A Singer Becomes a Writer

I often joke that there are only two jobs I haven’t done, and one of those is waiting tables. I began my working life at the age of 13, stacking hay bales on a Montana ranch, and since then I’ve worked as a cowgirl, as a nurse, as a folksinger, as an elementary school music teacher, as a concert and opera singer, a college music professor, and now as a writer and teacher of science fiction and fantasy. I knew from a very early age–5–that I wanted to be an entertainer, and I find very little difference between singing and writing. It’s all about story, and characters, and communication.

Writing novels is very much like acting. The writer convinces the reader that what we all know is unreal can be accepted as real, at least for the moment. The place, the people, and the plot all spring from that magical source, the conjurer’s imagination, an alchemy of word, gesture, setting, and plot. If the actor–or the writer–can entice the audience to join them on their creative journey, story happens.

My first novel was published, to my surprised delight, in 1995, and since then I’ve been publishing steadily, sometimes against the odds. The Terrorists of Irustan represents my passion for feminist social science fiction, and The Glass Harmonica my love of music, as does The Singers of Nevya. The Child Goddess speaks to both my love of children and concern for those who are abused or abandoned, and to my fascination with religious life. The three Toby Bishop novels set out in a different direction, but the undercurrent of feminism still flows through them, with young women characters who take control of their own destiny and refuse to give up control of their lives. There is no music, but there are horses and dogs and a faintly operatic sense of drama that is consistent with my other work. I think, no matter how varied our experiences, we writers express our world view in whatever stories we undertake. My novel Mozart’s Blood returns to my interest in music and history, with a dash of spice from the world of speculative fiction.  The Brahms Deception combines romance, history, and music, facilitated by time travel.  Next, The Glass Butterfly!

My stories are set sometimes in the past, occasionally in the future, and often, especially with The Glass Butterfly,  in a rather strange and mysterious present.  I hope not to be restricted to any one genre, because so many of them interest me.

I’m fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, with my husband and son and Scottish Terrier, where there is an abundance of resources for writers. Clarion West was pivotal in my development as a writer, and there is a whole host of people here who support and encourage each other–Greg Bear, Vonda McIntyre, Robin Hobb, Kay Kenyon, Richard Paul Russo, Brenda Cooper, Cat Rambo . . . too many to list them all.

I’m a practicing Roman Catholic, an enthusiastic cook with an interest in health food, an avid yogi, and a happy golfer, although it takes up too much of my writing time. I love rambling at the dog park with my Scottie, Piper, and I love writing. I still read for pleasure, because I think if I don’t read for fun, I won’t write for fun.   Books should be fun.

I love to visit middle schools and high schools to talk about writing and about speculative fiction. I appreciate e-mails and notes from readers. I also love conventions, and the fans who attend them. They give me inspiration, input, community, and friendship.