about me

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Julia Keller, age 5

I was born and raised
in Huntington, West Virginia,
an Ohio River town syncopated
by the lonely call of train whistles and by the thrilling sight of barges “riding the river’s brushed-nickel back,” a phrase from my novel,
A Killing in the Hills.

This is my dog, Edward. His home prior to mine was a small cage at a county animal shelter. He had been adopted by two different people before he was four months old, and then returned
each time to the shelter for unspecified reasons. His eyes seem to reflect the sentiment of Guy de Maupassant: “The wise man says: Perhaps.”

Julia Keller, current photo

Books have furnished, burnished and enabled my life. When I was kid, I could not imagine the world without A Wrinkle in Time and Revolt on Alpha C and The Martian Chronicles and Superman comic books; as an adult, the names have changed—now the sine qua non authors are the likes of Virginia Woolf and Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene and Willa Cather and Joyce Carol Oates and John Banville—but the passion remains the same, the sense that time spent away from books is somehow a little grayer and grimmer, a little less magical.

In 2005, I won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a three-part narrative series that ostensibly was about the aftermath of a deadly tornado, but in truth was an exploration of how we reckon with the randomness of fate.

I graduated from Marshall University, and later obtained
a doctoral degree in English literature at Ohio State University. I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and I’ve taught at the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, and Princeton. During my journalism career, I worked at The Ashland Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky.; The Columbus Dispatch
in Columbus, Ohio; and The Chicago Tribune.

My books include Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It, a non-fiction account of the inventor of the Gatling Gun, Richard Jordan Gatling; Back Home, a young adult novel about a girl whose father suffers a traumatic brain injury while serving with the National Guard in Iraq; and the Bell Elkins mystery series, set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia.