After Setting Her Hair on Fire, Lisa Gardner Decided to Become a Writer Leave a comment

GIRL ON FIRE: Lisa Gardner committed to her writing career after setting her hair on fire. She was waitressing, it was the ’80s “and there was a lot of Aqua Net involved,” she recalls. “I had to serve an appetizer involving flaming cheese. Except I kind of poured the brandy down my arm, meaning when I lit the match, the fire raced up my limb and melted my highly permed and poofed bangs. I took the hint. No more food service. Lots more time at the keyboard.”

Now Gardner has just published her 20th novel, “Look for Me,” which debuts at No. 5 on the hardcover fiction list. “It’s based on a ripped-from-the-headlines kind of crime — a family is murdered and their daughter missing,” she explains. Gardner talked to homicide detectives about how they’d approach such a case. “In real life, it’s a 50/50 proposition: Half of the time the teen assisted in her family’s demise. But the other half, the family is killed in order to abduct the teenager,” she says. “You need to know everything about this family, and you need to know it yesterday. Yet you still can’t answer the most basic question: Are you searching for a killer, or a victim? The detectives I spoke with impressed upon me the need to have no preconceived judgments. Start with the crime scene, work your way out.”

IN SICKNESS: Everything changed for Kate Bowler — a professor at the Duke Divinity School who studies the prosperity gospel — when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. “The hardest part about this diagnosis was feeling eclipsed by something I did not choose,” she says. “I chose my career. I chose my husband. I like to imagine that I willed my beautiful son into existence, even though that can’t be biologically accurate. But cancer doesn’t care if I want it or not. Cancer doesn’t care if I’m special or I’m boring, if I have things I want to live for or I’m wasting every opportunity. The randomness of tragedy is hard to get used to and requires a whole new imagination for how to live after certainty is no longer an option.” As Bowler grappled with her situation, first she wrote a New York Times Op-Ed that went viral and then a memoir, “Everything Happens For a Reason,” which enters the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 8.

“This book poured out of me in a summer that I thought would be my last,” she says. “I wanted to come to grips with the basic questions of my life. What did I hope for? What am I allowed to expect? And did I really think I was running this show? I started writing to make sense of my own outrageous certainties.”

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