Lia Matera was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1952 into a family she describes as “Italian immigrant tailors.” In 1959, the family moved to Eureka in Northern California. Her first language was Italian. As she told interviewer Walter Sorrells: “The ability to express oneself was the central issue in our lives. Add to that all the stories I heard around the dinner table—the sheer drama of being forced to leave one’s homeland and start fresh with nothing. Every meal became an opera. So I was focusing on language and getting tutored in storytelling before I could even ride a trike.”
Matera’s leftist politics seem to have been shaped during her years at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although she wanted to write fiction, she also prudently enrolled in law school and in 1981 graduated from the Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. Matera was on her school’s law review journal, taught law at Stanford University, and practiced law for a private firm, but she resisted the ethos of a conventional law career, working only intermittently until she was able to sell her first novel. What interests her are lawyers’ lives and the way they practice law. She has said that she wants to portray the milieu of the law, not the minutiae of law cases.
Matera has collected her short stories in Counsel for the Defense (2000). Her stories have also appeared in anthologies, including Sisters in Crime (1989), Deadly Allies (1992), Crimes of the Heart (1995), Irreconcilable Differences (1999), and First Cases, Volume Four (2002). Her work has been translated into Italian, German, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, and Japanese.