It feels crazy to be here blogging for Powell's Books. In many ways, my writing life started in Portland generally and at Powell's specifically.
Although my author bio highlights my work experience as a prosecutor in Portland and professor of criminal law in New York, I came to writing fiction as a reader. As a college student in Portland, I would roam Powell's for hours on rainy afternoons, my selections mirroring my ever-evolving intellectual interests. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's Judgment Under Uncertainty when I fell in love with cognition. Toni Morrison's Beloved followed by Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, because I realized that in my first 18 years, I'd never once read a book by a woman of color. Andrea Dworkin's Pornography, Catherine McKinnon's Feminism Unmodified, and Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden that year I decided to spell womyn with a y.
After law school, I returned to Portland to work at the District Attorney's Office. By then, I had succumbed to my lifelong obsession with crime (more on this tomorrow), and I was back at Powell's once again, this time scouring the mystery section for paperbacks to feed my insatiable addiction. The best finds came from staff members who turned me on to writers who were new to me but already had established series. A seven-paperback score would placate me for two weeks!
When I decided to write my first novel, Judgment Calls, Powell's was there, even before publication. In the book, Portland prosecutor Samantha Kincaid finds herself the sole lawyer in her office willing to go to the mattresses in a case involving a brutal assault on a 13-year-old girl named Kendra Martin. The problem is that Kendra was attacked while working as a prostitute, but she initially lied to the police, telling them she was on her way to Powell's Books.
Someone in my then-publisher's sales department suggested deleting the reference to Powell's. She feared that a certain national chain bookstore might be offended. I (politely) refused. If Portland was really going to come to life in the Samantha Kincaid series, I explained, there had to be a reference to Powell's. (Note: Both Powell's and said chain bookstore were both very supportive of the book. Crisis averted. Name-check intact!)
For seven books now, I have visited Portland on book tour to find old friends and newer readers waiting for me in the Powell's reading room. I get an indescribable thrill when I see my name across that familiar marquee.
And now I'm blogging here. Somehow it feels like I'm home, even as I type from a wine bar in New York City.
Have you roamed the aisles of Powell's? What are your favorite memories? I'd love to hear from you in the comments and look forward to being here all week.