Welcome to my wonderful city of Philadelphia!  I grew up in the nearby suburbs, a member of the branch of the Biddle family that historians refer to as “The Romantics”.  The term denotes a predilection for spectacular, if chancy, careers. The other side is known as “The Solids”.  Enough said.

The earliest “Romantic” of note was Nicholas, a captain in the fledgling American navy; he was killed when his frigate exploded during an engagement with a British warship.  Nicholas was twenty-eight; the battle made him the country’s first naval hero.  Until fairly recently, the United States Navy maintained a guided missile destroyer named in his honor.  Nicholas’s brother, Charles, served as Vice President of the State of Pennsylvania when his friend, Benjamin Franklin, was President; a nephew, James, became a hero of the War of 1812, and later negotiated the first commercial treaty with the Chinese Empire.

The next “Romantic” Biddle to gain nationwide attention was another Nicholas, a brother of James.  He edited The Journals of Lewis and Clark, and later became president of the Second Bank of the United States.  The church Nicholas attended and where he’s buried is St. Peter’s Episcopal Church where I serve on the vestry.  The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

The other half of my Philadelphia ancestry are Drexels.  My great-great grandfather, Anthony Drexel, established Drexel University; his niece, Katharine Drexel, was made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church for her humanitarian efforts in establishing schools for the poorest of the poor.  Inspiring models, but all but impossible to replicate.

My career path first took me to New York where I acted on stage and tv, playing a small recurring role in the daytime drama, One Life to Live, and being fortunate to be cast in Gemini, a play directed by award-winning Jerry Zaks.

Drama remains with me in my writing. I inhabit my characters when working; I see the settings I describe in cinematic terms.  I hear the sounds of the street, touch the fabrics, smell and taste the food prepared in either spacious or cramped kitchens.  Yes, I love existing in the past.  My first novel, Beneath the Wind (Simon & Schuster) was inspired by a Drexel “grand tour” aboard a family yacht in 1903.  I added an illicit romance and murder to spice things up, and named the heroine after my Biddle grandmother because she hadn’t led the exotic life she wished.  The photograph on the splash page was taken on that journey.

The Martha Beale Series grew out of my love of Philadelphia; it’s a place that beautifully unites past and present, and the research facilities for the kind of precision I require in my writing are extraordinary.  When I write about poverty during the 1840’s, I’m often envisioning current volunteer work I do with Episcopal Community Services (ECS).  I feel I’m straddling two worlds: one in the twenty-first century section of the city known as Society Hill where I live with my husband and sometime co-author, Steve Zettler, and our curly gray bundle of canine energy named Gabby; the other an era of carriages and gas lamps when Philadelphia was at once intensely crowded with humanity and rimmed with bucolic fields and virgin woods.  My title character isn’t the only conjurer of spirits.

I’m delighted to hear from fans and invite you to write me through my web site.  I promise a timely response, although I won’t reveal what awaits Martha Beale in her next starring roles.


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