I grew up in the English countryside with a love of nature and dreams of becoming a novelist. So, armed with a history degree from York University, I ended up in London, promoting fashion during the heyday of the British Designer Show. (Think Princess Diana.) My job allowed me to write—endless press releases bashed out on a manual typewriter—and travel. Flying home through JFK Airport one Thanksgiving, I fell for the handsome American professor who picked me up with a well-informed comment about P.D. James. (Fiction matters, people.)
Eighteen months later, I was a faculty spouse, freelance writer, and mall marketing director in a small Midwest college town. I also had a dirty little secret: I was writing a novel. A spectacularly bad novel. Seven years passed, and I was pregnant. At the same time, my beloved was offered a distinguished professorship at the University of North Carolina. We moved to the forest outside Chapel Hill, where I became a stay-at-home mom and a woodland gardener. Both passions would guide and shape my writing voice.
I abandoned my crappy first manuscript and started Dogwood Days, a love story about grief. The idea had rooted as I watched my mother navigate widowhood and a dark thought settled: “What if that were me?” After a summer spent interviewing young widows, I found Tilly, a Brit living and gardening in North Carolina. Her husband, a brilliant academic, had died of heart failure while teaching, and my husband loves to elaborate on how I killed him off in the backstory.
I wrote in the cracks of family life, took evening writing classes, and taught myself the business of publishing. But everything ground to a halt when our young son was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD.
Throughout my childhood, I had watched family members struggle with mental illness in secrecy, silence, and shame. I was determined our son would follow a different path. Therapy—and his gift as a wordsmith—gave him the skills to reclaim his life and manage a chronic illness. I found my own therapy in gardening, writing, and ranting at varmints destroying my flowerbeds. I also blogged about parenting and OCD as part of a collaborative project called Easy to Love But Hard to Raise and joined the nonprofit A2A Alliance as an OCD advocate.
In the middle of this, a charismatic entrepreneur with severe OCD drove into my imagination in a vintage Alfa Romeo sportscar and refused to leave. His name was James Nealy.
I rewrote Dogwood Days with James as my hero and discovered my writing niche: creating characters who battle invisible disabilities with courage, hope, and the golden mantra, you are not your disorder. James also helped me land an agent and a two-book deal right before my fiftieth birthday party. BCW was on her way to writing darkly quirky, award-winning novels about the impact of mental illness on families and relationships!
Dogwood Days became The Unfinished Garden and won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book. The In-Between Hour, which was chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick, followed. The Perfect Son was picked for Amazon’s Kindle First Program and became a Goodreads Choice Award 2015 Nominee for Best Fiction. Echoes of Family was chosen as a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s annual Star Award, and The Promise Between Us was a 2018 Nautilus Book Awards Winner and a 2019 American Fiction Awards Finalist.
And that guy I met at JFK? We’ve celebrated thirty years of marriage, brainstormed eight novels (in 2018 I abandoned another manuscript), and raised an extraordinary human being. We’ve also managed three successful publishing careers—my fiction, my husband’s internationally-acclaimed academic books, and the beginnings of our son’s career as a poet and singer/song-writer.
Zachariah, formerly known on social media as the Beloved Teenage Delinquent, is also my trusted first reader, with such brilliant comments as, “You’re written a sermon when you should have written a parable.” He pushes me to write better, answers every text that screams word choice emergency, and draws pretty plot diagrams because he knows I work better with visual aids. His diagram for my work-in-progress, The Gin Club, is currently taped above my computer screen. Without him and his father, I would have no stories worth telling.
When I’m not writing or reading, I garden, watch birds at my feeders, and attempt to outwit critters who munch on my flowers and dig up my plants. Like Felix, the protagonist of The Perfect Son, I really, really hate squirrels.