Featured Stories

Affable author assists affordable housing program

Portland writer Chelsea Cain will participate in a fund-raiser in Tualatin
by: Kate Eshelby, CHELSEA CAIN

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.)

Hollywood has Brad Pitt. Chicago claims Oprah. New Yorkers can boast about David Letterman.

The Portland area gets author Chelsea Cain.

Cain's sixth and latest book, 'Heartsick,' was named Amazon's Best Thriller/Mystery of 2007 and is a New York Times bestseller. It is being translated into 21 languages, which has led to a multi-country book promotion tour. Cain recently returned from touring in Paris, Oslo, Berlin, Munich and Amsterdam.

But on Friday, April 4, Cain will be a little closer to home. She will appear at the Tualatin Country Club as a featured speaker for HomeWord Bound. This event is a fund-raiser for Community Partners for Affordable Housing, which provides affordable and safe housing for low-income families in Tigard, Tualatin and Southwest Portland.

Cain will be accompanied by Marc Acito, David Oliver Relin and several other authors at the fund-raiser. Reservations are required, and an extremely limited number of tickets are still available - call 503-968-2724 to inquire.

Cain spent her early childhood years in a hippie commune in Iowa (which she chronicles in her first book, 'Dharma Girl: A Road Trip Across the American Generations'). After she and her family moved to Bellingham, Wash., Cain became fascinated with the Green River killer (a fascination she returned to for 'Heartsick'). Then, she studied journalism at the University of California at Irvine before returning to Iowa to attend the University of Iowa for graduate school, again studying journalism.

Now, she's living in Southeast Portland and happy to be an Oregonian.

'My mom moved to Portland when I was in college, so I spent a few summers here,' she explains. 'Then I kept moving here and then moving away and moving back. Finally I just stayed. Because, honestly, it's really one of the best places ever, so why fight it?'

These days, Cain is one busy woman. Take the past two weeks: In between writing a newspaper column, going on a five-country book tour, coming down with the flu and dealing with its accompanying 103-degree fever, taking care of her daughter who also had the flu and a temperature, and jetting to Florida for her grandma's 93rd birthday, she's been preparing for the Homeword Bound event.

Despite her hectic schedule and array of accomplishments, Cain remains grounded and humble. For example, there's her reaction to Amazon's editors declaring her book as 2007's best thriller.

'I double-checked the Amazon Web site to make sure my publisher wasn't just screwing with me,' she confesses.

Then, there's her reluctance to acknowledge herself as a local celebrity.

'It's basically all champagne and bonbons wherever I go,' she jokes. 'Not really. I occasionally get recognized. But people don't usually know what I look like. So they recognize me when I'm paying for something (because my name is on the card) or screaming, 'Don't you know who I am?' at the top of my lungs.'

That's the other thing about Cain - she doesn't take herself or any of this success stuff too seriously. Despite her lighthearted attitude, though, she's also incredibly grateful.

'I used to write books so I wouldn't have to get a job,' she says. 'Now I write books because it is my job. I'm still getting used to that.'

She wrote 'Dharma Girl' when she was 23. At the time, she was amazed to receive a $1,000 advance.

'I couldn't believe anyone wanted to give me anything for it. Keep in mind, it was basically a memoir. By a college student! The whole process was full of surprise and delight. They sent me the book jacket (before the book was out), and I slipped it on another book and carried it around, pretending it was mine.'

She contrasts this to her latest publishing experience.

''Heartsick' is my sixth book, and by far my biggest. At this level a whole machine starts operating. There is a lot at stake, and a lot of people and departments and divisions of departments, and everybody has something riding on the book's success. So there's much more pressure. And,' she acknowledges, 'more money.'

The pressure and stakes will continue to grow - 'Heartsick' is the first in what will become a thriller series. Cain will write a book a year (next up is 'Sweetheart,' followed by 'Heartbreaker').

'The most gratifying thing about being a writer is that I get to make a living doing what I love, and few of us get to say that. The most challenging thing has been putting together a life doing that. You have to really, really trust that you can make it work.'

Clearly, Cain's trust in herself and her abilities has paid off. And now, with her crazy schedule and increasing success, Cain takes appreciation in the little moments and the time she spends with her husband and 3-year-old daughter. Typically, her daughter supplies a lot of her laughter.

'We've both had the flu, so neither of us has been that funny lately. But I did put her in a slightly-too-warm bath the other day and she said, 'It's so hot, I can't believe my eyes!' which I thought was pretty hilarious.'

Cain's Web site is www.chelseacain.com.