Life and Work
My life’s occupations include wife and mother, computer programmer, historic preservation planner, Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department, and full-time writer (more or less).
During my Foreign Service years (1990 until 2004), I served in Saudi Arabia (twice), Tunisia, Algeria, Canada, and in Washington, D.C. at State Department headquarters. I was evacuated from Algeria after three months due to terrorist activities in that country. Later I returned for a couple of temporary tours.
Fantasy vs. Reality
Many Americans imagine a Foreign Service officer (diplomat) as one who flits in and out of meetings with VIP’s in exotic overseas capitals. This hardly describes my work. I did develop contacts with foreign government officials, for help in resolving problems of U.S. citizens in those countries.
I worked mainly as a consular officer. I interviewed foreigners who wanted to come to the United States as visitors or to immigrate to this country as permanent residents. The job introduced me to those desperate millions who seek better lives in developed countries by legal or illegal means.
Serving Americans Abroad
My work with American citizens provided me with my most memorable experiences. Routine tasks included renewing U.S. passports and performing notary services. However, duties were never routine for long. With my colleagues, I aided U.S. citizens who were jailed for various offenses. Most incarcerations in Muslim-majority countries resulted from American citizens involved with drugs, alcohol or pornography.
When American citizens died or were killed overseas, we notified next of kin in the States and took care of the remains as dictated by the family. Tragically, a few of these deaths resulted from terrorist attacks. I was in Saudi Arabia for both Gulf wars, in 1991 and after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Americans married to foreign spouses presented us with the most emotion wrenching problems, especially the custody cases. Such marriages and divorces face the same challenges as those of two Americans, but problems are magnified by different laws governing children, religious beliefs, and the requirement for exit visas to leave some countries.
Inspiration for Writing
My novels and blogs since living in other countries are influenced by those overseas years. Observing the United States from other cultures, I wondered why and how this country and its culture became what they are in the twenty-first century. A great change began after World War II, and I wanted to explore the period from that war into the present. Time and setting became themselves characters, influencing the human actors and their stories. Perhaps this writing fills a niche between the straight historical novel, usually ending with World War II, and the contemporary novel—the thin slice of time immediately before today.