Sara Paretsky is credited with breaking the gender barrier in detective fiction with the creation of her hard-boiled female detective, V. I. Warshawski. In mysteries that have been translated into more than 20 languages, the no-nonsense and sexy V.I. keeps her eye on the city of Chicago, distributing justice to everyone from corporate crooks to government phonies and street hustlers.
Sara Paretsky grew up in eastern Kansas, where she attended a small country school. The publishing bug bit Paretsky earlyat age 11, her first published story appeared in the magazine The American Girl. It was about children surviving a Kansas tornado. She attended the University of Kansas for her undergraduate degree, but after spending a summer in Chicago doing community service work, she fell in love with the Windy City and decided after college to make the move permanent.
Paretsky eventually earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago but had a hard time finding a job as an academic, so she returned to school for an M.B.A., after which she started working full-time in marketing. (In order to complete her first three novels, she juggled family and job with writing at night.) An avid reader, Paretsky has always been a fan of detective fiction, but noticed a lack of intelligent, likable female protagonists in the genre. Thus, with the inspiring city of Chicago as the background, her signature character, V. I. Warshawski, was born.
Readers and critics have responded with appreciation for Paretsky's confident, modern, noir female detective. Unlike other noir heroines, V. I. refuses to be categorized by her sexuality. Despite the patriarchy she confronts on every case, she's a single woman in total control. Paretsky says of V. I., " I started aging V. I. because although she is a fictional character, she is grounded in historical events: she came of age during the Civil Rights movement and the anti-War movement. Her mother was a refugee from Fascist Italy. And her cases are all based on real events. Who she is depends on her being born in the Fifties. Now, of course, I have this dilemma of how to let her get older while still continuing to be an effective detective. I haven't quite figured that out yet."
Beyond her successful series, Paretsy has proven her range of talent with short stories (1995's Windy City Blues) and a handful of stand-alones (Ghost Country, Bleeding Kansas). She has also edited anthologies of mysteries and crime fiction by famous and less well-known female writers.
Generous with all she has learned throughout the years, Paretsky is a co-founder of Sisters in Crime, an organization dedicated since 1986 to bringing the female voice in detective fiction to the attention of booksellers and libraries. Sisters in Crime is a business resource for women on how to prepare a press kit, arrange a signing at a local bookstore, or search for an agentas well as a treasure chest of new writers on the scene. Check out all they have to offer at www.sistersincrime.org.
Good To Know
Paretsky worked for ten years as a marketing manager at an insurance company and draws on the experience when writing about white-collar crimes for the V. I. Warshawski series.
Comparing herself to V. I. Warshawski, Paretsky says that they both love dogs, enjoy good food and good Scotch, and are both diehard Cubs fans.