The Mermaid Stair is a fantasy, but that’s where genre stops being entirely clear. There are fairy tale elements. Ben and Raven use music and intuition to walk through time on behalf of the king of Faerie, so some people like to call it a time travel fantasy. There are elements of urban fantasy, but the cityscape is usually in the past, so it’s also historical fantasy. I’m a stickler for accuracy and do tons of research even if the segment is relatively short. And of course, they occasionally get chased by wolves, so there’s considerable adventure. Oh, and humour, too! So I wouldn’t say that defies classification, so much as laughing classification out of the room.
What made you choose that genre?
The odd thing is, I set out to write a mystery, featuring a hip college professor loosely based on someone I know. My friend’s specialty is the literature of myth and folklore, and before I’d gotten very far in the planning, the faeries had poked in their long pointy noses, and there I was.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That’s a moveable target. I wrote the first drafts of the three Harper Errant novels in 13 months. But Molly September, the pirate adventure I started in high school, took 40 years! Of course, I started it over four or five times, I finished it at least twice, and the whole market for romance changed radically over that time. So I guess that’s no surprise.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
In junior high. I was probably 12 or 13. It involved a girl who goes back in time, somehow, to meet Robin Hood. (I had been a huge fan of the Richard Green Robin Hood series when I was a little girl.) He’s always been my hero. But I didn’t know nearly enough about, well, anything and certainly not enough about medieval England to write such a thing. It’s probably a good thing I ran out of steam before it got very far.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read! But I also love movies and even a certain amount of television. Dr Who, Sleepy Hollow, and Supernatural are current favorites.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That every book is different, not just in content but in approach, even in method.
How many books have you written?
Five, but only four are novels. The other is a little history book called A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603. It’s a handbook of Elizabethan social history, life, manners, work, weddings, food, and all sorts of details of daily life. It’s aimed at writers, actors, and re-enactors in particular.
Which is your favourite and why?
Whichever one I’m talking about at the moment. The DragonRing has all those wonderful “first” moments. Ben’s first encounter with the Other Realm. First meeting with the king of Faerie. First visit to another time! And so on. King’s Raven has a more complex story, and the sidekick gets to be the center of the story. The Mermaid Stair is the most like a thriller, with the most truly evil villain I’ve written. Molly September has a terrific love story, and a great couple at its core. There’s simply no way to choose a favourite.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
An archaeologist! When I was 10, I became fascinated by Ancient Egypt, probably because of a series of articles in National Geographic. I read everything I could find. Even though that goal is long behind me now, the interest is still there. Though now my real interest have transferred to northern Europe and England in particular.
What are you working on now?
Island of Echoes is the next Ben Harper book, and it’s quite different – again.
A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603
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