I was born and raised in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania, a beautiful ruined place where the rolling hills are pitted with dead gray mining towns like cigarette burns on a green carpet. My hometown is Indiana, PA, which was also Jimmy Stewart's hometown. Half the streets are named after him and we have a bronze statue of him in front of the courthouse that looks suspiciously like Henry Fonda. My roots: I'm half Pennsylvania redneck and half southern white trash. Growing up, I never really fit in, I always thought I was a freak because I liked books and living animals. All my childhood girlfriends wanted to be Farrah Fawcett or Christie Brinkley. I wanted to be Roald Dahl. This greatly concerned my family. Especially after I explained to them who he was. I'm the only member of my family to go to college. I have a degree in journalism from Northwestern University. My high school guidance counselor advised me against going there because they had a bad football team. Even after I explained to him that I wanted to be a journalist and NU had one of the best journalism schools in the country, he said, "Well, sure, but you'll still want to go to the football games." I went anyway and graduated with honors. All my life I have struggled with this particular identity crisis: being an educated woman saddled with a biker chick's name. A theme that often appears in my work is one of characters' struggling to define themselves among people who already defined them wrongly because of a stereotype, or their own inability to look past a person's surface and see inside them. I've frequently had to deal with the danger of being mislabeled.