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, BusinessWeek, 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 really wanted to do all my life was write novels. I started when I was four years old, and this year I’ve finally begun to achieve my lifelong dream with THE HEIRS – my first published novel.
Born: Philadelphia, PA
Grew up: Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Lowell and Lexington, MA
College: University of California at Berkeley, Phi Beta Kappa, BA in English
First started 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First completed (unpublished) novel: At approximately age 12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” submission published in Jack and Jill magazine at approximately age 8
- Selected as a participant in fiction, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1991
So how did I get sidetracked into journalism for decades? It wasn’t a sidetrack! 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 fall 9/11, 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 idea for THE HEIRS? Growing up, of course I knew how lucky I was that my father, his parents, and his sisters got out of Poland less than two years before Hitler invaded, but it was the wallpaper of my life. We had few family stories. Then, when my son was in first grade, I met the Polish-Catholic parents of a classmate -- parents born and raised in postwar Poland. And I found myself confronting questions like those in THE HEIRS: What did your parents do during the Holocaust? (What makes real life different from a novel, is that I was far less obsessed than Eleanor is.)
Memberships: American Friends of the Heschel Center for Sustainability (board secretary), GetOrganizedBK, Park Slope Food Coop (elected to one of the governing committees), New Sanctuary Coalition, Outdoors Club of New York, Sister District, Park Slope Jewish Center, Science Writers in NY, Downtown East for Progress
Other interests: … running (typically 6.5 miles/day); studying Russian, French, and Hebrew; community service, especially working with refugees and cleaning up Prospect Park; volunteering on political campaigns; hiking; piano; learning to read Torah; re-learning to ride a bike; travel (next stops: Greece; Stonehenge; Venice, Italy); and of course, family and reading