I wrote my first short story and poem when I was seven-years-old. My mother, an avid moviegoer, took me every Friday night to the local movie theater. That’s where I fell in love with stories of all kinds. My dream was to be a movie star, a ballerina or a writer. Obviously there wasn’t a practical bone in my body.
I realized two of my three dreams: I was a member of the Cleveland Civic Ballet company in the early 1960’s. And I’m now the author of three mystery novels and numerous poems, essays and short stories. Though never a movie star I was active in Chicago area community theater groups dancing, singing, and acting in productions such as Cabaret, South Pacific and California Suite.
Raised in the working class city of Parma, Ohio, I spun stories to entertain my friends and family but at the time did not seriously considered pursuing a career as a writer. Although I never stopped writing, keeping journals, writing poems and short stories, it wasn’t until I won a prize in a national poetry contest in 1974, did I think I had what it took to be a professional writer.
I believe that my years of training as a classical ballerina influenced my writing, teaching me the importance of timing and how to harness my creativity, as well as giving me a sense of aesthetics. To me words on the page are like musical notes on a score.
From business to education to books
After a series of careers changes that ranged from a manager at Southwestern Bell Telephone to a freelance writer for McDonald’s Corporation and with my two children in school, I quit my job as Director of Public Relations at Robert Morris College in 1983 and became a graduate student in creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). My desire was to connect with a community of like-minded writers and to immerse myself in literature and writing.
At UIC I earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in English with a specialization in writing poetry. My Ph.D. thesis was published as a book of poems entitled Landscape Toward a Proper Silence in 1992. Lisel Mueller called the book “a splendid collection.” “In Country,” my poem about my father’s death, was awarded an Illinois Arts Council award in 2002.
I worked at UIC until 2002, teaching writing and literature classes while simultaneously managing the Internship Program and the Nonfiction Writing Program. My innovative graduate internship program won a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Grant in 1999. It was during this time that I became hooked on female detective novels.
How the series started
At my son’s urging I decided to write a mystery novel, which became Destroying Angels (Five Star/Cengage, 2006). Kirkus Reviews called Destroying Angels, “a riveting debut thriller.”
Before writing the second book in what had become the Leigh Girard series and always ready for a new adventure, I became a certified canoe instructor. I tapped into my experience leading such trips and teaching water rescue when writing Death’s Door (Five Star/Cengage, 2009), which Kirkus described as “fast-paced and literate with a strong protagonist and a puzzle that keeps you guessing.”
Besides writing novels, I continue to teach creative writing as an occasional guest lecturer at Roosevelt University in Chicago and at various venues throughout the Chicago area.
I live in Libertyville, Illinois with my husband. After years of vacationing in the resort area of Door County, Wisconsin, where my series takes place, I now have a summer home in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin.
And I’m still an avid moviegoer.