Here Among Us is the debut novel from Sonoma County author, Maggie Harryman.

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My parents emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s. It was a small window of legal immigration after the Second World War and thousands of men and women left small villages in the Emerald Isle behind to make their way in the land of opportunity. Growing up it seemed that everyone my parents ever knew from the auld sod had settled either in Northern New Jersey or New York and whether we liked it or not (it could go either way, boxty was good; being compared to the children of these immigrants, not so good) my brother, sister and I grew up immersed in the culture they carried with them. 

I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in New Jersey, went to Catholic schools right through college (Pagan Babies is a story about my grammar school years) and worked and lived in Manhattan for two years after college. When I left New York, I was an Assistant Editor at J. Wiley and Sons, but before that I worked at MacMillan for the Executive Editor of Children’s Books. My boss, who I eventually came to deeply respect (but only after a solid year of walking home to my tiny apartment crying every step of the forty blocks up 3rd Avenue), was the Miranda Priestly of the children’s books industry. I’m not sure what it’s like now, but back then publishing was a posh world filled with ambitious Ivy Leaguers. Besides the fact that I wanted to write, not edit, I didn’t feel at all like I fit in.

After two years, I escaped to San Francisco where I didn’t know a living soul but where $1000—all I had to my name—went a whole lot farther than it does today. I attended graduate school at San Francisco State, receiving an MA in Creative Writing. I met and married a wonderful man while I was writing my graduate thesis and had my first child just as I received my degree. My second child was born twenty-one months later. As part of my graduate thesis, I started but didn’t finish a novel. Five years later, I started another and again, didn’t finish. In the ensuing years, I freelanced, writing for wineries and regional family magazines and later writing sales force materials for large tech companies as well as smaller startups. 

In 2004 I gave up copywriting to help my husband with his business but mostly to devote myself full time to my children—a job I adored. Of course, I never stopped writing and during those years, from 2000 to 2005, I was a member of a world-class writing group that met twice a month. It was a small group of incredibly talented women writers, run by a writer/teacher/author named Robin Beeman who I’d first met in grad school (she left SF State’s program for an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop). We were responsible for presenting a new story every five weeks or so, and I learned more in that group than I had in all the years before, including in the MA program (this is not a knock on writing programs—SF State was a wonderful experience—but it is the truth). There was something about having to produce so much work, so quickly while still helping out with a business, writing copy and driving kids all over creation that honed my skills as a writer. I’m eternally grateful to that group. 

In 2007 I finally sat down, bum glue on seat, and began writing Here Among Us. In 2009 my husband died suddenly and tragically while the children were still in high school. I took a year off from writing to try and put our family back together. The last thing he said to me as he was walking out the door the morning he died was, “When are you going to finish that damn thing? I want to retire.” He was wonderful like that, always very encouraging about my writing (very few writers can retire from their fiction efforts!) and so I finished. And while I miss him every single day, as I know our children do, I think we’ve finally managed to figure out life without him.  So far, so good.

For the past twenty years, I’ve lived in Northern California, in the heart of wine country, arguably one of the most stunning spots on the planet. From my perch on the hill, I have exquisite 360-degree views of Matanzas Creek Winery to the east and the valley’s rolling hills, sweeping vistas and planted grapes to the west, south and north.

If I can’t write here, I can’t write anywhere.