‘‘I come from a family of storytellers. My father told stories constantly, and his sister was an English teacher who not only taught literature in high school but also liked to tell her own stories. In other words, we like to talk a lot. We’re also readers. My brothers and my sister are a decade older than me and they would bring books home from college for me. So when I was a kid, I read The Hobbit, then Lord of the Rings, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Dunsany’s The Queen of Elfland’s Daughter. (They brought a bunch of other books, but these were the ones that really spoke to me.)”*

‘‘I would say that I had some of the skills to begin with, but it wasn’t enough. I had to work hard to make sure my prose didn’t turn purple (at least I hope it didn’t), and I had to learn how to create stories that didn’t wander all over the place. Because I read more novels than short stories, I immediately went to novel length, worse, I decided I wanted to write a series – I didn’t know any better, I just wanted to try. The first thing I attempted, after I threw down that novel, was awful. I made so many mistakes with the characters and the story, but I’m stubborn and I was sure that I just had to figure out the right way to tell the damned story. Eventually, after about three novels into the series, I realized I was telling the story about the wrong person, and I was starting at the wrong point. So I wrote a new book, Passion Play, with Ilse as the heroine. That’s the one that sold. Of course that also meant I had to rewrite all the later books, but I didn’t care.”

“I wanted to bring my characters to the point where they can’t avoid the hard decisions. They have to stop making excuses and act, they have to try to do the right thing finally – protagonists must protag; they cannot just sit there! But even when they choose and choose well, they’re not going to be rewarded. There is redemption, but at a high cost.

‘‘Although you can certainly fit that theme into a single lifetime, I was intrigued by having it go farther than that and affect not just a single lifetime, but history. (In college, I was also half a history major.)

‘‘I’m currently working on the final book of the trilogy, Allegiance (scheduled for 2013). Tor has also bought a fourth book, which is set in the same world and features the same characters 500 years earlier, in a previous lifetime. That one is called The Edge of Empire (set for 2014). I also have a new YA, Fox and Phoenix, coming out this Fall.”

‘‘I generally start off with an idea of a character and a situation, and some sort of vivid image – hopefully, even a scene in progress. Then I charge ahead and write for a while just to see how far I can get. (Usually it’s only a chapter or two.) Once I have a chunk of text, I sit back and say, ‘OK, what’s the shape of this story? Who are these people and where are they going?’ And most important of all, ‘What matters here?’ Then I make a file of notes and ideas, what I call a set of goalposts for writing. An almost-outline. I’ve tried writing without an outline, but the story tends to wander off into a swamp of plotlessness and die an ugly, miserable death. But the outlines aren’t very detailed. Mostly, I figure out the beginning and the end, while in the middle I have a bunch of vague things that say, ‘more stuff happens,’ or ‘political maneuvers take place here,’ or, ‘don’t forget the goats.’ ”