What was your first published book?

The Firma Twins and the Purple Staff of Death is my first published book. I am finishing the second book in the Firma Twins adventures, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment. The third book, The Firma Twins and the Paisley Egg, is planned. There are many more to come.

Where do your ideas come from?

Life. Ideas are all around you. A writer just says “what if?” For example, there are lots of gray squirrels in Washington, DC. So I asked myself what if the gray squirrels are actually aliens who’ve been living on Earth for thousands of years? I then made up a story that makes the idea seem plausible.

What was your favorite book growing up?

I had many favorite books. As a small child I loved Henny Penny (also called Chicken Little) because it was so funny and The Twelve Dancing Princesses because it was so fantastic. Later I read and reread Little Women and Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and all of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

When I was 13 years old, I checked out The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge from the school library and fell in love with it. Because I forgot the name of the book and author, it took me years to find it again. Now it’s one of my prized books.

When I was 15 I read, reread, and reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books by J. R. R. Tolkien and the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite fantasy author is J. R. R. Tolkien.

My favorite science fiction writer is Jack Vance, who also wrote fantasy and mystery. The first book I read by Jack Vance was The Eyes of the Overworld in the Underwood-Miller specialty press edition. I bought the book because the artwork was so beautiful, but the quality of Vance’s writing compelled me to collect and read everything written by him.

My favorite children’s book authors are Daniel Pinkwater, Diana Wynne Jones, Joan Aiken, C. S. Lewis, and Tamora Pierce among others.

Have you read all of the books in your library?

Nope. When my husband Chuck and I married, we combined our libraries, which reflected our individual tastes and interests. Some of those tastes and interests overlap; some don’t. We both like science fiction, mysteries, J. R. R. Tolkien, biographies, autobiographies, and books on art and artists. However, my husband collects books on military history and other subjects in which I’m not interested. I read fantasy, but my husband doesn’t, with some exceptions such as Tolkien. I have over a thousand children’s and young adult books, lots of reference books on topics that don’t interest my husband, books on Egyptology, all of the books written by H. Rider Haggard, and so forth.

I’ve read most of the books I’ve purchased, but there are a lot of books I haven’t read yet. I find that very exciting. There’s always something new to read!

What are your interests?


“A Hasty Retreat” by Walter Haskell Hinton

Besides reading, watching films, and traveling, and doing artistic projects and a lot of other things, I collect art. My husband and I own over a hundred paintings and prints. One of my earliest memories was seeing this “Indian maiden” print in the dining room of my paternal grandparents’ house. It made a tremendous impression: The image was exciting and memorable. The painting seemed to tell a story. I could imagine different aspects of the story: how the couple and their dog got into the predicament, whether they would get out of it, and what the couple was like. Of course, this painting may not be great art, but it started my appreciation for art, and I still like it.

Some of my husband’s and my favorite science fiction and fantasy artists are:

  • Ruth Sanderson, who writes and illustrates children’s books. We own several of her paintings and prints.
  • Donato Giancola, a wonderful artist. We own one of his paintings and several prints.
  • James Gurney, who wrote Dinotopia. We call our guest bedroom the Dinotopia Room because it’s filled with Dinotopia prints.

What was your childhood like?

I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and am the youngest and only girl of three children. My brothers are 8 and 6 years older than I am. Because my father worked for the government, we moved often. After Norfolk, we lived in Huntsville, Alabama, at 3 different times (when I was 2, 5, and 12-14 years old); Levittown, Pennsylvania; Willingboro, New Jersey; Pueblo, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; El Paso, Texas; a brief stay in Laurel, Maryland; and Bowie, Maryland. When I was 5 years old and we were going someplace (I don’t remember where), my mother asked me why I was crying. I told her it was because I didn’t know which place to be homesick for!

By the time I was 14 and living in Bowie, I was tired of moving. So I stayed in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. When my husband and I married in 1991, we moved to a Washington suburb in northern Virginia.