I was very interested in books as a child. I still remember how hard I worked as a four-year-old at learning to write my name because my mother promised I could have a library card as soon as I could scrawl "PAMELA." When my parents made me turn my bedroom lights out at night, I would read by the tiny red glow on the temperature control for my electric blanket. I grew up in Riverside--a rather hot part of Southern California. I was forced to sweat through many books, and not just because I was worried about the hero.
The first thing I can remember wanting to be is a children's author. I also loved animals. We had a dog and a big outdoor cage full of doves. My good friend, Jenny, lived on a dairy farm and it was critter heaven for me. We would jump her horses bareback over bales of hay and ride for miles in the hills.
When I was in college I spent a year in Nairobi, Kenya as an exchange student. I didn't know much about Africa before I left, but I knew it had lots of wildlife. I traveled throughout East and Central Africa and saw lions, elephants, gorillas, Cape buffalo, and many other animals. I met my future husband, Rob, in Kenya. He was also an exchange student. We both loved living in Africa.
I have a B.A. in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. I've worked as a legislative assistant for foreign affairs for a California congressman and as a international health consultant. Over the years Rob and I lived in Kenya, the Marshall Islands, South Africa, the Philippines, and Japan. We have three children, Travis (25), Kelsey (22), and Connor (19). Each of them was born in a different country.
How I Started Writing
My family and I lived in Japan for about six years, and my children all attended a local Japanese preschool. The Japanese mothers at the preschool told me the story of Hachiko. I thought it was a wonderful tale. When we returned to the U.S. I decided I wanted to be a writer, just like I'd planned to be when I was four.(Better late than never.) Hachiko is famous in Japan, and I thought his story would be a wonderful one to share with English-speaking children. HACHIKO was my first book. Since then I've written six more: GORILLA DOCTORS, LIFE ON EARTH-AND BEYOND, A LIFE IN THE WILD, THE FROG SCIENTIST, PROWLING THE SEAS, PROJECT SEAHORSE, and the upcoming DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY. And I have no shortage of ideas for more.
We now live in Oakland, California. Besides reading and writing, I like to scuba dive and snow ski. I've been lucky enough to dive all over the world, including the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. I love diving because you can get closer to big animals underwater than anywhere else. About five years ago I began studying kendo (Japanese swordfighting) along with with my younger son, Connor. I also volunteer as a wildlife rehabilitator at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital. The baby squirrel at right is Piglet, an orphan who is now back in the wild.
For many years I was ably kept company by our yellow Labrador retriever, Genki, until he died of bone cancer. Now my son Connor's cockapoo, Tux, fills in, along with our new Labrador, Manchee (who is named after the dog in Patrick Ness's novel THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO). I also have a very obese White's tree frog named Dumpy F. Lumpy who looks like Jabba the Hut. Much to my children's embarrassment, I also drive a green Prius with a license plate that reads RIIBIIT.