As a child, I was very lucky. My parents gave me plenty of time to play and dream. Often, I pretended to be someone else; a ballerina, a horse, a mermaid, a spy. My brother and I ruled over a kingdom of stuffed animals - I was 'The Great Laurie', and the national anthem was the 'Grand March' from Aida. I adored fairies and fairy tales. I gathered bread crusts and hid them under the dining-room table - people in fairy tales were often described as "not having a crust to eat", and I was determined to save my family from this fate. I taught myself to sleep in the flying-leap pose, favored by Peter Pan on the cover of my fairy tale book. If Peter dropped by when I was asleep, he would know, from my body position, that I was willing to join him in Neverland (he has yet to turn up, but I still sleep in that position, though I wake with a stiff back).
I have made my living as a librarian (I took off a couple of years off, to tour with a children's theatre - it was a gloriously free, and disorganized life, but eventually, I had no money at all). I love the theatre, and wrote my first stage play for a friend, who needed a last-minute script for Beauty and the Beast. It turned out better than anyone expected, and I became a playwright - my plays have been produced in professional theatres all over the country. I love to make things; bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, origami animals. My hands get restless if I can't make things. For the past thirteen years, I've worked as a school librarian, and I am so grateful that I work with children - they make me laugh, and their energy reminds me to enjoy life.
As a writer, I do a lot of complaining. People often ask why I write, when I hate it so much. I answer, that I write because I am under a curse. I keep meaning to give up writing, but I haven't got around to it yet. I dread sitting down to write, and I have to resort to tricks to get myself to the paper. "One half hour, or one page," I promise myself, "then you can get up and do something you like." I go to the bathroom, take the telephone off the hook, fill my fountain pen, get myself a glass of water, and sit down. Once I sit, my rear end has to stay in place until I've written. I often say that I write with my rear end - it's the ballast that holds me steady while I fight for words.
This biography was last updated on 11/05/2012.
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You have a remarkable ability to create an atmosphere that really transports readers into the world of your stories, and Victorian England as you have painted it in Splendors and Glooms is no exception. What kind of research did you do for this novel that helped you create such a true portrait of life at that time? The detail is reminiscent in some ways to the marvelous descriptions in Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
In one way this was an easy book to research, because I developed a passion for Victorian novels early in life. When I was in fourth or fifth grade, my father bought me a slim volume containing abridged versions of several of Dickens's novels: A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations. I read and reread these stories. I found them haunting and terrifying and triumphant. They satisfied a peculiar hunger in me - and still do. Splendors and Glooms is my homage to Dickens.
I still read and reread Dickens. I love the Victorians: the Brontes, Eliot, Trollope, Collins, and Gaskell. Decades of pleasure reading have taught me the difference between a hansom cab and a hackney coach; I know about Lucifer matches, pattens, hartshorn, and pounce. Which is not to say that when I embarked upon ...
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