SARAH McCOY is author of the international bestseller and 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee The Baker’s Daughter. Her first novel is The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. She is currently working on her third novel for Crown/Random House.
The Unofficial Bio
I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, the daughter of an Army officer from Oklahoma and a Puerto Rican elementary school teacher. Being an Army brat, I didn’t stay in the Bluegrass State long enough to wear a Derby hat or sip the whiskey. By two years old, Edelweiss was my lullaby in Frankfurt, Germany, and so my gypsy life began. My family (me plus two baby brothers, now fully grown and married) moved every ten months to two years until I hit thirteen. Then, by the grace of God, the Army let us take root in Virginia, and I stayed in the Old Dominion for the next fourteen years. So by all accounts, I consider myself a Virginia lady. Nothing is dearer to me than the morning fog creeping over the Shenandoah Mountains, the sweet smell of cherry blossoms along the Potomac, or the lonesome horn of a ship in Norfolk harbor. But being the inherent wanderer, my love of travel and different cultures continues to weigh heavy on my life and writing.
It goes without saying that I’ve had a lifelong love affair with creative writing. But I’ve found that just about every published author has a similar tale: “From the time I could write my ABC’s, I’ve been writing little ‘books’ for my family and friends.” And so it was for me. I think I presented my mom with my first “book” when I was in pre-school. It had a cover design (tulips on a lawn, drawn by yours truly) and opened (like a book) to rows of carefully formed words of devotion for my mom and dad that culminated with “I love you.” The End.
I’ve tried to progress from there. Throughout my elementary and high school education, I found ways and reasons to hide out in the library, tipsy on the reading possibilities around, and writing, always writing diaries, essays, fiction stories, school news articles, poems, reviews, whatever! All that eventually led me to Virginia Tech, majoring in journalism and public relations. I was dead-set I’d either be an on-air reporter or a magazine writer. Either way, I was fascinated by people, places and most importantly, stories. But then a little birdie told me that journalists didn’t make a dime, and I started to think twice. After all, I had student loans to pay back! So on graduation, I took a job as a public relations coordinator at a chemical company in Richmond, Virginia. It put food on my table but didn’t exactly feed the soul. I spent my days doing technical writing and my nights writing fiction. In fact, I wrote a whole novel—gobbledygook, yes, but it showed me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I applied to an MFA program at Old Dominion University near where my husband (fiancé at the time) was in medical school. I was ecstatic to be accepted and nervously quit my job to move to Norfolk, Virginia and join the unpaid, indebted graduate student ranks. I couldn’t have been happier. In that program, I met some of the most instrumental people of my life and wrote my first novel, The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico? People asked. Yes, Puerto Rico. Despite my transient childhood, I always felt my “home-home” was the one stable location where I had a majority of family on my mother’s side. Growing up, we’d fly to Puerto Rico once or twice a year. My grandparents lived and owned a farm in Aibonito, in the mountainous heart of the island. The farm had seen my grandfather plant beans and corn, my great-grandfather sugarcane, and my great-great grandfather tobacco. Land is as constant as it comes! And unlike my ever-changing military childhood, I could always count on the island, my people and their stories. So it was natural that my first novel be set in that rich, beautiful culture. My grandparents still live on the farm with a majority of my second-cousins, great-titis and tios, etcetera spread from San Juan to Mayaguez.
So how did I end up in Texas? It just so happened that my husband and I graduated from our respective graduate programs the same year. He was at med school on an Army scholarship and so, off we went to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, for his military residency. He’s a bone guy, an orthopedic doc. I get to hear a lot about fractures and splints and diabetic feet around the dinner table. And despite knowing him for over a decade, I still find him utterly fascinating and the funniest man I’ve ever met. He sees me through long, dark days of writing for eight hours straight, my hair and teeth un-brushed, my face unwashed, the same stinky clothes for days, and he still calls me beautiful. Don’t ask me why—I’m a complete writing troll!
I wrote my second novel, The Baker’s Daughter, in El Paso, and it certainly served as inspiration. I hope you check it out. I’m working on my third book for Crown/Random House now and look forward to sharing soon. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading my first two novels!