Meet Our Staff

Barbara Peters – Store Owner & Event Coordinator

Barbara Peters was born in Evanston, raised in Winnetka, Illinois, spent way too much time in graduate school, and founded The Poisoned Pen in 1989. With her husband Robert Rosenwald, she gambled on Poisoned Pen Press in 1997 where she is Editor in chief. Barbara has won the Raven and Quill Awards from the Mystery Writers of America (and been nominated for an Edgar for Best Biographical Work) and is a Bouchercon Fan Guest of Honor and Lifetime Achievement honoree as well as a lifetime honoree from Malice Domestic. Meaning she’s turning into an antique…

Bill Smith – Store Manager

• Lived in all four corners of the contiguous United States

• Allergic to dogs but has 5 rescues

• Huge fan of fonts and typography

• Mother and Grandmother are both retired school teachers so I grew up around books

• Has had long hair the majority of my life

• Spend much of my time gardening and tending to my many plants

• Cut my teeth in the book business back when Borders was still a major player

Patrick Millikin – Bookseller

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here at the PP since 1995, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m just not cut out for a real job.  I was born in Los Angeles but have been here in Arizona since I was three years old, so I’m pretty close to being a native. I’m the big noir fan here on the staff but I read widely and my tastes are constantly evolving. When I’m not here I enjoy working on various DIY projects on the 1920s house where I live with my wife, Sandra and numerous animals. I also like writing, editing (notably, the anthologies Phoenix Noir – a story in which won the 2009 Edgar Award – and The Highway Kind) and playing guitar. My reviews and articles appear in various publications, such as Publisher’s Weekly. I’ve had the pleasure of moderating the Hardboiled Discussion Group here at the bookstore for over twenty years now, which has been a great experience. I’ve also recently gotten back into skateboarding, with mixed results.

Ian Schiefelbein – Mail Order Manager

I’m an Arizona native who grew up around books. As a kid, my dad would take me to bookstores frequently and I’d always walk away with an armful of titles. Graphic novels, YA, horror, mystery, adventure, thriller are all genres that appeal to me. When I’m not reading I’m playing the drums and watching horror movies.

Karen Shaver – Bookseller

I started out in Minnesota and lived in other northern states, as well. After college, I got married, had kids, and tried to master the art of living on nine acres of land. I learned the challenges and humor in planting my first vegetable garden, failed to tame a temperamental Shetland pony named Flicka, but was successful in repairing an electric fence without harm to self or others. My careers have included retail, print production, magazine layout and typesetting. All of which led me to a book addiction, thus, the bookstore. After a few years, I went back to graduate school, earned a degree, and immersed myself in the world of Community Behavioral Health. In 2007 I suffered a serious brain injury that put me in a medically induced coma for a while and my children became my parents. I credit them and their persistent advocacy for my medical care, in making sure I didn’t leave them permanently. Barbara graciously let me come back to the bookstore where I am now engaged in “book therapy”. I have learned that God really does have a sense of humor and I’ll be fine if I just get out of my own way.

Patrick King – Bookseller


I started working at the Poisoned Pen as an intern back in 1999 when friend and former employee, Patricia, introduced me to Barbara and the store.  I interned through college and graduate school, and started part time back in 2008.  Since then, I get the chance to talk with readers about books and what’s good to read. Quite the dream job!

As the Science Fiction/Fantasy selector, I get to read and select some of the best and newest in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy.  Some of my favorite current SFF authors include Kevin Hearne, Terry Pratchett, Ann Leckie and Brandon Sanderson.    For Mystery and Thriller, Ian Rankin, Nick Petrie, John D. McDonald and David Morrell have written some of my all time favorites!  When I’m not here at the store or reading, I’m either at the day job, the movies or video gaming.

 John Charles – Bookseller

Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, John moved to Arizona in the 1970s where he attended college and eventually received his MLS from the University of Arizona. After working in public libraries for more than thirty years, John “retired” and came to work for the Poisoned Pen, where he enjoys being around books and people who love them.

Susan Kelly – Sidelines genius and Twitter maven

A Michigan native, Susan moved to Arizona from Detroit, where she worked for the Detroit Public Library. She misses water but not winter. When she isn’t reading or working, she enjoys eating, drinking, cooking, and traveling.

 Sharon Leonard- Bookseller

Born in North Dakota, lived as a child in Nebraska, moved to Staten Island, New York as a pre-teen, then to Minnesota in my Junior year of high school, on to Chicago for a couple of years of college, then a year in Rochester, New York, and finally back to Minneapolis, Minnesota to work (30 plus years as an administrative assistant in architectural firms), marry and raise a family.  I retired in 2015 and moved to Phoenix in June of 2017.

My life as a reader started around five when my big sister refused to read the daily newspaper comics to me any longer so I was forced to learn to read!  In my pre-teens, my minister father and former English teacher mother bribed me with a quarter for every classic I read.  My first was Jane Eyre and I was hooked – a maniac hidden in the attic of a Gothic mansion and an angst-ridden hero, pretty heady stuff for a sheltered preacher’s kid.

My dream for retirement always was to work in either a flower shop or a bookstore so I am thrilled to have fulfilled that dream and work as a bookseller at The Poisoned Pen. 

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