Told in a nutshell, my life seems a comedy of errors. Born and raised in Munich after World War II, I resolved at age fourteen to write novels. My immigrating to the United States at eighteen put that ambition on hold since, as I was astute enough to grasp, the six years of English as a foreign language that I'd had in school had not prepared me to be the next Conrad or Nabokov. I studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan and took a D-tour in Italy at the State Nautical Institute in Rome. I graduated with a deck officer's diploma but my hope of getting the interesting job at sea that would feed me and leave me enough time for writing turned out to be delusion.
Next came physics degrees (B.A. and M.S.) from the University of California, San Diego, and a research assistantship in a low temperature physics lab. My ultimate aim, again, was an interesting job that would allow me to write in my spare time--a wildly silly idea as I found out since interesting jobs in scientific or technical fields tend to leave one with negligible amounts of spare time.
A Ph.D. in English from UC San Diego wrapped up my school days. My dissertation was on that staggeringly brilliant satirist and prose stylist, Jonathan Swift.
Since 1985 I've taught technical writing at Stanford University's School of Engineering, a job that has left me with enough time to write. I've published four novels since then, but my most recent work, The Concise Book of Lying, is nonfiction. It explores deception (a topic that has fascinated me all my life) from a variety of angles and is the result of four years of research and writing. The book has been called intelligent, erudite and witty (not merely by my possibly-a-tad-biased editors at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Picador USA but by those unshakable pillars of integrity and sound judgment--book reviewers).
I'm currently at work on a nonfiction book on fear, another topic that fascinates me. (Working title: "The Fiend in the Attic"; First sentence: "I've been afraid all my life.")
I live in San Carlos, California, with my husband Mike, a high energy physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and our old, old cat.