A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.
Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash was inspired by my research into my family’s genealogy and my interest in the history and culture of Pennsylvania. In the summer of 2012, I asked my ninety-year-old grandmother a few questions about her childhood and was presented with a scrapbook and several shoeboxes of old photos. I’m not sure why Grandma Pearl had never shown me these treasures until the final months of her life, but I am grateful nonetheless. She opened up to me that day about her childhood and showed me pictures of her Lithuanian parents as well as her Slovak in-laws. She recalled the days of running moonshine for her mother during the Prohibition era and mentioned a young Polish friend of hers who went by the name of Pole. I was fascinated by Grandma Pearl’s stories, but even more captivated by the images of my great-grandparents who arrived in America at the turn of the 20th century to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. I wondered what they were like and what sort of challenges they might have faced. These imaginings inspired me to write the story of the Kovac family.