I AM A HUGE MYSTERY FAN, and had always imagined that when I became a sweet old lady I'd retire from the art criticism business, move to a cottage by the sea, and write a mystery. Then, one day it dawned on me that though I'd never be sweet, I already lived close to the sea, my garage office in West Hollywood was perfectly serviceable, and I didn't have to wait until I had cataracts.
Since I had worked for so many years in the field, my first thought was to write an art mystery. I started thinking about characters (critics, dealers) and plots (heists, forgeries), but wasn't all that inspired. Then, one weekend, my husband and I took a little trip to Ventura. And while we were strolling around the historic downtown area, we happened upon a big brick building that was being used as an antique store. There was a small brass plaque affixed to its side that read, "Historic Point of Interest #33: Birthplace of Perry Mason." And all of a sudden, the proverbial light bulb appeared.
I decided I would set a mystery in Ventura, and would somehow drag Perry Mason and his creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, into it. The idea for a series started percolating: maybe I could create a character who writes biographies of dead mystery writers, and in the course of her research, stumbles upon murders and mayhem. It seemed to work, and to play perfectly into my passion for the genre.
Once I created the character of Cece Caruso, who is obsessed with clothes (as I am) and is a divorced ex-beauty queen from New Jersey (as I am not), the book took off. I left my job as the editor of an art magazine, and spent about a year writing I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason. Without a doubt, it's the best day job I've ever had.
I was born in Los Angeles before it got really crowded, and lived on the East Coast for most of my twenties only to find my way back to L.A. at the end of the eighties, to attend graduate school in art history at UCLA. I spent most of the nineties as an art historian and critic, writing for the L.A. Times and various art magazines, as well as editing the international art journal, artext. I also taught art history and theory at U.C.L.A., Art Center College of Design, and U.C. Santa Barbara.
I have been married since 1991 to a professor of Design Media Arts at UCLA, Peter Lunenfeld. We have two daughters, Kyra and Maud, plus a Labrador who loves pizza. I remain committed to the notion that some day I will live in a cottage by the sea. If not, a chateau outside Paris will have to do.
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