Photo by Emma Dodge Hanson
The short version ...
I was born in Tokyo, Japan and divided my childhood between there and Ohio. I received a BA in English from the University of Chicago. I am the author of the YA novels Consent, Beauty, and Always, Forever (Simon Pulse) as well as the Blast Off! early-grade history series (Little Bee). I've collaborated with Quvenzhane Wallis, Paige McKenzie, and other celebrities, and I've written or ghostwritten nearly a hundred other books for children, teens, and adults. I live in Ithaca, NY.
The long version, with ramblings about life and writing ...
I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mom and a white 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 an outsider. It didn't help that I didn't have a "normal" family, whatever that is. Mine felt particularly abnormal, on top of which 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. Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, the inspiration for Always, Forever, 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.
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 eventually discovered 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.
These days, I live in Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell University (where my husband Jens is a law professor). I'm a mom to Christopher (24) and Clara (11). As a family, we love to travel and have adventures. We're also way into classical music. (Christopher, a pianist, is a doctoral student at Juilliard.)
I have a home office where I like to write with my cat muses Baxter Black, Tiger Rex, Sweetpea Deluxe, and Kimchi Ruffles Stardust. Sometimes, I meet up with other writers at a coffee shop in town. There, we take over a big table with our laptops and cups of coffee and inspire each other to write brilliant chapters.
Early Grade Books
Greetings from Somewhere
- The Mystery of the Gold Coin
- The Mystery of the Mosaic
- The Mystery of the Stolen Painting
- The Mystery in the Forbidden City
- The Mystery of the Lion's Tail
- The Mystery of the Suspicious Spices
- The Mystery Across the Secret Bridge
- The Mystery At the Coral Reef
- The Mystery of the Icy Paw Prints
- The Mystery of the Secret Society
- Tales From Maple Ridge >
- Greetings from Somewhere >
- Teen Books >
- Early Grade Books >
- About Nancy