MY LIFE THUS FAR
I was a confused little kid. You can see that in the photo of me on the beach in Gilleleje, Denmark. I've lived in California, Washington State, New York State, New Mexico, Virginia, France, Denmark, and Scotland. My great-great-grandmother was what was then called a gypsy, and I suppose it's in the blood.
But when I was four years old and read "Rumpelstiltskin" to my sick mum, I knew I wanted to be a writer. No confusion. Or less of it, anyway.
I grew up with a Danish mother, an American father, and a roomful of books and Barbies (whom I still love), with whom I acted out elaborate stories. As an adolescent I lived on the edge of wild desert land covered in sagebrush and cactus, playing in a dry creekbed, listening to (and running away from) cicadas and coyotes. But I was born in California and have lived most of my life by the crashing waves and barking sea lions: In San Diego, I used to write on the beach; in Berkeley, I earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature; on the Central Coast, I bought my first wetsuit and published my first novel, Mirabilis. It was inspired by my year living in Poitiers, France, and begun while I was a grad student at SUNY Binghamton. Therein a wet nurse is suspected of working miracles while she falls in love with her pregnant employer and tries to make a life for herself, a rescued dwarf, an ambitious sculptor, and an anchoress sealed into the church walls to pray.
California and the Southwest gave me much of the material for my novel Breath and Bones, in which a Danish artist's model is set loose in the Wild West, to chase a lost love and find her tuberculosis increasing with her lovesickness. It's really about my parents, though not in an obvious way that I can explain. They both passed away before I published Mirabilis, and I wrote it while I was living in San Luis Obispo, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
I'm really excited about my third novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, which is set in a watery, witchy, mermaidy kingdom in Scandinavia, 1572. Young women's bodies are the batttlefields as three outcasts--a seamstress, a slave, and a mad queen--plot against patriarchal court politics in order to save themselves and the little princesses. It appeared in October 2013 and is recommended for both young adults and regular adults.
I've also written short stories, essays, and articles about contemporary literature and pop culture--from supermodels to zoos, gynecology to the concepts of the sublime and horror--and I am a frequent reviewer for the New York Times Book Review.
One of my life's greatest moments came when I held a carrot in my teeth and fed it to a giraffe.
Right now I live in Richmond, Virginia, where I teach creative writing and contemporary narrative at a local university. I live in an old house with a lot of leaks and some witchy cats; you'll see them here on and off. I keep goldfish in a backyard pond that reminds me of the ocean--and I'm working on a ghost story set in my just-sold house in the 1920s. It helps me explain the creaks and plinks to myself. I'm using my Great-Aunt Nelly as a character; she was the village psychic for Gilleleje (where I'm sitting on the beach in my toddler hoodie), and she went deeper and deeper into her trances until she stayed on the Other Side.
I'm told I've been to the Other Side too. And I might believe it. Why not??
Catholic school, second grade.
Here I am grinning and reading
with friends, including Andrea Bosiger.
Shout-outs to Villa Maria Academy!
One of the greatest moments of my life was when I held a carrot in my teeth and fed it to a giraffe. The giraffe licked my entire face.
California, I miss you.
Yes, I had my phases. Don't we all?
My haunted house in Richmond, also known as the Danish embassy here. I just sold it to move into an even older farmhouse across the river. The ghosts will have to miss me.