I grew up in Ojai, California, a wonderful place where you could ride your horse down Main Street and there was a hitching post outside the library. It was a bedroom town for Hollywood, full of writers and actors and directors, so there was always something going on, and famous people's discarded trousers tended to end up in the local thrift shop. Ojai also had a branch office for every philosophical and religious movement to arrive in California since the 20s. I loved it and it became the template for Ayala, the setting for several of my books.
My father, Francis M. Cockrell, was a screenwriter, and my mother, Marian Cockrell, was a screenwriter and a novelist. I first began to write, badly, in high school, where I created characters that my high school English teacher, J. B. Close of blessed memory, told me were shallow. He was, alas, right, and the rightness of his assessment was knocked into my head in creative writing workshops at Hollins College (now Hollins University) a school which had, and has, a wonderful writing program with the goal of teaching students to write like themselves, and not like the creative writing professor. (This is rarer than you would think.)
Since the only thing I actually do well is write, I have managed to make a living doing so in one form or another for most of my life. Besides my novels, I have written a lot of other things. I have written radio commercials for Custer's Last Sandwich Stand, featuring the Singing Pickles. ("Oh, you must be a lover of your landlady's daughter, or you don't get a second piece of pie!") I have written ads for panty girdles. I have written the text for a book of very bad paintings of California missions. I have written local history, book reviews, obituaries, wedding stories, and a paperback plantation saga under a name that will forevermore be secret. Also, I have received fiction fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
I have a master's degree in English and creative writing from Hollins and am currently the managing editor of that university's literary journal, The Hollins Critic. I had the privilege of teaching creative writing at Hollins for many years.
I live with my husband, Tony Neuron, and a substantial assortment of dogs and cats, in Roanoke, Virginia.