I was brought up in South Devon, England. After deciding a degree in zoology was not for me, I took up literature and art history, and lived on a narrow boat in Bristol. Since then I have roamed more widely, working in Spain, Thailand, Canada and the United States. I have master’s degrees in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, plus a doctorate in literature from the University of Minnesota.
In spring 2016 my latest novel, Dead of Winter, was published by Salt (UK). I have two other novels: Cold Country (Duckworth, 2003) and The Dark Lantern (Crown, 2008). My story “Williamsville” will appear in The Best American Mystery Stories 2017. My writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in such venues as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Copper Nickel, Redivider, and BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines.
I teach graduate writing courses (Forms of Fiction, Writers’ Workshop) plus undergraduate courses including creative writing, world literature, and women’s literature. Last year at my students’ request, I put together an intermediate-level workshop in sci-fi and fantasy writing, and it was a great success.
My short story “Williamsville” has been selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2017 (forthcoming October 2017). My short fiction and non-fiction has also appeared in such venues as Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, Southwest Review, BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines , BLIP Magazine, Camera Obscura and Redivider.
I have three published novels:
- Dead of Winter (Salt Publishing, U.K. 2016) is set in January in Interior Alaska and follows sad-sack cabbie Mike Fisher as he tries to unravel what has happened to his daughter. Her step-father has been shot in her bathroom, and Fisher thinks she killed him and fled. In a panic he tries to hide the body, but that’s not easy when it’s fifty-below outside. Things get dangerously complicated when it turns out step-dad was part of a local militia, and now they’re on Fisher’s tail. Dead of Winter is a novel about the Far North and the intrigue fostered in a bored, trapped and socially circumscribed small-town community.
- Cold Country (Duckworth, 2003) is set en route to and in Fairbanks. I wrote it in the dripping heat of Bangkok where I taught for four years—it was my homage to a place I didn’t think I’d ever be able to return to. It is also my take on the sort of strange friendships that parents force on their children. In the novel, Sandra’s mum and step-dad have not only pushed her into a friend ship with a relative called Fleur, they have revived the friendship when it had petered out. Unfortunately for Sandra, this means that she is roped into driving Fleur home from Seattle to Fairbanks, and Fleur—supposedly upright and honest—has been less than truthful. She doesn’t have the money to fly Sandra home again, stranding her in a place she hates from the moment she sets foot in it.
- The Dark Lantern (Crown, 2008; Three Rivers Press, 2009). My dissertation work was on servants in nineteenth-century British crime fiction, and what wonderful material I found: the awful situation of servants (being required to do dirty work, then being blamed for being dirty), stories about maids falling from the windows they were cleaning onto the spiked railings beneath. Victo
rian households were microcosms of what I came to call “domestic colonization”—an attempt to civilize the uncivilisable people of the lower social orders by bringing them into the home to train them up . . . and paying them badly for the privilege! If ever there was a misguided and hypocritical mission, certainly the employment of servants to “improve” them is it. The Dark Lantern is my exploration of this complicated and claustrophobic world. It’s also a nod to the crime-ridden sensation novels of the Victorian era, but with an eye not just on the middle class but on the lower-class people who served them. Unlike in most Victorian fiction where servants are either good or bad (and punished accordingly), in The Dark Lantern the servants are just as complicated as their employers.