Born: near Lake Michigan.
Grew up: in Chicago.
Married: high school boyfriend.
(Is that a typical Midwestern story, or what?)
Me, with my big brother.
I can't tell if he's holding me steady or
is about to dump me in the lake ....
I met my husband at a roller rink. (Do they even still have roller rinks?) It was summer and I remember going on and on to him about baseball, which I loved.
John -- who never went on about anything -- liked football. But we both liked skating, especially together.
(Why isn't rollerskate dancing an Olympic sport? I'm just asking.)
We skated every weekend of our dating years, unless we were hiking or wandering Chicago's museums or lolling on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Then we married and moved from the Midwest to the East Coast, where we discovered -- the ocean!
If one can't afford a waterfront mansion, which we couldn't, one's next best bet is to learn how to sail a teeny boat,
which we did. Gradually we moved up to bigger boats, falling more and more in love with the sea,
until we passed on buying our first house and instead bought and moved aboard a tired old sailboat. Financial geniuses, we were not.
In its proud heyday the boat had been considered for service as John F. Kennedy's presidential yacht, but it was deemed too small.
Maybe too small for the President of the United States of America, but it was perfect for us. After we fixed it up, it carried us safely
on two voyages to the Caribbean and into many charming and quaint harbors in New England, which is why so many of my books are set there.
We lived aboard it year round, right through some bitter New England winters.
John puts up the tree.
(And, yes, it had lights.)
Me at the helm after a hum-dinger of a storm at sea.
That boat! I tossed aside five good years of graduate school at Brown University when we moved aboard it.
(Unless I finish my doctoral dissertation, the world will never know how much the myth of Troilus and Isolde informs the works of Thomas Hardy.)
We lived aboard for a dozen years, most of them in Newport, Rhode Island. My life revolved around the sea.
I painted boats, sold boats, sailed boats, wrote about boats, and was cruising Grenada with my husband
when that Caribbean island decided to have a revolution. (More adventure, more material.)
Surprisingly, only one of my books features a Caribbean setting: my very first, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy called TROUBLE IN PARADISE.
I guess this is where I mention that I began my writing career with three category romances, two for Dell and one for Silhouette Special Editions.
I haven't read them since I wrote them, so I don't know how I feel about them, but I'm pretty sure that I'd still like TROUBLE IN PARADISE.
After we sailed back to Newport from our first voyage to the Caribbean, I got a job working for Dennis Conner and the America's Cup yacht races.
By the time the trophy left America for Australia four years later, I had a huge amount of material for a book. I'd witnessed so much,
from balls in the mansions to battles on the water. Everyone from the lowly office staff (me) to the hangers-on (quite a few) to the wealthiest
contributors and sponsors (everyone else) provided ever more material.
It all came together in my one and only historical saga, THE CHALLENGE AND THE GLORY, which I sold to Bantam Books.
The final manuscript weighed in at 925 pages. It spans nearly a hundred years of Newport history, from the 1890's Gilded Age
to the equally extravagant 1980's. Sir Thomas Lipton is featured in it, as are the Vanderbilts, the roaring twenties, the Crash of '29 and
the subsequent Great Depression, and finally that last historic yacht race ending the most winning streak in sports history -- 136 years of U.S. victories.
The novel freely moves Upstairs and Downstairs and follows generations of old money, new money, and no money.
The print in the Bantam paperback is tiny, which is what happens when you squeeze 925 manuscript pages into 546 book pages. (Hooray for eBooks with their adjustable fonts!)
I had hoped to write another saga -- they're such big, baggy, comfortable things -- but I was told that unless my name was Belva Plain or some such,
the market was no longer right for them.
Later I was very disappointed that the judge wouldn't let me legally change my name to Rosamunde Pilcher.
Eventually the odds caught up with our trusty old boat and it got clobbered in a hurricane.
We bought a house at last and moved into it with our sailor cat. I bought furniture -- we had none -- and two lawn chairs.
A desk. A lawn mower. I even cautiously and very skeptically approached the concept of gardening. (A dear writer friend, Peggy Nicholson, more or less forced me into it.
To get me on my way, she planted a rose on the south side of my house. And what was my first choice of something to plant?
Invasive English ivy. I still have to go out regularly with a pruning shears and whack the stuff back; what I really need is an ax.)
Our little city terrace and garden.
Our peeling picket fence.
(Where's Huckleberry Finn when you need him?)
Despite the flowers, we missed our freedom, so we bought another boat.
But now that we had a house, the boat turned out to be more of an anchor than a magic carpet.
So we sold it and got serious at long last about our careers. I wrote EMILY'S GHOST,
then in (for me) quick succession I wrote BELOVED, EMBERS, TIME AFTER TIME (also set in Newport),
BEYOND MIDNIGHT, and DREAM A LITTLE DREAM.
Those six books have paranormal elements, mostly ghostly, in them.
I'm a very practical-minded person, which actually worked to my advantage: it was easy for me to create
doubting heroines with logical explanations for illogical events. Nonetheless, I, like almost everyone I've ever talked to,
have had moments in my life when I couldn't ... quite ... account ... for what I saw or felt, and that's why
I think almost everyone can enjoy the novels, even if they don't -- quite -- believe in ghosts.
After those books, I began to move in a more mainstream direction and wrote A CHARMED PLACE, KEEPSAKE,
SAFE HARBOR, TIDEWATER, SAND CASTLES, and A MONTH AT THE SHORE.
The last eight of my books were written for St. Martin's Press under the guidance of Jennifer Enderlin,
the kind of editor that most writers can only dream about. But then I wandered off again -- because that's what I
seem to do if anyone leaves the door open. It wasn't until my husband, a computer geek from way back, said,
"We're putting your books in eBook format, so sit down and get to work," that I caught the writing bug again.
So here I sit, planning novels in my same old Newport picket-fenced cottage, which has a little more room
than it used to so that we can enjoy wonderful, longed-for family visits each summer.
The importance of family will be a theme, as it always has, in my books. And so will long-buried secrets and maybe unsolved
crimes and -- who knows? -- maybe an unexplainable event now and then. And in every story, a very level-headed woman
will remain hopeful that somewhere on this planet lives a man who'd be the perfect soul mate for her.
With any luck, her optimism won't be misplaced.
A January moon, photographed from our roof deck.