Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, not to mention numerous poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Sharon Olds. The Vermont landscape perhaps my greatest influence. Also, 13 years in all girls' school, college. Warped personality, but oh well.
Inspired by Nancy Drew, Wright's first novel, written at the age of nine, was a mystery about the kidnapping of a particularly obnoxious older brother. But, dismayed at what she considered an incipient criminal career, her mother destroyed it. So Wright gave up writing mysteries, but went on, through secondary school and then Vassar College, to write stories, poems, and the opening chapters of depressing novels.
A Bread Loaf Writer's Conference Scholarship helped launch her first published, autobiographical novel (1973) The Losing, about a young woman trapped in a boys' school who slowly anesthetizes herself with sherry. The cover depicted a hairy hand pulling back a diaphanous shower curtain—a scene created by the illustrator, not the writer! Embarrassed. she sent her husband and oldest child back and back to the local bookstore to buy up copies, and the bookseller only ordered more—he thought he had a best seller.
After that came more children (four in all) and more books—all written with one foot in the diaper pail: in '82 a YA, Down The Strings, engendered by a slumber party to which her daughter invited twelve kids but got 200; Make Your Own Change, a humorous family memoir; Vermonters at Their Craft, exploring the creativity of Vermont craftspeople, co-authored with daughter Catharine; two chapbooks of poems and short stories in Yankee, Redbook, Seventeen, American Literary Review and other magazines, the kind that pay in copies.
"Can you eat copies?" complained her seventh generation-Vermonter husband By this time they were living on a tree farm in Cornwall, Vermont. Wright was running a craft shop in the barn and pushing a pen in between customers and plumbing breakdowns (for the first five years in that creaky 1795 house, there was no plumbing, no electricity; Wright wrote by kerosene light).
In 1990 came the upheaval—and the new career. A divorce, and then that catalytic news clipping about the assault on the farmers (no, her real life husband didn't run off with an actress—it was an amicable split). And with Mad Season, Wright entered a second career in mystery writing–—no one now to destroy the manuscript. She read Dorothy Sayers, she read Agatha Christie. She plunged in: no outline, no notes, not the foggiest idea of "whodunnit." She hung out with cows and learned how to milk them; she read old town histories and dug up family secrets. Every chapter held a new surprise! Characters setting fires, kidnapping young boys... And all those fractured relationships to piece back together in Harvest of Bones, and then Poison Apples, Stolen Honey and MAD COW NIGHTMARE, out in April, '05.
Well, dear reader, Wright remarried: an English teacher she'd gone with back in her Vassar daze—he wouldn't change his name, but promised to read her manuscripts; he became an insightful critic, along with her grown sons and daughters. He welcomed her small grandchildren, despite getting smacked on the nose, at first meeting, by a flying bottle.
It wasn't the flying bottle that ended this marriage after ten years, but sadly, her husband's losing fight with prostate cancer. Wright returned to her 1825 house on a dirt road in Cornwall, Vermont, to her seven young grandchildren, and to the manuscript of Stolen Honey. Three years later a six-foot-two engineer named Llyn Rice, whom she'd met in her local Unitarian Universalist church, came to help her resolve a dozen computer glitches, rehang doors that had refused to open with the shifting of the old house—and stayed on as friend, reader, and helpmate. She has dedicated Mad Cow Nightmare to him, one of her Agatha winning kids' mysteries, and her Midnight Fires, the first in a series featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote a Vindication of the Rights of woman (1792) and was the mother of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.