college at Indiana University, a major research institution with a student enrollment greater than the population of many of the small towns in which I grew up. Given my participation in science fairs throughout high school, I decided to major in biology and go to medical school. The further I got into the pre-med curriculum, though, the more I disliked it. Instead, I found myself dreaming of studying literature and creative writing. Finally, midway through my junior year, I decided to follow my heart. I changed my major to English and aimed for law school. And I resolved that someday, some way, I would pursue my dream of writing a novel.
It turns out that my interest in science didn’t go to waste. I earned an environmental science certificate from IU, which sparked my interest in environmental law. And I actually met my husband Tim at a national high school science fair competition. (Just goes to show that my being a “science nerd” in high school had some benefits I never saw coming!) Tim and I kept in touch and maintained a long-distance relationship for the entire time we were in college. Afterward, we applied to law and medical schools in the same general area so that we could finally live in the same place! That meant moving yet again, this time to Baltimore, where I went to law school at the University of Baltimore and Tim started working on a joint MD/PhD degree at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
I finished my law degree first and took a job with the United States Senate drafting environmental and natural resource legislation. Tim faced many more years of school and training than I did and it was during the first few years of his residency, when he was working crazy hours and I had lots of time alone in the evenings, that I wrote The Mill River Recluse, my first novel. Like most first novels, it didn’t sell. I put it in a drawer and life went on.
When Tim finally finished his residency, he accepted a faculty position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan and we moved (again) to New York. I continued to work as an attorney from home, including after we had a baby in 2010. Around that time, I started reading articles about the popularity of e-books and the ease with which someone could self-publish a book in electronic form.
In May 2011, I uploaded my novel, The Mill River Recluse, to Amazon’s Kindle Store, and everything changed in what seemed like an instant. It hit the New York Times bestseller list three months later, and the Wall Street Journal ran a story about it in December 2011. When Random House offered me the opportunity to write two new novels, I realized I had to choose between continuing to work for the Federal Government and pursuing a career as a writer. I also realized that I couldn’t live the rest of my life asking “what if?” Again, I followed my heart. I resigned my legal position in March 2012 and have been writing full-time ever since.
In the short time that I’ve been a writer – which is a description of myself that I’m still getting used to – I’ve learned a few things. First, you should always expect the unexpected. And, there is sometimes more than one path that will enable you to achieve a dream. For me, being able to get my first novel in front of readers as an e-book changed my career and my life. I will always be grateful to every person who read The Mill River Recluse, and especially those who took the time to review it, mention it to a friend, or send me a note of encouragement. Those readers – my readers – made my dream of being an author come true. I only hope that my future books return to them some of the great happiness and enjoyment that they have given me.
Favorite Book: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Favorite Movies: “Waking Ned Devine,” “Avatar,” “The Cider House Rules,” “Star Trek: First Contact,” and anything with the Muppets.
Author photo by Carrie Schechter