Tell us about yourself.
I’m the eldest of ten children, and now that we’re all adults, I enjoy being with all of them; we have great times together. I’ve got a wonderful husband who also writes science fiction and fantasy, and two daughters–one of whom writes fanfic and is a heck of a copy editor, and the other who writes lots of poetry and is working to finish the several fantasy novels she’s begun. I am ruled by cats; we have far too many in our household. We are also share our home with three truly adorable rats.
When not writing, I’ve held many interesting jobs, details of which often find their way into my writing. As well as other more boring jobs, I’ve been a genealogist, a quality control technician for ultrasound heart machines, an aircraft electrician in the Air Force Reserves, and a keyer for the United States Post Office.
I started out working on a degree in botany (“What will you do with a degree in botany? Teach?”) and finishing up a bachelor’s degree in anthropology (“What will you do with a degree in anthropology? Teach?”). I’m fascinated by people and the way they do things; there are cultures on this Earth far more alien to most Americans than any star-roving cultures they could imagine.
How did you get into writing?
Like so many other writers, I’ve been coming up with stories since grade school, when I wrote horrific things like “Martin the Mountain Lion.” I remember quite clearly reading a science fiction novel I’d borrowed from my dad and thinking “I could do better than this.” I started my first novel when I was 18 (in pencil on lined paper) and finished that and one other before life sidetracked my writing. I began writing again in the early 80s, and sold several non-genre stories and articles then. But I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy since I was six years old, so I went back to writing that, and have now sold several stories in the genres.
Why write fantasy?
I find it easier to fit ideas I’ve gleaned from real human cultures into fantasy societies, which are generally less high-tech, than into science fiction ones. Besides that, I’ve always enjoyed fantasy. I’m fascinated by how magic works, and have created different magic systems for several of my novels. I was greatly influence in my early writing by Andre Norton. Many of her books mix fantasy and science fiction tropes, and I enjoy doing that as well.
What is the worst mistake a writer can make?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to talk about the *worst* mistake, but in my opinion a writer who doesn’t finish her or his stories and submit them is making a big mistake (and will never be published, obviously). Another of the real no-nos is offending editors or publishers when you meet them (or saying offensive things online, where anyone could read it).
Tell us about your Sword & Sorceress 24 story.
“Soul Walls” is based (loosely) on Hopi culture, which I researched for a series of novels I’m writing. Running is an important part of southwestern Native American cultures, and figures prominently in the story. The concept of soul walls, however, is my own.
Can you share an excerpt (a paragraph or two)?
Tiva and Honovi helped Yongosona to her feet. The old woman took a paintbrush from the basket Pamuya held and stood surveying the wall they had prepared that morning, blank white. She gestured with the brush, then said, “Red.”
Tiva took the lid off the red pot and placed it under Yongosona’s brush. Whatdid the old woman see as she surveyed the unblemished wall before her? Did the painting live behind her eyes, merely needing to be copied onto the surface? And how had she known before she came what colors she would need?
One long curving line, then another, red on the white surface. Then, “Black.”Tiva held out the other pot, and Yongosona took another brush from Pamuya.
Tiva watched carefully. She knew that at this stage in Yongosona’s Soul Walls there was no discernable design. Tiva couldn’t look at a section and say, “This will be a spine tree, this will be a gazelope.” But later, when it was nearly finished, all the various parts came together, and she would be able to see that this black line was the gazelope’s hip, and that brown one traced an eagle’s wing.
Pick any one book to recommend. Other than Sword & Sorceress.
I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction for almost fifty years and you want me to come up with *one* book? Oh, all right, I’ll try.
For fantasy, *Dragonsbane* by Barbara Hambly keeps coming to mind. I’ve always loved the way she writes characters, with real foibles and problems, and I think this novel showcases her character building. It also contains a really heart-wrenching love story, as well as magic, and dragons, and other fantasy tropes twisted to fit Hambly’s ideas of how these things should work.