The text, below, is from Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Thanks to Otto for sending this in.
It's the birthday of crime novelist Sara Paretsky (books by this author), born in Ames, Iowa (1947) and raised in rural Kansas. As a kid, she loved reading books about "girls doing active things - biographies of women like the astronomer Maria Mitchell, or Harriet Tubman or Marie Curie." When she was 10, her unhappily married parents gave her a book about Joan of Arc. "They wanted me to see what happened to girls who were too intense and took the world around them too seriously." Though her highly educated parents borrowed money to send her brothers to college, they refused to do the same for her. She was expected to cook for the family, clean the rambling but run-down house, and care for her younger siblings. When she was 19, Paretsky left Kansas for Chicago, where she still lives, 10 minutes' walk from Lake Michigan.
Paretsky is the creator of V.I. Warshawski, a female detective who is smart and good with a gun and also likes nice clothes and cappuccino and enjoys her sex life. Paretsky came up with the character as a rebuttal to the femme fatale character that she first noticed in Raymond Chandler's work. She said, "In six out of seven of his novels, the woman presented herself sexually, and it galvanized me into thinking, surely there are better ways of representing women, who are more believable and had to solve their own problems?" So she created a character who is partly modeled after Paretsky's own alcoholic mother. It took eight years for her to work up the nerve to put the character on the page; since then, V.I. Warshawski has featured in 17 novels, including Bitter Medicine (1987), Burn Marks (1990), Blacklist (2003), and Critical Mass (2013). The 18th Warshawski novel, Brush Back, is due out this summer (2015).