One of my earliest memories comes from when I was three years old, well after this picture was taken. My father was a photographer, so naturally there are about four known photos from my childhood. This is the closest. And come on, a baby in a belted terrycloth bathrobe? I don’t care who it is. That’s pretty priceless.
In the actual memory I’m standing on the back patio of our family home in the Los Angeles foothills, watching smoke rise from behind the slopes that framed our canyon. I remember being wedged into an overstuffed car to evacuate, then standing in my grandparents’ driveway and watching the same thing from just a few miles farther away.
Many years later, I read a newspaper report of a wildfire that had burned through a Colorado mountain community. The last line of the story read, “The fire is believed to have been started by children playing.” I thought, “What happens to those children?” I knew there was a story in there, exploring how such outsized consequences to a childhood misdeed might affect a person through the years and decades ahead.
Among the Lesser Gods began with that question—with a woman who started a fire as a child. It then connected with a separate idea I’d set aside about a lost child when I realized both dealt with questions of choice and consequence and self-judgment. People are gloriously messy—both stunningly foolish and heartbreakingly wise—and I’m deeply moved by the universal effort to extract meaning from the mess.
I always wanted to write fiction, but in an effort to be practical I studied and abandoned history, psychology, and pre-law English before leaving college and working as a freelance editor and writer. I married, raised three consistently entertaining kids, and after California lived in Utah, Colorado, Indiana, and Saudi Arabia. Travel and life abroad have served to make the world seem smaller, and to simultaneously make humanity far more diverse and wonderful than I could have imagined any other way. I’ve learned how easy it is to enter another world, and how difficult it is to ever understand it. Writing is a way of working through that. I appreciate that I am a foreigner in every life but my own, and try to be a well-behaved one.
In my non-traveling life, now in Houston, I love reading, cycling, cooking, and consuming all the reality TV I can get away with. I try to stay focused on my next novel, as well. Feel free to join my “Being Catty” Bachelor fantasy league, and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and here on the blog for reports from one more foreigner trying to understand everybody else’s world.
For more, listen to my New Books in Literature podcast interview here.
Thank you for visiting!