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Author Revealed

About Laurel A. Neme

Q. What is your birthdate?

A. 4/21

Q. Previous occupations

A. A consultant on natural resources policy and management (something I still do), an international environmental economist for the U.S. Department of Treasury overseeing the social and environmental aspects of multilateral development bank projects and policy, and, among other jobs, waitress.

Q. Favorite job

A. Writing.

Q. High school and/or college

A. I went to New Trier high school in the north Chicago suburbs, college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!!) and got my PhD at Princeton University.

Q. Favorite movie

A. The Power of One; October Sky

Q. Favorite television show

A. The Colbert Report, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, NCIS, Law and Order

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A. writer, mom, compassionate, happy, crazy, full of wonder

Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. Life is what you make it.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. Cuddling and laughing with my son and husband, as our dog cuddles next to us to get into the action. That's the perfect moment.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?

A. Losing the people I love.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A. I'm there. At home in Vermont.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

A. Nelson Mandela. He embodies forgiveness in a way I can only aspire to.

Q. What do you regret most?

A. Being too scared to do a semester abroad in college. I made up for it in graduate school and in my professional life, when I traveled frequently throughout Africa and elsewhere.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A. Playing the guitar.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. Overcoming the mental and physical challenges surrounding a horseback riding accident I had when I was 17, in which I broke my back in two places and my pelvis in four.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?

A. Letting pain get to me.

Q. What’s your best quality?

A. I love to laugh. Plus I'm patient and don't get mad easily.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?

A. Myself. Or perhaps a unicorn, or famous author.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?

A. My smile.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?

A. Whining or complaining. It makes everything less fun.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?

A. Hiking, swimming, drawing.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?

A. I'm living it -- writing! That or a wildlife biologist or veterinarian.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A. Honesty, a sense of humor, and optimism.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A. Chocolate, of course.  But it has to be DARK chocolate (not less than 70% cocoa).  That or fresh picked cherry tomatoes.  Mmmm.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?

A. It changes depending on my mood. Edelweiss and Amazing Grace, because I sing them with my son every night. Also I love I'm Yours, Apologize, Weak in the Knees, anything my son makes up and sings. Only 5?

On Books and Writing

Q. Is there a book you love to reread?

A. Writing in a State of Siege by Andre Brink. It reminds me of why I write.

Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A. Actually, it's from a writer friend (Nancy Means Wright): You can't publish anything in your drawer.

Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A. As I write this, my book hasn't come out yet -- so, please, readers -- let me know what you think!

Q. How did you come to write Animal Investigators?

A. Musa Mohammed Lyimo, a dark, stocky, energetic man who’d served as Tanzania’s chief wildlife officer, told me how, eight years earlier in 1992, he suspected poachers had killed dozens of dead elephants that his wardens had found sprawled near remote watering holes. But he couldn’t prove it until scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab, the world’s only forensic lab dedicated to wildlife, uncovered the cause of death: poison. Intrigued by an article I’d read on the incident, and knowing I’d be in East Africa for work (consulting for USAID), I’d tracked Lyimo down in Nairobi at the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, a regional organization to combat wildlife poaching in southern and east Africa, to learn more. Sitting in his spare government office, Lyimo told me how his subsequent investigation revealed the elephants had been killed by a lethal combination of readily available agricultural pesticides and herbicides that poachers had injected into pumpkins and scattered around the drinking places as bait. It was better than their previous method of dumping the poison into the watering holes, he told me with a gleam in his eye. That killed everything – including some poachers. Lyimo handed me two heavy tusks. One had rough cuts, where it had been hacked out of an elephant’s skull, while the other was smooth and neat. Poison, the African explained, lets the ivory slip out easily a few days after the animal dies. As we spoke, his phone rang and I listened to the one-sided conversation. When he hung up, he told me the call was a report of dead hippos, poisoned for their ivory teeth in a manner very similar to the elephants. I knew it was impossible to patrol such a remote and vast area, and that wildlife forensics could transcend time and space to link the poachers and ivory traffickers to their crime. Seeing this seemingly never-ending round of poaching for profit, I wanted to help break that cycle. I could do that by telling their stories. Animal Investigators is the result.

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