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Lisa Jackson

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Rebecca Kohn
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I was born in October 1958 in Chicago and grew up in the northern suburbs of that city. I graduated from the University of Chicago where I majored in English literature, with a concentration in Victorian fiction and the Romantic Poets. I always wanted to be a writer. As a child and young adult I wrote short stories and poetry. But once I began writing more seriously I realized that I preferred the longer format of novels. Above all, I am fascinated with voice and character. I like to give my characters room to grow and develop. Although I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, many years passed before I could finally claim that magical title of “novelist” as my own. First, I had to find a way to support myself. And so after I finished my degree I entered the world of textbook publishing. I started at the bottom in production—proofreading and copyediting textbooks on business and economics. Eventually I worked my way up to the position of editor, with sole responsibility for my company’s economics list. During my years as an editor I learned a lot about writing. I learned how to stay focused on the audience. I learned the importance of throwing away material that does not work. I had no formal training in economics and so I learned how to dive into subject matter that at first seemed overwhelming and incomprehensible. This skill has served me well when researching my novels. But by far the best thing about my years in textbook publishing was meeting my future husband, economist Meir Kohn. When I began to devote more time to my own work I supposed that writing a whole novel would be the hard part. Ten years, three novels, and countless rejection letters later, I found myself on the verge of giving up. Writing can be hard, frustrating, and lonely. But getting published, I found, is far more difficult! Writers write in order to be read. But I despaired of finding an audience beyond my immediate family and friends. Finally, with Gilded Chamber I found a publisher willing to take a chance on me. Thanks to an agent who believed in my work and with the help of a very wonderful editor and her management team, my lifelong dream of being a published novelist came true in the best possible way. The legendary choreographer/ dancer Martha Graham once said that it takes ten years of intense training to make a dancer. Perhaps this is true for all creative arts! It was certainly true for me. I write full time now, which means about six hours on a good day. How do I fill the rest of my day? I believe that to be a good writer you have to be a voracious reader. Although I do not have as much time for reading as I would like, I try to keep up with contemporary fiction and I reread my favorite classics every few years (Austen, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky are high on the list). When I am researching a new project, I usually spend all my reading time with source material. My teenage daughter, a serious classical musician, has brought a lot of music (not to mention joy) into our home. My husband, in addition to being a professor of economics, is a competitive cyclist and when he is having an “easy” day of training I tag along. I also do volunteer work for my synagogue and take as many modern dance classes each week as I can. I often joke that in my next life I want to come back as a dancer as well as a writer!

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