I was born in Columbus, Ohio, with the name Laura Ann Fairchild. My earliest memories come from Seattle, Washington, where my family lived in the Magnolia neighborhood near the Puget Sound. I loved the deep, rainy colors of Seattle.
At age eight, my family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I stayed through high school, spending most of my time writing poetry, playing tennis, and earning money as a strolling violinist at a cheesy restaurant. My mom said the walls were whorehouse red. After graduating from Broughton High School, I went to college at Harvard, and lived with a group of eight talented and diverse women who inspire me to this day.
My favorite class was a poetry workshop with Seamus Heaney, and after graduating I went to Washington and worked on campaign finance reform for Common Cause. A few years later I moved to Lexington, Virginia and commuted to Charlottesville to work on a PhD at the University of Virginia. With the help of a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women and a Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Grant, I wrote a dissertation focused on widows in English literature. Since that time, all of my writing has been tied to women’s studies. My favorite chapter from that dissertation was on husbands who fake their deaths in order to spy on their wives, which inspired my first novel, The Widow’s Season.
My eldest daughter, Julia, was born just as I was finishing graduate school. From there, I began part-time teaching at various local colleges, and I started my first book, Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women. The book covered the transition to coeducation at America’s last all-male military college. I served on VMI’s executive committee for coeducation, and taught a few courses for VMI’s English department while researching the book, which gave me an insider’s view of the Institute’s unique culture. The book was published by Pantheon (2000) and Vintage (2001) and was featured on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.
During the three years while the book was in progress, I welcomed two more daughters into the world, Rachel and Kathryn, and I began teaching steadily at Washington and Lee University. My next book, The Widow’s Season, won the Pirate’s Alley/Faulkner Society’s 2005 prize for Best Novel-in-Progress. That book was published in 2009 by Berkley Books, a Penguin imprint. It was published in five languages and became a bestseller in Germany under the title Ich Weiss, Du Bist Hier. That book was followed by a memoir called Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year, which tells the story of one year that I spent homeschooling my oldest daughter, Julia, when she was ten. My second novel, All the Truth, is coming soon from Berkley Books, and has already hit the bestseller list in Germany. So stay tuned....