About Harley

Long Story Short (my 100-word bio):

HARLEY JANE KOZAK was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Nebraska, completed NYU School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program, and migrated to Los Angeles. She starred in a few dozen films (Parenthood, Arachnophobia, The Favor, etc.), three soaps (Texas, Guiding Light, Santa Barbara), countless plays and a lotta TV before taking a 15-year maternity leave and turning to crime fiction. Her first (of 5) novels, Dating Dead Men, won the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her short prose has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Sun, The Santa Monica Review and eight anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories of 2019.

Long Story Longer (my 629-word bio):

I was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the youngest of 8 kids. A year later, my dad Joe died, and my mom Dorothy headed west to seek her fortune as a music teacher, hauling my seven siblings and me along with her. I have only vague memories of our first stop, North Dakota: it was cold. It was also where I got my first big break, as an angel in the opera Dido & Aeneas. When I was six, my mom became a professor at the University of Nebraska and we moved to Lincoln. I loved growing up in Nebraska. Don’t let that long drive on I-80 fool you, the one where you thought you were going to die because of tornadoes, blizzards, or boredom: Nebraska is a hotbed of culture and talent. By the time I left for NYC, at age 19, I’d acted in some 40 or 50 plays and was well prepared for My Life in Art.

I spent three fun-filled years at NYU’s School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program, did a lot of waitressing, and acted in plays, then films, then soaps. My 3rd and final soap moved me to LA, where I’ve been ever since.

Meanwhile, writing, which started as an auxiliary passion (I have steamer trunks filled with journals dating back to the early 70’s, and why I’m saving them I have no idea) became increasingly important. I loved my creative writing classes, starting at NYU with Tony Barsha (who’s still yelling “rising action!” at me) and Jim Krusoe at SMCC. Jim was also my first editor, publishing two of my class essays in The Santa Monica Review. I eventually made my way to UCLA Extension, where I have taken an embarrassing number of courses. Enrolling in classes is my default mode in life, which is a good thing if you want a head filled with arcane knowledge, but a bad thing if you want spare time for, e.g., Facebook, dating, or bubble baths.

At age 40 I got married, at 43 had my first baby, and at 45 had twins, and also sold my first novel, Dating Dead Men. I pretty much stopped acting then, for reasons that may be obvious if you’ve ever had small children or book deadlines. I produced four more books, although no more children, and fifteen years later re-entered the world of show business, somewhat wiser, definitely happier for having taken that hiatus. My big screen comeback was in the distinguished I Spit on Your Grave III. As my kids started leaving home, I dusted off the audiobook career that began in the 1980’s with me volunteering at the Braille Institute and ended with me narrating a 1997 Audie winner. I’m now happily performing some extremely fine books in the recording studio of my walk-in closet. I also do the occasional teaching gig, and public speaking gig, and I still take classes. And I’m still behind on Facebook, dating, and bubble baths.

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