“Children are endowed with rare and subtle talents. . . . [and] our faults are sometimes far more useful in life than our so-called ‘good’ qualities.”–Meg Rosoff
Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and lives in London. She is the author of How I Live Now and Just In Case
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My biography will prove incredibly inspiring to anyone who wasn’t born in Beijing or Kathmandu, wasn’t sent to school in Switzerland or Peru, didn’t marry a diplomat at 19, and doesn’t speak 9 languages.
I was born in Boston, in 1956, second of four sisters, grew up in the Boston suburbs, went to ordinary suburban schools for most of my youth, and was rejected from Princeton in 1974 so went to Harvard instead.
I didn’t like Harvard much, but Princeton would have been worse, though I didn’t know that then.
After three years of thinking ‘I’ve got to get out of here’, I applied to art school in London, was accepted for a year studying sculpture, packed a bag and got on a plane. I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Knightsbridge until I found a room in a flat in Camden Town, with an architect who later became my boyfriend. Art school was a disaster (I was obviously a writer not a sculptor, but I didn’t know that then, either) but the rest of the year was a revelation. There was an unbelievable amount of fun to be had in London in 1977-78. I’m still reeling.
Eventually I returned to the US to finish my degree, moved to New York City, spent ten short years working in publishing and advertising, and then one day quit my job, told all my friends I was going back to London for three months, and have been here ever since.
My husband is an English painter and my daughter is a mongrel with her heart in the American suburbs and the accent of a North London fishmonger. After a fifteen-year stint in advertising (which I recommend to no one) my youngest sister died of breast cancer. And I thought if I was going to write a book, I’d better do it soon because life is short.
So I did.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR ON HOW I LIVE NOW
There’s a biography of me somewhere that says my ideal job would be head gardener of Regents Park in London. This is not entirely true.
My true ideal job would be Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the fact that I’m Jewish, an atheist, female, and American. My reasoning goes that, given a certain amount of power (and in the case of the church, a lot of land and a dwindling congregation) you could re-brand the institution and influence an awful lot of people for the better. (As Tom Lehrer once memorably said, “there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that.”)
My husband thinks I’d make a lousy Archbishop of Canterbury, given my absence of patience, tact and basic spirituality, and he’s probably right. So I considered the next best way to obtain a captive audience, and wrote a book.
At the very beginning, I had the idea for an American heroine and an English family of eccentrics (there were originally six children, but the family became unmanageable), and thought about what would happen if their meeting took place at the start of a war set in the very near future. I printed out the lyrics to Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” from the computer and it helped me imagine the world I wanted to create. After one false start, I could barely keep up with the narrative in my head, and had a first draught ready in about three months — and this while I was working full time! I would come home from work and put my daughter to bed, fall asleep with her at 8, wake up around 10 and work till midnight or 1 am. I didn’t realize it at the time, but have since heard people talk about the once in a lifetime experience of writing a book that feels like taking dictation. Since How I Live Now, I’ve moved on to two other books and have found it much more of a long haul.
I wrote How I Live Now after my youngest sister died of cancer, and it’s a terrible sadness to me that she’s not around to read it. The book is about loss, and the urgent need for love. It’s about the fact that violence leads to more violence, and war to more war. That we’re responsible for the people we care about. That deep human connections can repair a lot of emotional damage. That children are endowed with rare and subtle talents. That our faults are sometimes far more useful in life than our so-called ‘good’ qualities.
And that, as my sister said once, just because life is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be good.
Did I miss anything?
Oh yeah: Advertising. I worked in advertising for fifteen years and walked out the door the day my book advance came through. Now that was a great day.
That’s about it, except I hope you like the book. It would help me a lot if you did. Although I learned numerous invaluable lessons from fifteen years writing ads, writing books sure beats writing about soap powder.
HOW I LIVE NOW
“Rosoff’s narrative poise makes this a book for all ages. . . . A daring, wise and sensitive look at the complexities of being young in a world teetering on chaos, Rosoff’s poignant exploration of perseverance in the face of the unknown is a timely lesson for us all.”–People