THIS IS MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT
9 I spend the summers with my husband and our adorable Yorkiedoodle, Isabella, at our condo in Edmonds, WA (the photo on my home page is of nearby Puget Sound). In the winter, we head south to warm and bright Palm Desert, CA, so we have the best of both worlds.
I grew up in a quiet little Indiana town called Mishawaka, named after an Indian princess (the town, not me). I had a pleasant, sheltered childhood, but I really disliked the cold midwestern winters and sweltering summers.At the age of 16, I landed my first job working for my hometown daily, The Mishawka Times. I graduated from Indiana University, packed everything I owned into my Plymouth Valiant and drove to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which was equally as cold and hot as Mishawaka but had the distinction of being closer to California. After six months at The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, I got a job offer with more pay at The San Bernardino Sun-Telegram. I loved Southern California. I loved picking lemons off the tree and being flooded with the fragrance of orange blossoms in the orchard outside my apartment.
My roommate introduced me to a guy she'd served with in Peace Corps. Three weeks later, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. We met in May and married in August. (Note: On the negative side, I would not recommend such a rash decision and short engagment. On the positive side, we've been married 49 years.) He talked me into moving to his hometown, Seattle, because he said that, despite rumors to the contrary, it didn't rain very much. Later, when I accused him of prevaricating, he insisted that more than 13 major cities get more rainfall. Of course, he forgot to tell me about Seattle's abundance of cloudy but rainless days.
While living most of these past four decades in Seattle and its suburbs, I produced two boys, worked for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and spent sixteen years in movie advertising, at first representing a theater circuit and later representing movie studios such as Paramount, New Line Cinema and MGM. Now that was a fun job. Can you imagine being paid to watch movies and write radio commercials about them?
Then, one day, my supervisor from the theater circuit's home office in Toronto arrived and told us our agency was closing. There went my job as regional advertising director. He offered me a position in Toronto, but that was even closer to the Arctic Circle than Mishawaka so I turned him down.
I had never been unemployed before. I was in my late 40s and had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life. The only credentials I had were as a newspaper reporter (I'd won a few press club and Associated Press awards) and as an advertising executive.
Seemed like I was always writing something from the time I was a teenager, but I never wrote any fiction that wasn't assigned in school. I never wrote short stories or poems, much less a novel. However, to avoid actively looking for a job, I sat at my computer and wrote what I was sure would become THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. I packaged up 10 manuscripts and sent them off to New York publishers (that's when there actually were 10 publishers). Most of them returned unopened with a note that said they didn't accept unagented fiction. I didn't know what they were talking about so I had to learn.
I tried to find an agent but gave up after six or seven rejections. This was harder than I thought. I decided I needed to find out more about writing and publishing fiction so I took some classes and read about a dozen books on the craft. I discovered there was a lot I didn't know.
Then I joined a critique group and started writing The Starlite Drive-in. I was fortunate to link up with a group of intelligent, clever women who were supportive and enthusiastic. I pitched my manuscript (which wasn't quite finished yet) to four agents at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. They all said, "Send it to me." I mailed a few sample chapters to two agents. They both said, "Send me the rest." I did a little dance and promised I'd ship it off as soon as I polished it. I finished the novel and sent them the rest. They both offered to represent me.
This was cool! This was the way it was supposed to work. I chose Angela Rinaldi as my agent, and a few months later she sold my novel to William Morrow & Co. That summer, I became the poster child for the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and the following summer Morrow released The Starlite Drive-in in hardcover, making me the poster child again at PNWA. Berkley released two different versions in paperback.
The Starlite Drive-in did very well for me, winning several awards. Over the last several years, the novel has appeared in four different editions of the book, the latest a paperback released by HarperCollins in November 2011.
My second novel, The Civil Wars of Jonah Moran, came out in hardcover (Morrow) and paperback (Berkley).
Most recently, I've collaborated with two other writers on a Sun City Slut mystery series. The first novel, Murder at Cape Foulweather, a comedic romp about five women who are the best of friends, is now available in paperback through Amazon and on Amazon Kindle. Please check it out.
Great talking with you. Happy writing!