Biography

I was born in Michigan and grew up in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. I wrote my first novel at age eight called The Mystery at the Dallas Zoo, about a group of kid sleuths called in to find a stolen tapir. I submitted my first story at age 15, to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, about a doll whose eyes popped open when you left the room. I went on to write many poems about my soul, and in college wrote a handful of short stories, including one about a strange, magical place called Rain Village. Which would, many moons later, become my first novel.

In the mean time, I graduated from Penn State and went on to graduate school at UCLA, where I studied medieval Italian poetry. After getting a Master’s degree I left graduate school to write novels, and moved to New York, where I worked as a writer for a large engineering firm and then a think tank and did various freelance work, once writing a love letter for a heartbroken Japanese woman. I also spent a lot of time taking photographs, making collages, and drinking pink cocktails at the Algonquin Hotel.

Rain Village was published in 2006 and since then I’ve become a full-time writer and published three more novels, all of them based on classic fairytales: Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, Mermaid (which might be a movie, click here for more info), and my first and only (so far) middle-grade novel The Next Full Moon. I love the combination of beauty and darkness you find in these old stories, and love taking a traditional tale and illuminating it in some new way. I also love the combination of gritty reality with gorgeous, lush fantasy. My latest book, The Fairest of Them All, was published in August 2013 by Simon & Schuster, and is about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White’s stepmother.

While I was writing Mermaid, people started sending me mermaid photos and bits of mermaid news and then mermaids started appearing everywhere in my travels. At one point I was staying in Berlin, Germany, where I had a friend who did a mermaid burlesque act, and then I went to see Leonard Cohen in Warsaw and was shocked to find myself in a city whose symbol has been the mermaid since the middle ages. I gave into fate and created my mermaid blog I Am a Mermaid, and started interviewing everyone from Tim Gunn to Alice Hoffman to the Magnetic Fields about these mythical creatures. I talked to so many mermaid lovers and real-life mermaids, in fact, that I found myself giving into their allure. I went to mermaid camp at Weeki Wachee Springs (and wore a tail and swam with a wild manatee) and even got myself scuba certified some months later in Nicaragua.

I now live between central Pennsylvania and New York, teach in Alaska at the University of Alaska at Anchorage’s Low-Residency MFA program, and am working on many lovely new projects, only some of which involve wearing a tail.