ABOUT FRAN
FRAN-HAWTHORNE.jpeg

 Photo by Jolene Siana

Until now, I spent three-plus decades writing award-winning nonfiction, including eight books, mainly about consumer activism and business social responsibility. For instance, Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love (Beacon Press) was named one of the best books of 2012 by Library Journal. In addition, I’ve written regularly (as either a staff editor or freelancer) for The New York Times, Business Week, Newsday, The Scientist, and many other publications, as well as book reviews for The New York Journal of Books and The National (based in the United Arab Emirates).

 

But what I’ve really wanted to do, ever since I was four years old, is write novels. After starting (and sometimes finishing) more than half a dozen manuscripts over the years, I finally achieved my lifelong dream in 2018 when Stephen F. Austin State University Press published THE HEIRS – my first published novel. 

 

Now the dream continues, as my second novel, I MEANT TO TELL YOU, emerges into the world and I work on my next one…

 

Born: Philadelphia, PA

Grew Up: Philadelphia, PA; Playa del Rey, Woodland Hills, Encino, and Santa Monica, CA; Lowell and Lexington, MA

College: University of California at Berkeley, Phi Beta Kappa, BA in English

Started first novel: At approximately age 4

First completed (unpublished) novel: At approximately age 12

Earliest signs I might actually succeed as a novelist:  

  • “Finish This Story” entry published in Jack and Jill magazine at approximately
    age 8.

  • Selected as a participant in fiction, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1991

 

How did I get the ideas for THE HEIRS and I MEANT TO TELL YOU?

 

In different ways, both novels were inspired by my family’s journeys to the U.S.

 

I owe THE HEIRS to my father’s more dramatic story. I’ve always known how lucky I am that my father, his parents, and his sisters got out of Poland less than two years before Hitler invaded, but it wasn’t until my son was in first grade, and I met the Polish-Catholic parents of a classmate, that I was clobbered with the mix of emotions that form the basis of that novel: What did your parents do to Jewish families like mine during the Holocaust? What have they told you? What do you think, when you meet me?

 

I MEANT TO TELL YOU began as a four-generation saga – starting with a Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York, like my mother’s parents, in the early 1900s, and extending until the early 2000s, but told in reverse chronological order. I wanted to show how family secrets warp each generation in a different way. As I wrote, however, I found that the two youngest generations’ stories were expanding and deepening so richly that they needed a book of their own – and here it is! (Maybe I’ll return to the first two generations someday, for a prequel.)

 

So how did I get sidetracked into journalism for decades?
 

A sophomore roommate at UC Berkeley suggested that if I liked writing so much, I ought to try the student newspaper, The Daily Californian. "Newspapers? Hack writing!" I scoffed. Nevertheless, I walked into the Daily Cal office, got my first assignment – and was happily hooked.  

 

Forward to September 11, 2001, when I emerged at my subway stop to a Manhattan sky of black smoke: That day's shocks prompted me, like so many other people, to rethink my life, my goals, and my career. (Besides, I was getting a little bored overseeing the annual Real Estate Special Section for Crain’s New York Business once again.) Coincidentally, John Wiley & Sons offered me a contract for my first nonfiction book, The Merck Druggernaut. So I set off to explore yet another fulfilling, nonfiction career track.

 

And for more than a decade, I loved digging into the research and writing of nonfiction books. But finally, I looked up and said to myself: Whatever happened to the novels I was going to write?

 

Luckily, I had a draft that I'd been fiddling with for a decade ....

How did I get the ideas for THE HEIRS and I MEANT TO TELL YOU?

 

In different ways, both novels were inspired by my family’s journeys to the U.S.

 

I owe THE HEIRS to my father’s more dramatic story. I’ve always known how lucky I am that my father, his parents, and his sisters got out of Poland less than two years before Hitler invaded, but it wasn’t until my son was in first grade, and I met the Polish-Catholic parents of a classmate, that I was clobbered with the mix of emotions that form the basis of that novel: What did your parents do to Jewish families like mine during the Holocaust? What have they told you? What do you think, when you meet me?

 

I MEANT TO TELL YOU began as a four-generation saga – starting with a Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York, like my mother’s parents, in the early 1900s, and extending until the early 2000s, but told in reverse chronological order. I wanted to show how family secrets warp each generation in a different way. As I wrote, however, I found that the two youngest generations’ stories were expanding and deepening so richly that they needed a book of their own – and here it is! (Maybe I’ll return to the first two generations someday, for a prequel.)

Memberships and volunteer activity: 

 New-York Historical Society (museum “Explainer”/junior-level docent)

 Park Slope Food Coop (seven years on one of the governing committees)

 National Book Critics Circle

 Changing the Conversation Together

 Park Slope Jewish Center

 

Other interests: … running (typically 8.5 miles/day), studying French and Hebrew, volunteering on political campaigns, hiking (among other routes, I’ve circumnavigated the entire Manhattan shoreline, including an unmapped section along the Harlem River), travel (my current wish list: Greece, Peru, and a space launch at Cape Kennedy), England’s Wars of the Roses, and of course, family and reading (I write book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and also belong to four book clubs…. yes, I’m almost addicted)