Photo by Emma Dodge Hanson
The short version ...
In addition to writing Thorn Abbey and Beauty, I've collaborated on several celebrity novels, including a New York Times bestselling trilogy for teens. I live in Ithaca, NY.
The long version, with ramblings about life, love, and writing ...
I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mom and a Caucasian-American dad. When I was six, they sent me to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to spend the summer with my American grandparents and learn English. When I was nine, my parents split up and switched countries - that is, my mom moved my little brother and me to the U.S., and my dad stayed in Japan.
Being Japanese-American in a predominantly white community, I spent much of my childhood feeling like a freak and an outsider. It didn't help that I didn't have a "normal" family, whatever that is. Mine felt particularly abnormal. My mom was a Buddhist alcoholic artist who liked to do yoga in the living room in her underwear. My step-dad, who was only ten years older than me, spent a lot of time smoking pot in the basement. We had very little money, sometimes not enough for rent or even groceries.
Despite the not-great home environment, I did manage to find an identity of sorts. Being smart. Getting good grades. And reading constantly. I went from Betsy, Tacy, and Nancy Drew to the Bronte sisters to Sartre and Camus. Rebecca, the inspiration for Thorn Abbey, quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time. I loved curling up with a book in front of my face and being able to tune out people, problems, and drama.
I wrote my first poem when I was thirteen: a love poem for a twenty-something actor in a local production of the musical "Kiss Me Kate." He never saw the poem, although my BFF Julie made me cold-call him once. This was in the days before Caller ID, so he actually picked up the phone. I blurted out "I love you" before hanging up. That was the extent of my torrid affair with him.
During my teens, I contemplated all sorts of things I wanted to be when I grew up (besides glamorous, sophisticated, and rich). I thought about becoming a private detective, a ballerina, an FBI agent, a concert pianist, a teacher, and a truck driver (free travel!). But I always came back to writing. I loved having the ability - the sheer, awesome power - to spin characters out of gossamer and watch them blossom, self-destruct, and blossom again.
After graduating from Firestone High in Akron, Ohio, I went to Northwestern for a year. Even though it was a stellar college, Northwestern (ironically) felt too normal, so I transferred to the University of Chicago, which felt quirkier and more welcoming of oddballs like me. I graduated with a B.A. with honors in English.
After college, I moved around a lot. I had a few "real jobs" that required wearing nice clothes and showing up at an office. But mostly, I've been a writer.
I'm also a mom to Christopher (a freshman at Juilliard), Clara (a freshman in kindergarten), our cats Baxter Black and Sweetpea Deluxe, our bunny Thumper Thumpelina, and assorted animals who happen to show up at our door.
I'm married to Jens David Ohlin, who is brilliant and kind and way more patient with life's little curveballs than I could ever hope to be. He is a professor at Cornell Law School.
I'm thrilled and honored to be publishing Thorn Abbey and Beauty with Simon Pulse. Both books are intensely personal for me, in that there is a part of me in Tess, Devon, Becca, and Ana. I loved writing their stories.
But sometimes, it was torture. The author Gene Fowler said: "Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." He was so right.
I can't imagine doing anything else, though. Even as I write this, I'm working on a new novel. Blood is forming on my forehead. A new character (or two or three) is about to blossom, self-destruct, and blossom again.
Thank you for being here!