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I was raised in Smithers, BC, Canada and lived there until I moved to Toronto at age 20. I had a brief and unsuccessful career as a fashion design student and, after I worked at a series of low paying jobs, such as server, record store employee, etc., I began a degree in English Literature at University of Toronto, which I finished at the University of British Columbia. After graduating I became an editor at a self-help/how-to book publishing company based in Vancouver. Later, I did a master’s degree in publishing.
When I was a kid I wrote fiction but gave it up for a life of crime. Okay, that’s not true, but I did get seriously sidetracked. That time in my life is the subject of my memoir, Nice Recovery. When I was twenty, until I got myself together and when I was about 26 I started writing, in the morning before work, first on the bus, then in a coffee shop. This writing became my first novel, Alice, I Think, which was published by Thistledown Press in 2000. Alice, I Think was republished by HarperCollins in 2003 and they also published the sequels and several other books.
When I first started writing my intention was to write a book about a teenager who doesn’t fit in, but doesn’t allow that fact to crush her. The Alice MacLeod series is my homage to oddballs. I wanted to create a character who has the courage and integrity to find her own way and define herself independently of other people. I’ve always admired people who can do that.
After finishing three books about Alice and her family (Alice, I Think, Miss Smithers and Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last), I decided that my goal is to write every kind of book I love to read. I’ve always loved horse books. I was a lunatic for horses when I was younger. I owned several horses over the years (for a time when I was quite young I was convinced I was a horse, but let’s keep that between us) and I became obsessed with an equestrian sport called dressage. I quit riding when I left home to go to college, but part of me always thought I could have been a “contender”. (In retrospect, I’m not sure why I would have thought that.) Anyway, I got a nice pay day when Alice, I Think was made into a TV series, and the first thing I did was rush out a buy a horse and start working on a book about two young dressage riders. The story was initially about two girls, but soon I fell in love with a secondary character, a boy named Alex, and the book became mainly about him. That one is called Another Kind of Cowboy.
I’m also a maniac for detective novels, which led to Getting the Girl, a comedy about an inept detective and a high school conspiracy he is determined to stop. Book number six is my memoir. I developed a bit of a substance abuse problem when I was thirteen and I ended up getting clean and sober when I was twenty. Nice Recovery is about that time. The book includes information for people with addiction problems and interviews with amazing young people in recovery. My love for satire and the End Is Nigh novels led me to write Bright’s Light, which is that rarest of things: a funny dystopian novel about young dunderheads in the last fun place on earth and the alien who wants to save them.
Home to Woefield, as it’s known in the U.S. and The Woefield Poultry Collective as it’s known in Canada, is a comedy about a young woman from Brooklyn who inherits a derelict farm on Vancouver Island. It’s the first of my novels published specifically for adults, though I’d say at least half the readers of my other books have been adults. The sequel, Republic of Dirt, was published in January 2015 by HarperCollins. It won the Leacock Medal for Humour and I make sure to work that fact into every conversation I have, which some people may find charming.
In 2015 the The Truth Commission was published by Penguin Canada and Viking U.S. as well as cbj in Germany. The story is about a group of teens who attend an art high school who start a truth-telling club with consequences both dire and funny.
I followed that with The Fashion Committee: A Novel of Art, Crime, and Applied Design, which is about the same school featured in The Truth Commission. This time, the story is about two people trying to win a fashion competition to get into Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design. It’s a book about desire and perspective and resilience and, of course, amazing clothes.
At the moment I’m working on a peculiar project that I best not talk about lest I come to my senses, as well as a comedic crime novel for adults. These projects are why I cannot clean my house or tidy up after myself in any meaningful way.
In addition to my writing, I teach creative writing at Vancouver Island University and I give workshops and talks, though fewer than I used to because I often feel like I’ve said too much already.
To sum up this rather long-winded biography, I always tell people that if one person who is feeling isolated or left out reads my book and laughs and thinks “I’m not alone” or “at least I’m not as bad as the people she writes about”, then I’ve achieved my goal.
I’m married and my husband James and I live in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. Our dog Rodeo is makes up for his erratic approach to doing what he’s told with massive quantities of charisma.