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 East 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 an 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, Kelsey, and Connor. Each child was born in a different country. Our grandson, Shepherd, is a native San Franciscan.
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 Gorilla Doctors, Life on Earth—and Beyond, A Life in the Wild, The Frog Scientist, Prowling the Seas, Project Seahorse, The Dolphins of Shark Bay, Samurai Rising, Crow Smarts, and How to Build a Human.
On the Home Front
My husband and I split our time between Oakland, California, Newberg, Oregon, and Tokyo, Japan. Besides reading and writing, I love to scuba dive, snow ski, and practice kendo (Japanese swordfighting). I also volunteer as a wildlife rehabilitator at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital in Walnut Creek, CA, where I specialize in raising orphaned crows and ravens. While writing, I’m kept company by my dog Manchee (who is named after the dog in Patrick Ness’s novel The Knife of Never Letting Go).