My folks are North Carolinians but lived in West Virginia long enough to have me and my sister while our preacher dad served coal field churches. When I was two (pictured above with two cousins), we moved to Loray, North Carolina, just outside of Statesville. I wrote two novels, The Remember Box and Carley's Song, based on those years and while the protagonist and both plots are fictional, my little sister and I did a lot of things the small children do in those stories. Five years later we moved to Wilmington, where we played in the Atlantic and promised we’d swim to France--tomorrow. When I was twelve, Dad took a position down the coast in Jacksonville, Florida.
I decided in ninth grade to become a writer. After Robert E. Lee High, I headed to Vassar College for their creative writing program. After college I returned to my folks, who by then were living in Miami, and got a job to earn money for a serious test of my writing commitment. In the fall of 1967, with $750, one suitcase, two coats and a portable typewriter, I headed to a Scottish Highland village where I didn't know a soul, to see if I had the self-discipline to write without professors setting a deadline and if I had anything to say without professors assigning me a topic. It was years before I realized how scary that journey could have been. Instead, the villagers took me into their homes and their hearts. Some remain close friends. I did learn later, though, that a few folks secretly called me "the daft American." Who else would travel from Miami to the Highlands for the winter?
Before my money ran out the following April, I had sold one poem, one article, one short story, and a one-act play. Fortified by that major impact on British literature, I moved to Atlanta and started a series of writing-related jobs. In the following years I wrote for religious magazines like Guideposts and also wrote a good bit of educational materials on the subject of hunger. But no matter what I was writing, I was reading mysteries.
One day my husband, Bob, looked over our budget and demanded, "Why don’t you write a mystery to pay for all the ones you buy?" I immediately knew what I wanted to write: the basement of a building where I’d once worked was a perfect site to stash a body. However, being over-endowed with the Protestant ethic, I wrote "important" things first and only wrote the mystery in my spare time. My first mystery, MURDER AT MARKHAM (reissued by Silver Dagger in 2001), took thirteen years to complete. It took even longer for me to learn that any writing which gives me pleasure is important, whether fiction or non-fiction.
Since 1988 I have written twenty mysteries, four novels, and five non-fiction books, most of which are still available. I am grateful to readers and editors for letting me do what I enjoy most in the world. Bob used to contend that writing is not a profession, it's an obsession. He's right, as my two sons can attest. How many evenings did they stand in my office door asking, "Are we EVER going to eat?" Thanks, if you are one of the readers who keeps my fingers on the keys. I enjoy spending time with you at conferences, book clubs, and other events.
In 1998, when our older son entered graduate school, I wondered, "Do I want a son more educated than I am? I don't think so!" So I went to Florida International University for a Masters of Arts in Religious Studies with a focus on religion and literature. FIU is an amazing university that lives up to its middle name. We studied various religions among people who could speak out in class from all those traditions. My particular interest was to learn how novelists from varied faiths portray faith in fiction,. I hope those years have enriched mywriting. They have certainly expanded my reading.
For forty-three years Bob remained my encourager and faithful patron of the arts, but in April 2014 he died after two difficult years of illness. I miss him very much but know that this new season will offer new challenges and new possibilities. When he died we were living in Mableton, GA, northwest of Atlanta. I will remain here for the time being. When I’m not writing, I work to improve the lives of children, particularly foster children, and serve as an elder in my local congregation. I also plant and replant flowers and shrubs in my yard. Bob used to say I wasn't happy until I'd moved every plant at least once. But my favorite hobbies are reading and doing nothing.
The rest of what you want to know, you’ll find in my books. The people are different, but the basic stories are true. I always figure why make up anything I can remember instead?