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For many years I worked as a freelance journalist in the US and while living overseas in London, Moscow, and Geneva, Switzerland before turning to writing fiction full time. My last job as a stringer was as a regional feature writer for The Washington Post in 2004-2005, covering many of the places where my wine country mysteries are set.
In the late 1980s, I worked for ABC Radio News as their Moscow correspondent, and over the years have written feature stories for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Journal newspapers, the Washington, D.C. area’s largest suburban newspaper (now called the Washington Enquirer).
Prior to working as a journalist, I was an economist at the United States Senate. I have a master’s degree in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a B.A. in political science from The Catholic University of America. I spent my junior year of undergraduate school in Madrid, Spain and did a semester of graduate studies in Bologna, Italy.
I am fairly fluent in French and Spanish and speak a smattering of Russian (I can count to ten and say “I don’t understand” like a native speaker). I remember less Italian than I believe I do, and it has gotten me into trouble.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts but grew up mostly in Connecticut, after detours to Alabama and Pennsylvania. My husband and I now live in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
While living in London in the ’90s, I wrote my first novel, Moscow Nights, (Piatkus Books, London, 2000), which was based on my experiences in the former Soviet Union during the waning days of the Gorbachev era. In 2016 it was re-released in the US in print and as an e-book by Speaking Volumes. (These days it seems more like a historical mystery since our complicated, fraught relationship with Russia today bears no resemblance to what it was when I lived there.)
Back home in the US, I began writing the Virginia wine country mysteries; the first six books were published in hardcover by Scribner and paperback by Pocket Books: The Merlot Murders, The Chardonnay Charade, The Bordeaux Betrayal, The Riesling Retribution, The Viognier Vendetta (published in paperback as The Vintage Vendetta), and The Sauvignon Secret. I took a five-year break to write two other books, but returned to Virginia wine country in 2015. The next four books, published by Minotaur Books, are The Champagne Conspiracy, The Vineyard Victims, Harvest of Secrets, and The Angels’ Share. The French Paradox and Bitter Roots, the 12th book in the series, are available from Severn House.
Set in the heart of horse and hunt country in the fictitious village of Atoka, Virginia, Lucie Montgomery, the young woman who is the main character, returns home from France after her father’s death to take over running the family vineyard on farmland that has belonged to her ancestors since the French and Indian War. What links the series together is a present-day mystery that always intersects with an event from Virginia’s rich, fascinating history—and there is much to draw from, beginning with the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and Prohibition. As I wrote the books I had the good fortune to learn about the process of growing grapes and making wine from two top Virginia winemakers: the late Juanita Swedenburg of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard (now Greenhill Winery and Vineyards) in Middleburg and Rick Tagg of Delaplane Winery in Delaplane.
Over the years, the books have been nominated for such awards as the Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award, and the Library of Virginia Fiction Award; The Riesling Retribution won the 2009 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best U.S. Wine Literature Book.
In addition to this series I wrote two mysteries about international photojournalist Sophie Medina, who returns to Washington after living and working in London for many years. In Multiple Exposure Sophie becomes embroiled in an international search for her CIA operative husband after he was supposedly kidnapped, but later is spotted in Russia and accused of murder. In Ghost Image, the death of a Franciscan friar who is a friend and a controversial environmentalist sends Sophie on an international search for a botanic treasure potentially worth millions as she also tries to find a murderer. Look for a third Sophie Medina novel–Blowout–in 2023.
A high school English teacher in Connecticut taught me how to write, giving me the gift of what became my livelihood as well as a lifelong passion. I was lucky enough to not only thank her forty-five years later, but also to dedicate a book to her. I once read that the three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. My something to do is, obviously, writing. My someone—or someones—to love are my husband, sons, daughters-in-law, and granddaughter, along with a wide circle of relatives and friends from around the world. The older I get the more I treasure the memories and connections from these relationships; my life is richer because of them. My something to look forward to is travel, especially someplace exotic or off the beaten path. To steal from Susan Sontag, I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list. I have accumulated numerous hobbies over the decades including amateur photographer, lapsed quilter, watercolor dabbler, and rusty pianist, so I am also a committed dilettante.
And for another more personal version of my journey to getting published, you can read my December, 2016 essay HOW IT HAPPENED in the International Thriller Writer’s online magazine The Thrill Begins.