About Michelle

About Michelle


Michelle Richmond, copyright Nick Elliott 2017

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her books include the 2017 psychological thriller THE MARRIAGE PACT, which has been sold in 30 languages and was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK;  GOLDEN STATE, the critically acclaimed novel that imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States; the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG; and the story collection HUM, winner of 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. 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.


Michelle holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she was a James Michener Fellow. She has received the Palle Rosenkrantz Prize for the best crime novel published in Denmark, the Truman Capote Prize for Distinguished Alabama Writer of the Short Story, the Grace Paley Prize for Fiction (for The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress), the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize (for Hum), the Hillsdale Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Mississippi Review Fiction Prize. The Year of Fog (translated as L’annee brouillard) was a finalist for Elle Priz des Lectrices in France.


Michelle 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 she teaches novel writing for Stanford Continuing Studies. She has served on the board of The Authors Guild since 2010.


Michelle’s stories and essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Glimmer Train, Plaoyboy, Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Oxford American, Readers Digest UK, 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.

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, 2009, Random House)
The Year of Fog (2007,  Bantam) – San Francisco Chronicle Notable Books, News of the World Best Books of the Year, Silicon Valley Reads One Book Selection, Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Reading Groups, Library Journal Best Books of the Year, finalist for the Elle Prix des Lectrices
No One You Know (2008, Bantam)
Golden State (2014, Bantam)
Hum: Stories (2014, FC2/University of Alabama Press) – winner of the Truman Capote Prize and the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize
The Marriage Pact (2017, Bantam) – winner of the Palle Rosenkrantz Prize for the Best Crime Novel Published in Denmark


In Gulf Shores with my beloved seahorse

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 GOLDEN STATE), 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.

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One Reply to “About Michelle”

  1. Michelle, a teaching colleague (I teach English and creative writing in Richmond, Virginia) recently gave me The Year of Fog for Christmas, and I have just finished it on Christmas Eve morning. The beautiful writing and forays into memory made me a goner from page one. As I read on, I felt deep connections, though thankfully, not with the loss of a child. I was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, graduated from U of A in 1977, and read every Corolla cover-to-cover, mostly for pictures of the beauties like Sela Ward. I worked part time as a student at The Tuscaloosa News, and Sela and other cheerleaders and football players (Steve and Mike Sloan, Joe Namath even) came in regularly to get pictures taken for the sports section. I wrote obituaries and worked in the advertising department. Many lifetimes later, including marrying and working at Mississippi State for six years, earning an MBA and joining the POC program in Air Force ROTC with my husband there, and living in various parts of the world. My one time in California, other than stops at LAX, was a visit to a missile base in Lompoc. I enjoyed passing through Solvang. We ended up at Space Command in Colorado Springs after a stint in South Korea. I wrote through all those years, mostly short stories–starting at around age seven when my little sister couldn’t get to sleep (like Nick did for Abby). After getting out of the Air Force (but not retiring) we landed in Alexandria, then Richmond, Virginia, where my husband was a librarian at the State Library. I used my Montgomery GI Bill benefits to earn an MFA in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. I have two grown children–a daughter, age 30 (with two adorable grandsons, ages four and six), and a son, age 22, who is a student at VCU. My daughter married a Tico she met here, after visiting his town of San Isidro a few times. She fell in love with the place. She returned there and married him after a couple of years of dating, and they had their first son there in 2010. I visited twice, riding up the Pico de Muerto under the influence of Dramamine. I visited some of the beaches in your book. You’ll appreciate that where my daughter and son in law built their house (on his mother’s family home, taking over her coffee orchard, sadly), it reminds me of Gatlinburg. The fog and beauty of the mountains surrounding their little house is breathtaking. The first time I was there I bought two rocking chairs made by an 80 year old neighbor who fashions each chair from an individual tree (cost–$30 each). Though my daughter (who’s biliingual) and son-in-law returned to the States for the remaining six years (blessedly, for me) they visit Costa Rica at least once a year to see Marlon’s mother and make improvements on their little house. They could not find jobs to support themselves in San Isidro. My son-in-law has a sixth grade education and learned the house painting trade from some uncles who had a business here, in Richmond, Virginia, where I’ve lived for the past 20 years. My family (and my husbands) still live in Alabama. My sister’s son bought back from a U of A basketball coach the three story cabin my parents built on their lot at Lake Tuscaloosa. It’s back in the family–the scene of first a screened in room, then three trailers in succession, and finally, the country dream house with the big, wide front porch and six rocking chairs overlooking the cliff on the Lake. I continue to teach and write fiction–with one book of poetry. My favorite of my own (unpublished) novels is set in Tuscaloosa, in a house on Queen City Avenue. My little sixth grade students here in Virginia recently wrote a chapter book we published online. We had a book launch party just before Christmas. Thank you for sharing your life story and the photos on your website. I like to “know” my authors. I look forward to reading the rest of your work. A film! That will be a whole education, watching that take flight, won’t it? Happy life, and keep on writing so I can soak up the stories. One parting thought–Alabama takes hold of you–in ways most people don’t understand. A little piece of me will love it always–probably idealizes things about it–but it’s nice to feel a connection to someone else raised there.

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