I grew up in New England, with an identical twin, a younger brother, and a menagerie of animals. I did some goofy things as an adolescent: I learned all the constellations in the Western Hemisphere; I tried to set the Guinness World Record for crawling; I built a boat out of milk cartons, then convinced my twin and two friends to join me on the river, then waded to shore with them when it broke up in the first rapid. These adventures and more are part of my latest book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, written especially for 7-11 year-old girls.
I graduated from Stanford University, where I studied Communications. At the time I had a vague idea that perhaps I would become a documentary filmmaker. Instead, in 1989, I became a San Francisco firefighter.
I wrote about my thirteen and a half year career in Fighting Fire, an updated version of which came out in 2012. I'd tell you about those years, but really, you should just read the book. I will only say that being in a fire made me happy, and doing emergency medical work intrigued me. All of it made me a better person.
The most remote place I've been is Siberia, where I saw a Unidentified Flying Object that may or may not have been the Soviet military. The highest place I've been was on a mountain bike in the Bolivian Alps back when mountain bikes were scarce and 15,000 feet didn't hurt as much as it would now. The most isolated I've ever felt was in a blizzard on the mountain of Denali, where we had to stay in the tent and pee into a Gatorade bottle.
My novel East Wind, Rain came out in 2006. It is based closely on the little known but true story some call "the battle of Niihau," that begins when a Japanese pilot who has just attacked Pearl Harbor is forced to crash land on an isolated Hawaiian island. The inhabitants there have no communication with the outside world, and are puzzled by his sudden, dramatic arrival. The book follows the next seven days, as the seemingly mysterious event divides the villagers and disrupts a once peaceful paradise. A movie based on the book is in the works.
In 2013 my third book, Lost Cat, A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, was published. It's about my obsessive to search to figure out where my cat journeyed when I was not around and entailed GPS tracking, video, psychics and animal communicators. Despite the title, it's really about how lost humans can get, and how it is animals that can help them regain their bearings. Lost Cat was named a Best Book by Jezebel and by the influential website Brainpickings. That film is also in the works.
My latest book is The Gutsy Girl, Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. Part memoir, part how-to adventure guide, this book for 7-11 year-olds is best described as Lean in for girls, set not in a boardroom, but in trees, on cliff edges and down wild rivers (and boys should read this too, so they grow up knowing that girls are gutsy too.) Bonus: it's illustrated by the amazing Wendy MacNaughton! I wrote this book because I believe that girls aren't encouraged to be gutsy, and so miss out on the things that adventure teaches so well: resilience, self-confidence, courage, and decision-making.
Writing never happens in a vaccuum. I've been part of the San Francisco Writers Grotto since 1999; without that community I would have quit this strange career, or gone insane, years ago. I'm also constantly inspired by my kickass siblings: my identical twin is the accomplished actress Alexandra Paul and my brother is the righteous animal rights activist Jonathan Paul.
In my free time, I fly an experimental plane. I read books. I go to movies. I surf (badly.) Much of this is done around San Francisco, where I live with my partner, the artist Wendy MacNaughton, two shelter cats, one shelter dog, an array of solar panels, and countless unread back issues of the New Yorker.