Nevada Barr was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.
Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For 18 years she worked on stage, in commercials and industrial training films, and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers -- Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.
Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling, and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet, was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received, and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada's experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995, Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado, where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons. The rest is, shall we say, history.
Good to Know
Biography from author website.
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In our interview with Barr, she disclosed three interesting facts about herself:
"I will forget your face and name, but never your stories."
"I love to sing but can clear a concert hall at the drop of a note."
"I lie, but never about the important stuff -- and I get to decide what is the important stuff."
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In the winter of 2003, Nevada Barr answered some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
Hard to say. I've read a lot of books and loved too many to count. The change, for the most part, has been incremental. The two that have stuck with me the longest and been reflected on and remembered years after reading them are Time and Again by Jack Finney, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
Time and Again had a plot idea that captured my imagination so completely then, because the character development was so beautiful -- it allowed me to really live in the world he took me to, so much so that when I'd finished, it felt like a memory of my own life.
The Princess Bride stayed with me because I loved the story and Goldman told it with such total freedom, irreverence, and style that each adventure became almost like a private joke between us. R.O.U.S. (rodents of unusual size) are still part of my world.
What are your favorite books -- and why?Time and Again and The Princess Bride for the above reasons.
Again, being limited makes it hard. There's favorite books for adventure, meditation, romance, books for when I'm sad or when I'm in need of revenge, and when I celebrate.... Books that comfort me and books I reread because I love the people therein. Okay:
All of Jane Austen, because she draws the characters with such exquisite detail she keeps me on pins and needles for hundreds of pages suffering great anxiety -- though I know for a fact that romance will win in the end. She makes the emotional stakes of the heroine mine through prose.
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Gray, because I read it when I was so young and the goodness of the good guys and hateful wretchedness of the bad guys gives me rest for a world that's become based on spin and situational ethics.
The Assassin Trilogy by Robin Hobb, because I like to live in her world and she makes it so real that I can.
All of Charles Dickens -- with the exception of Bleak House, which is boring, and Oliver Twist (Oliver is such a crybaby). Dickens transports me in place and time and writes characters I can hate without guilt and love without reservation.
Beau Geste by Percival C. Wren. Beau Geste is the ultimate adventure book, full of self-sacrifice, brotherly love, and derring-do.
Favorite films?The Patriot
Three Men and a Baby
G. I. Jane
Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp
Sleepless in Seattle
Life as a House
As with books, I have a thousand favorites -- one for each mood.
Favorite music?Old-time gospel
The Mills Brothers
What are your favorite books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I don't like getting books as gifts. I read eclectically and never know what I shall want to read next -- but probably not something I'm supposed to read. I like to give books people ask for or signed copies of books by authors I know they like.
What else do you want your readers to know?
Animals are my passion, art is my hobby, abandonment is my fear, travel is my pastime, and philosophy is my addiction.
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