Frequently Asked Questions

A tourist asked an old Chinese weaver, "How do you do that?" 
Her answer:  "With my ten fingers, and my imagination."


Where do you get your ideas?
Ames Department store. For those of you not familiar with Ames, its sort of like Wal-mart only smaller and more dowdy. I worked in the crafts department there (my first job ever), and my manager was always looking for "Cattan and Darice" two product lines which were shipped together. I heard the words as a single name and became entranced, developing an idea of who this fellow might be and what his story was. Most books are born from the collision of several different ideas. So the name came together with some speculation about how to make a hero who didn't have to pop between the sheets every couple of chapters as some heroes seem wont to do. This resulted in The Singer's Crown.

I also get lots of good ideas while I’m researching for a project. I frequently end up with spin-off stories, or, in one case, a cycle of five books spawned by an investigation of Medieval medicine. 

Where, when and how do you write?
Whenever possible, for a couple of hours at a stretch, on my computer. I take notes on the backs of business cards and use far too many sticky-notes, but otherwise I don outline. I like Ray Bradbury's philosophy about setting loose a bunch of characters then following to see where they lead. I am often assailed by seredipitious moments when something I mentioned pages or chapters ago, by accident, suddenly becomes useful. Hooray for the subconscious! Most days, I aim for a chapter a day (thats about 7-10 pages, for me).

I have an office barely large enough for my desk and a shelf of manuscripts and research books—and gobs of music cds, mostly Celtic.

Who are your favorite writers?
Tim Powers, Mary Doria Russell, Rosemary Kirstein, Peter S. Beagle

What has influenced your imagination?
Jean Cocteau's black and white version of Beauty and the Beast is stunningly magical. Watch it. Buy it. Creature Double Feature films on Channel 56 [independent television station in Massachusetts] on the weekends. Asking for a book to read some time in the fourth grade and being given Brave New World. Mrs. Krakhardt, my first grade teacher, who let me read inside during recess. Star Trek, Star Wars, Space:1999 (the beginning of my costume career was to get my mother to re-produce an alien from the series), and, of course, Dr. Who. Christopher Eccleston is my favorite Doctor. Reading The Lord of the Rings out loud with my family, one chapter at a time for months. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (I had a terrible crush on Capt. Nemo). John Denver, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Twisted Sister. A sister who loves horses, a father who loves genealogy, a mother who loves nature. Where the Wild Things Are. A trio of uncles who started their own wood-carving business and proved that it could be done. Isaac Asimov (during my brief hard SF phase).

And yes, I did play Dungeons and Dragons for hours. I was always the DM. Does it show?

News