My series protagonist, Dirty Harriet, is a wisecracking, ass-kicking, Harley-riding private eye. Naturally, readers often ask if I’m a Harley rider myself. Afraid not. Or, more accurately, afraid to. While Harriet rides a motorcycle, I ride a bicycle. The kind with fat tires and a single speed. It tops out at about 10 mph as opposed to Harriet’s Harley Hugger’s max speed of 103 (which she has taken it to). And the dissimilarities between me and my lead character don’t end there. Harriet lives in a log cabin in the Everglades; I live in an air-conditioned house. In a gated community. Harriet does martial arts; I do ballet barre. Harriet shot and killed her abusive husband; I’ve shot and killed a beer can.
So what gives? Why did I give Harriet a Harley? Okay, here’s the thing. Jimmy Buffett said Margaritaville in not a place – it’s a state of mind. I say a Harley is not a thing – it’s a state of mind. A symbol: Strength. Freedom. Control. Self-reliance. Independence. Ingenuity. Courage. America. So while I’m outwardly living my reclusive, reticent writer’s life, the biker chick that resides within gives me the guts to meet life’s challenges head on. Like all women, I’ve had my share, from schoolyard bullying to divorce to bosses from hell to illness and loss. Now, when crap happens, I ask myself: what would Harriet do? And I always get my answer. She wouldn’t cower and cry – she’d face it and fight. And not only for herself or her loved ones. Harriet fights for the world’s dispossessed – those who haven’t been given a fair shake.
Harriet and her Hog didn’t spring out of nowhere, of course. When I was eighteen I met a Harley-riding preacher and spent the next 12 years of my life on the road with him (while also going to college, grad school, and supporting us financially, since he also happened to be chronically unemployed with addiction issues). So while that relationship was a rough ride, I did get plenty of insight into the Harley world and the Harley psyche. And I experienced what I call High on the Hog – that feeling of flow, of being in the zone, that altered state of mind that comes with hearing the repetitive rumble of a V-twin engine and seeing the road roll by under your feet. It’s when she’s in that altered state that Harriet is able to assemble the diverse clues that point to the killer she’s hunting in each of her cases.
Miriam was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The first of many changes in her life occurred at age six, when she witnessed tanks rolling past her family’s home during the Soviet occupation of the country. Shortly thereafter, her family fled to the United States, taking her with them. She grew up in Denver, where she spent her high school and early college years studying diligently to become a particle physicist. However, during a brief stint at Los Alamos National Lab, she began to suspect that building nuclear weapons just might not be the best way to spend her life. Thus, at age twenty she rebelled and spent the next decade living on the fringes of the Harley biker world.
In her thirties she returned to semi-conventional life, earning a Ph.D. in social work and becoming a university professor, publishing academic treatises under her real name of Miriam Potocky. She has found this to be a rewarding career, with the minor exception that one fine day she crashed headfirst into the glass ceiling of the ivory tower. Falling into a funk, she took to her bed to eat chocolates and watch old Dirty Harry movies. She didn’t get Harry’s appeal until she suddenly had a vision of him as a woman, and then it all made sense. Thus her debut novel, DIRTY HARRIET, was born. It won the 2006 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Series Romance. Miriam can only guess that this is because the heroine kills her husband on page one.
DIRTY HARRIET and its sequel, DIRTY HARRIET RIDES AGAIN, were originally published by Harlequin and were reissued by Bell Bridge Books in 2013. The third in the series, DEAD IN BOCA, will be published by Bell Bridge in 2014.
Miriam lives in South Florida with her husband and their multicultural canines, a Welsh Corgi and a Brussels Griffon. She continues to profess by day and decompress by night by writing her next Dirty Harriet novel.
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