I started writing at age nine, when my teacher introduced the topic ‘Creative Writing’ and I wrote a ninety-page, crayon-illustrated collection entitled The Adventures of the Magical Herd in which a girl named Carol lives with a herd of magical horses. I knew from that moment I wanted to be a writer and that I’d always find a way to rewrite my own life.
During my teens I wrote poetry and was awarded the Young Poet of Long Island award. I took a break from writing to major in Latin at Vassar College, where I fell in love with language and the Hudson Valley, two themes that would reappear in my first published novel, the bestselling and critically acclaimed novel, The Lake of Dead Languages (Ballantine, 2001). The novel is about a Latin teacher who returns to a girls’ school in the Adirondacks and was inspired by a year I spent living in the Adirondacks and also family trips to the Mohonk Mountain House.
In the next decade, while living on Long Island and raising my daughter, Maggie, I wrote five more literary mysteries, was nominated for the IMPAC award twice and the Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark Award, and won the Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing for my second novel, The Seduction of Water. I have tried in these novels to explore themes of artistic inspiration, family conflict, and gender issues, using the landscape and history of New York’s Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks as setting and motif.
I departed from mystery fiction for a few years by writing fantasy and young adult fiction but I stayed close to (my creative) home geographically. My husband, poet Lee Slonimsky, and I wrote an urban fantasy trilogy set in New York City. Under the pseudonym Juliet Dark, I wrote The Demon Lover (Ballantine 2011), which Booklist named a top ten fantasy/science fiction book of 2012, and two more paranormal fantasy books in the same series set in a fictitious college town in the Catskills. My young adult novel, Blythewood (Viking Children’s 2013), was named a best young adult novel by the American Library Association. The Blythewood series is set at the eponymous girls’ school on the Hudson River.
When I finally moved to the Hudson Valley in 2010 I found that I hadn’t run out of things to say about the area. I was inspired by the Hudson River mansions and the scenic and perilous River Road, which I drove on daily, to return to suspense fiction with River Road (Touchstone, 2016). Since then I’ve written five more suspense novels set in Upstate New York, New York City, and Maine.
I continue to enjoy exploring folklore, myth, and history as sources of inspiration for my writing. My latest book, The Disinvited Guest, is set on an island off the coast of Maine that is haunted by the tragic history of the Irish famine ships. When I’m not writing and taking long walks near the river, I teach writing and literature at SUNY New Paltz and The New School.