I’m a binge writer. I wish I could be one of those amazingly disciplined writers who write every day. But I’m not. I give myself a word count I want to reach, usually 50, 000 words, and give myself a month to do it in. I’m then so obsessed with making the word count that I’m completely absorbed in the story, and the rest of my life goes to rack and ruin. The cats and I depend on my husband for food and water when I’m on a tear.
I can’t work at home. I love my home. It's cozy and cluttered and welcoming. There are also dishes I could be washing or bills that need paying or clothes I should be folding and putting away. Far too many “productive distractions.” So I have a lovely little desk in a shared writers’ space, called The Castro Writers’ Cooperative. We are tucked behind a bustling café and have a secret entrance. It’s wonderfully cloak and dagger.
I use enormous storyboards to keep me on track. I've plastered the boards with photos of characters and a zillion bright sticky notes. It looks more like I’m trying to solve a crime than write a fantasy novel. Every three months or so, I promise myself I will learn a program like Scrivener to make plotting and notes easier. But I love the feel of my pens and sticky notes too much to give them up.
I adore surfing. I grew up on beaches as a kid, but I didn’t learn to surf until I was in college. My university offered surfing as a PE class. The only problem was, the course was midday, and I had a Russian language class right after it. I never had enough time to change. I would sit in the back of the lecture hall in my wet bathing suit, towel, and hoodie. Luckily, I never had to go up to the board.
My astrological chart foretold I would be a writer. When I was born my parents had my birth chart done, and my mother would often remind me I was destined to be a writer, particularly when she didn’t approve of choices. I tried to prove her wrong, but she was right about this just as she was right about everything else.
I was an urban chicken rancher for seven years. By rancher I mean my neighbor and I had four chickens that free-ranged between our two yards. The paradox is I’ve always despised the taste of eggs.
One of my superpowers is I can come up with a meal using whatever I have in the fridge. It’s a genetic thing. My mother and her dad, my Finnish grandfather, had this gift. When I was living in Finland with my grandparents as a child, my mother told me never to ask my grandfather what was in the dish he was cooking, because you didn’t want to know. I stand by that advice for my own cooking.
I walked away from my Ph.D. program without regrets. I spent eight life-changing years as a teaching assistant in the European History Department at the University of California Santa Cruz. I made lifelong friends. But there came a moment in the National Library in Florence where I asked myself if this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and the answer came back No! I have no regrets about not finishing my dissertation. In fact, I think it would make a better novel.
Despite being horribly allergic, I have two demanding Siamese cats. The first, Hello Kitty, came to us as a feral kitten. The second, Roo (Badtz Maru) is a rescue kitty from the animal shelter. I still wheeze, and if I touch my eyes they swell shut, but there is an undeniable bond that transcends any of these challenges.
My husband asked me to marry him a month after we’d met at our best friends’ wedding. He lived in Kentucky, and I lived in California, and we’d only spent time together the one weekend. We’ve been together almost 20 years, and we still debate who was braver, him for asking or me for saying yes.