Why do you write fantasy?
I've written in all types of genres,
including realism, science fiction, and even a couple of mystery
plays. But I always come back to fantasy because it allows such
scope for the imagination, especially in the creation of fictional
worlds. I also love fantasy because it allows writers to explore
issues that arise not only on an individual level but also on
a broader scale. I believe that we are all involved in the world,
and that young people need to know that they can make a difference.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from people, places,
situations, conversations, books, dreams, and the "what
if" questions that often occur to me. Like most writers,
I have my antennae out in a constant search for ideas. Sometimes
I don't use the ideas immediately but file them away in my mind.
For instance, the main characters in Wind Shifter and
its sequels came from a dream, but I only pulled them out several
years later when I got so angry at a typical "good vs. evil"
fantasy that I decided to write a novel that changed the usual
pattern. Sea Change started by my wondering what the world
would be like if women, not men, held most of the power. The
Minstrel's Daughter was based on my fascination with the
old folktale, The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Do you have to find your own illustrator?
No. Publishers want to find the artists
to do the cover art and the illustrations in a picture book.
Authors are advised never to send in a picture book manuscript
with someone else's art, because publishers then have to decide
whether to accept the whole package, though they might like the
story but not the illustrations, or vice versa. With Sir Cassie
to the Rescue, my editor asked for my input on what I thought
the pictures should be like, but then Orca dealt with the artist.
I never even saw the illustrations till I received my copies
of the published book, so you can imagine how happy I was that
I thoroughly liked Karen Patkau's pictures!
Do you use an outline?
No. Some writers make a detailed outline
before they write; some just sit down and start without knowing
what's going to happen next. I'm somewhere in between. I always
have at least a vague idea of how I want my book to end, and
usually have some ideas of how the characters will get to that
ending. But sometimes situations change in the course of the
writing, or characters go a different way than I'd planned. I've
learned to follow them when they do that, and usually the story
turns out stronger because I allowed my characters to take the
Are your characters based on people you
Yes and no. None of my characters
are solely based on any one person, but they all have bits and
pieces of people I know, including myself. To understand how
someone feels or how he or she would act, I think you have to
figure out how you or people you know would think, feel and act
in that situation. Using that as my basis, I then change those
thoughts, feelings and actions somewhat because my characters
have their own personalities. I hope all my central characters
change in some way during the course of the book, just as people
change depending on what happens in their lives.