Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her novels include the 2014 literary thriller GOLDEN STATE, which imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States, and the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG. Her debut story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress (2001) won the AWP Award for Short Fiction, and her latest story collection, HUM, received the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and in the South, where she grew up.
She holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she was a James Michener Fellow.
Michelle was born and raised in Alabama and has made her home for eighteen years in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.
PUBLICATIONS & TEACHING
Michelle’s stories and essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Oxford American, Playboy, The Believer, Best American Fantasy, and many other magazines and anthologies. She has also written about travel to Iceland, Slovenia, Budapest, China, and elsewhere for The Telegraph, 7×7, Coastal Living, and other publications.
She has taught in the Masters of Fine Arts programs in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University and St. Mary’s College of Moraga. She also held the Sister Catharine Julie Cunningham Chair at Notre Dame de Namur University and has taught creative writing for Stanford Continuing Studies. She has served on the board of The Authors Guild since 2010.
MICHELLE RICHMOND’S BOOKS (in order of publication)
The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress (2001), winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Fiction, University of Massachusetts Press
Dream of the Blue Room (2003), MacAdam/Cage, re-issued by Random House, 2009
The Year of Fog (2007), Bantam
No One You Know (2008), Bantam
Golden State (2014), Bantam
Hum: Stories (2014), FC2/University of Alabama Press
The Marriage Pact (2017), Bantam
I grew up the middle of three sisters in Mobile, Alabama. We spent vacations in Gatlinburg, TN, Disneyworld in Orlando, and with my grandparents in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
At the University of Alabama, I majored in Journalism and English. As the managing editor of the university’s yearbook, I published what I suppose was technically my first book, a collector’s edition bound in red velvet (yes, red velvet!) celebrating the university’s centennial. I was also a founding member of the university’s undergraduate literary magazine, Marr’s Field Journal, which is still in publication today. Mostly it was an excuse for all of us to sit around drinking cheap beer and talking abut our poetry (don’t worry, I haven’t written a poem since 1990 and I’m not about to start now).
After working in advertising. magazines, and (of course) restaurants in Knoxville and Atlanta, I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to “study” in the MFA program in creative writing. During my first week in Arkansas, I met a guy named Kevin from San Francisco, crawled through his window in the middle of the night, and decided he was the one. This might be a sordid one-night-stand story, except for the fact that we have now been together for 22 years.
After my second semester in Arkansas, I transferred to the University of Miami, where I completed my MFA, taught creative writing, and wrote my first story collection in a studio apartment on the beach. By then, Kevin was in New York City, and I moved to New York To join him. We lived in a one-bedroom fourth-floor walkup on 84th Street, between Amsterdam and Central Park West. Although it was a great apartment, it was packed to overflowing with 1980s clothes and old magazines belonging to the woman who was subletting it to us, who would occasionally let herself in to remove my clothes from the wardrobe and throw them on the floor. Kevin and I dreamt of moving to San Francisco and getting our own place, where I could throw my own clothes on the floor with abandon.
After pounding the pavement of Manhattan as a sales rep for a company that sold credit card processing machines, a job in which I did not exactly distinguish myself, I answered a classified ad in the New York Times and ended up with an office job in the Empire State Building. I worked for a Chinese trading company, just like the one George describes in that episode of Seinfeld, when he claims to be in the import/export business. This job also, bizarrely, included putting together a vacuum cleaner and furnishing a massive house in New Jersey entirely in white, from the carpets to the chandeliers. After two weeks on the job, the boss ordered me to Beijing. My subsequent three-month solo stint in Beijing provided material for my first novel, DREAM OF THE BLUE ROOM.
Eventually, Kevin proposed to me in Central Park (a version of that scene shows up in THE MARRIAGE PACT), and a couple of months later we moved to San Francisco. I managed our (haunted) apartment building in the Castro, the San Miguel, a job I did poorly but with the best of intentions. In the winter of 2001, we made good on the Central Park proposal and got married in a small ceremony is Yosemite. I remember racing around Budapest on the first day of our honeymoon, desperately searching for a FedEx office from which to mail the rent checks, which we’d forgotten to mail from the San Francisco airport on our way out of town after the wedding.
We bought our first house, a sweet Doelger that looked like a Krispy Kreme Drive-in, in Daly City, possibly the foggiest place on earth (hence, THE YEAR OF FOG). A couple of years later, we sold the Krispy Kreme house and bought a house in San Francisco’s Richmond district (no relation), 1200 square feet and a postage stamp back yard out in the avenues, eight blocks from the beach, with a tiny but perfect view of the Pacific. Our house in the Richmond was the model for the home in GOLDEN STATE, as well as THE MARRIAGE PACT.
Every place I have lived has eventually made it into one of my books. So too with the small town near Silicon Valley where we now live, the setting of my novel-in-progress. Every place tells a story.