Isabelle Fortier was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and moved to Montreal as a student at age 19. She adopted the pseudonym Nelly Arcan with her first published work, the semi-autobiographical novel Putain (English translation, Whore, 2002), which was an immediate success. It became a finalist for both the Prix Medicis and the Prix Femina, two of France's most prestigious literary awards. Her four other novels were Folle (2004), L'enfant dans le miroir (2007), À ciel ouvert (2007) and Paradis, clef en main (English translation, Exit, 2010), which was published posthumously. She also wrote short stories and opinion pieces and columns for various Quebec newspapers and literary magazines. Nelly Arcan committed suicided at age 36 in Montreal.