I was a city girl, born in Burbank California to a pair of ambitious parents who moved the family every few years as my father sought greater responsibilities in the then-bourgeoning aviation industry. We finally settled in New York City long enough for me to attend high school. I was shy, too tall too soon, and only excelled at school when I finally set my sights on Stanford University and squeaked in on so-so grades.
I married immediately after college, and went to work as a programmer until the birth of my sons Lukas and Joshua Casey, who are now well into their adulthoods. While they grew I worked at a motley assortment of jobs including Welcome Wagon lady, treasurer to a small corporation, reporter, freelance writer and swim instructor. When more serious money was required, I put my head down, gritted my teeth and wrote marketing copy for insurance companies in which the objective was to make readers see their diminishing health and retirement benefits as a welcome change. For this I apologize. As an antidote, I wrote fiction furiously every morning, more as pleasure and therapy than with an eye to publication, which, at that point in my life, seemed unlikely. On the cusp of my 59th year, however, Speak Softly, She Can Hear was taken by Simon and Schuster, then Perfect Family and now, with the publication of A Young Wife, a third.
A Young Wife is something of a departure from my earlier books. It’s a more sweeping story, told on a grander scale than the others. It also has some of its roots in family history.
During our many moves, my California grandmother’s rare visits were highlights. She told me stories of a disaster at sea, a burning ship, circling sharks and a husband’s heroism. She spoke of her life as a very young bride in a place called Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. She recalled handsome gauchos who rode into town on fabulous horses decked in turquoise and silver, and of their thunderous races down the dusty main street.
I had many questions. Why had she and her husband gone there? Who was this husband? Why did my mother refuse to speak of him, not even to give me his name?
Much later in my life, I learned that at age fifteen my grandmother was hired to tend a dying relative in the home of my then thirty-five-year old grandfather, that he took her to South America to start a store there, and that he ultimately abandoned her in New York City with four young daughters and few skills. Most astonishingly, that she continued to love him until she died.
This scant but rich information was a rare gift for a fiction writer. The exotic settings, the passion, and his devastating betrayal became the bones on which to build a story. I was glad not to know everythingvirtually nothing of my grandfatherso that my imagination was free to make up the rest.
I’ve been luckier in love than my grandmother. I live in eastern Connecticut with my husband, Rob Funk. When I met him he was leading hikes and trekking groups all over the world. I joined him on these and then became one of his co-leaders, taking groups as far away as Bhutan and as near as the California desert. To him I owe the constancy of my life as well as my appreciation and knowledge of the outdoors.