CANBERRA Crime writer Patricia Cornwell is a master storyteller but had shied away from telling her own tale, until this year when uproar about same-sex marriages in the United States prompted her to go public.
Cornwell, 52, has been married for two years to Staci Ann Gruber, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School whom she met while researching neuroscience for one of her thrillers about forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta.
The author said she always used to feel uncomfortable with the focus on her personal life, but she has accepted this comes with her success as a writer.
After all, there aren't too many motorcycle-riding, scuba-diving, helicopter pilot alpha female authors who delve into the minds of serial killers.
Cornwell, who has just released her 16th Scarpetta book called "Scarpetta," said the heated debate on same-sex marriages in the United States made it time for her to talk about her own.
"At my age, I have been around a while now and I am less uncomfortable with those sorts of revelations than I used to be," Cornwell told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"Maybe it is a function of getting older but I think it is important to stand up and be counted. When you're not in a relationship your sexual orientation is more theoretical but it becomes more real when you are with somebody and you are not going to hide that."
Cornwell and Gruber live in Massachusetts, one of two U.S. states where single sex marriages are legal. The other is Connecticut.
California struck down same-sex marriage last month, reversing a court decision that had affirmed the right.
"If people like me don't take a stand then it will only get worse. We just want to live and let live and be treated in the same way straight people are treated," said Cornwell, who was previously married to an English professor, Charles Cornwell.
"It is no longer theoretical when you have people voting against what you believe is your right, making it illegal, when one of the best things about me is the person I am with. This applies to me and it is frightening.
Cornwell has only just started talking publicly about her marriage but she was outed in the mid-1990s when a short-lived affair with an FBI agent hit the headlines after the woman was kidnapped by her husband.
Cornwell said she is not the active campaigner type but her own experience has fed into her writing and she believes speaking out can help clear up some misunderstandings.
Her character Scarpetta's niece Lucy is a lesbian who ends up in a relationship with a female prosecutor, a public figure, who has to decide how open she wants to be about her personal life.
Despite the twists and turns in her own life, Cornwell said she has no plans to write an autobiography -- at least, not yet.
"I hope I'm just in the middle of that story at the moment," she said.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)