I was born in America but grew up in Canada. I was young when we moved, which meant lots of failed spelling tests (color vs. colour, check vs. cheque). Perhaps in tribute to this, I wrote my novel The Futures from two points of view—one American character, one Canadian. My husband thinks my Canadian childhood accounts for why I’m obsessed with the royal family. (But isn’t everybody?)
I lived at the base of a ski resort. Whistler, on the west coast of Canada, was where I grew up. You could see the mountain peak from our driveway. There were pretty good perks to living in a ski resort. If it snowed more than a foot over night, there was a tacit understanding that everyone could skip school and go skiing the next day.
For a brief period when I was 16, I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I devoured Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday, and was obessively fascinated by the protagonist’s work as a brain surgeon. I decided that’s what I wanted to do. My high school guidance counselor pointed out that I had never expressed much interest in science. Maybe I wasn’t obsessed with brain surgery, but I was actually obsessed with the power of fiction? He was probably right.
I was an editor on my college newspaper, the Yale Daily News. I loved it. I learned more from working on the paper than I learned from any class. I was one of the editors in charge of writing and editing the headlines, which was hard but satisfying. You learned to be very picky about the words you used.
And I’m still an editor. I’ve worked in book publishing in New York City for eight years. Editing is my day job, and writing is my very early morning job. Working as an editor, witnessing the creativity and brilliance of these writers up-close and personal, was the world’s best writing education.
I was in a dance group in university. Beside working on the newspaper, this was my other, sillier extracurricular. It’s important to have balance! In addition to becoming a brain surgeon (see above), my other long-shot career plan was to become a back-up dancer.
Now I find that dancing is a perfect way to break up a writing session. If I’ve been sitting at my desk for a long stretch, and my brain needs a break, I put on some loud music (sorry, neighbors) and dance badly for five minutes. It shakes something loose when you’ve been stationary for too long.
I lived above a piano bar for four years. Our previous apartment was above a piano bar with live music and singing, every single night. It was like being forced to attend a nightly concert that lasted until 3 a.m. On the one hand, I’ve grown to hate “Tiny Dancer” and “Piano Man.” On the other hand, our rent was cheap. I told myself it would make a good story someday.
I walk to work every day. I live on the Upper East Side of New York, in a small but sunny apartment (not above a piano bar, thankfully!). I walk for about 30 minutes through Central Park to my office in Midtown. It’s one of the best parts of the day, especially on a spring morning. I drink my coffee, I get some vitamin D, I listen to a podcast, and I begin the day on a good note.
I can tell you the perfect cure to a stressful day. When you get home from a long day at the office, here’s what you do. Put on your softest pajamas, pour a nice cold glass of white wine, and queue up the Great British Bake-Off. I find that you can let go of even the most difficult day if you have that soothing combination.