From the time I was a little girl, I was drawn to storytelling. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I wrote stories of suspense with permanent markers on construction paper. Soon I graduated to using loose-leaf paper, my grandfather’s manual typewriter, and eventually my own electric typewriter, which my parents bought me for college. Then came the computer, which—for a cut-and-paste-happy writer like I am, always switching sentences and paragraphs around—was a godsend.
I think that’s how journalism found me in high school—allowing me the opportunity to tell stories. They may not have been mine, but I found I learned a lot about myself through other people’s stories—and I learned a lot about other people too. I became one of two news editors for Forest Hills High School’s Beacon.
That’s me on the bottom right.
And journalism hasn’t let go of me since.
But even as my career took me into local news, the trade press, consumer magazines, and eventually into nonfiction book writing, collaborating, and ghostwriting, I never let go of my aspirations of becoming a thriller writer.
When I was working as a full-time editor in Manhattan in the 1990s, I was living in Queens commuting on the subway. I would read tons of crime fiction. John Grisham. James Patterson. Michael Crichton. I devoured their books. And for some reason I still thought I had it in me to write one. (I swear I had a happy childhood!)
So I started writing one. In fact, I started writing a lot of them. I’d write a few chapters of one, get bored, and then get a great idea for another thriller and work on that one for a while, and then get bored of that one and so on. I tried writing screenplays when I had difficulty writing the novels, and when that got boring or too difficult I switched back. At the same time, I was in my twenties, traveling, developing a career as a journalist, and busy being married and then having kids. Over time, I worked on those novels less and less, because I was doing other things that I loved, and this dream of writing suspense fiction sort of fell on the backburners of my life.
Fast-forward about eight years, and there I was with three amazing kids and a successful freelance writing career, but I was still thinking about those novels. It’s funny how some things—arguably, the important things—stick with you. In my house and in my car and in my purse, I still had tiny pieces of paper with all kinds of story ideas scribbled on them. I had kept them all. And I thought to myself, “Listen, woman…You’ve set this dream aside to do ONE DAY. But ONE DAY may never happen if you don’t do something about it NOW.”
That’s when I decided to go back to school to get my graduate degree. I knew that I needed to go to a place where I would be FORCED to write, a place where no one was asking me for sippy cups and there were no laundry piles to sidestep. I figured, What’s better than having a professor demanding pages from me, giving me deadlines, to get it done? I decided to go back to Hofstra University, which is where I had gotten my undergrad degree, to get a master’s degree in English and Creative Writing and, in the process, get that novel written. And my plan worked. After working on some narrative nonfiction and short stories for a few years, I took a long fiction class in my last semester and thought, Okay, this is it, this is one of those seminal moments. I’m going to choose one of those ideas that I have—one of those ideas scribbled on crumpled paper or left to die on my hard drive—and begin writing what will turn out to be my first novel.
I chose Baby Grand.