Q. What have you published?
A. I’ve published over a dozen books, ranging from children’s picture books to nonfiction for adults. My most recent book was Doomed Queens for Broadway/Doubleday Books. Coming soon: Bad Princess from Scholastic Books in November 2017. Other books underway include novels set in Victorian England.
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. Generally speaking, I’m drawn to thick, lushly written novels with a romantic, gothic sensibility. I love the novels of Sarah Waters and Audrey Niffenegger. I also love historical fiction. I adored A. S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch However, my favorite book of all time is probably Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I consider it the feminist ur-text and have reread it often. I recently read and loved Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. I also read a lot of YA novels: Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Rebecca Stead, among others.
For nonfiction, I’m a Sarah Vowell fan—loved Assassination Vacation. I can’t resist food memoirs such as Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Julia Child’s My Life in France, and Ruth Reichl’s memoirs, especially her first one, Tender at the Bone. More recently, I adored Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, which was one of my favorite book of 2016.
Q. Who are your artistic influences?
A. When I was in art school years ago, I discovered the work of the Pre-Raphaelites—most especially the work of William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Edward Burne-Jones. The work of Alan Lee, a mentor during the year I lived in England, was another huge inspiration. I’ve also found inspiration in the work of artists such as Joseph Cornell and Jean Cocteau—artists who intermingle the magical with the material in a multitude of mediums and formats. Other artists who have influenced my work: Gustav Klimt and the Viennese Succession, Botticelli and the Italian Quattrocento. Most of all, I find great support in my author and artist friends. No artist can work in a vacuum—we need the support of like-minded souls.
Q. How did you get involved with creating tarot decks?
A. I was first exposed to the tarot as a seven-year-old child when an older cousin, whom I regarded as infinitely sophisticated, showed me her deck. I was immediately struck by the cards’ beauty and mystery. The art for my first tarot deck the Goddess Tarot was adapted from my book The Book of Goddesses. It amazes me that the deck has sold a quarter of a million copies worldwide and is now considered a classic. And yes, I do read the tarot—it’s just another way to tell a story.
Q. Where do the photographs on your blog come from?
A. Me! I am addicted to my iPhone camera and adore the Hipstamatic app. My “official” author portraits were photographed by Robert Presutti.
Q. What is your work schedule?
A. When I’m on a book deadline, I try to work as often and as long as possible. Seriously. If you knew how many hours I work, you’d be shocked. Fortunately, I love what I do and do what I love. My creative synopses fire best when I can work with as little interruption as possible. Clearly, this is difficult in everyday “real life”, but my family is very, very tolerant. It helps that they’re creative types too.
On a average day, I’m working as soon as my daughter leaves for school. Sometimes I’ll go for a long walk to shift gears, or work at a cafe for a few hours. I’ve even been known to write during subway travel. Later, I’ll reread and edit what I wrote, and write notes for the next day’s work session.
In terms of technical stuff, I draft my books in Scrivener, which allows me to write in a nonlinear fashion: a scene here, a detail there. Once I have a completed draft, I edit in Word. I’m also a big fan of lists and spreadsheets.
about specific books
Q. Where did the idea for Doomed Queens come from?
A. I’ve always been fascinated with women’s history, especially Tudor-era queens. From there, I noted how women in power have been undermined through the ages. Sometimes it’s their own fault, as in the example of Olympias, the monstrous mother of Alexander the Great; other times, biology really is destiny, such as for poor fertility-challenged Anne Boleyn. Because I’m fond of Victorian-era graphics, I designed and illustrated Doomed Queens to resemble a nineteenth century penny-dreadful. I’m especially proud of the paper dolls hidden inside the French flaps.
Q. What led to your creating The Book of Goddesses?
A. The Book of Goddesses was preceded by another mythology-inspired book, Persephone and the Pomegranate, a picture book retelling of the Persephone myth. Persephone whetted my appetite to work on something more ambitious incorporating goddess stories. And so The Book of Goddesses came into being.
To my surprise, The Book of Goddesses was featured in numerous catalogs as an illustrated book for women as well as a picture book for girls. The Book of Goddesses became a top ten bestseller for the One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club, and was chosen as an ALA Pick-of-the-List. The art from Goddesses has had a life beyond the book: it inspired the best-selling Goddess Tarot, numerous calendars, and a Grammy-nominated classical music CD by award-winning composer Robert Paterson.
Q. I can’t find a copy of The Book of Goddesses or Persephone and the Pomegranate.
A. My early illustrated books sold out their printings. The good news is that they’re now available as e-books. Other books available include: Rapunzel, Sacred Animals, and The Goddess Tarot guide book. The plan is to eventually digitize all of my print publications. Most recently, my illustrated novella The Lover’s Path was released from Apple and Amazon in an expanded anniversary edition.
Q. What is your favorite book you’ve created?
A. That’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is! My favorite book is usually the one I’m currently working on. That written, I have a soft spot for The Lover’s Path because of its unusual format.
art and design
Q. How do you create your paintings?
A. I work in two mediums: watercolor with gouache and pencil, and oil over watercolor and acrylic; both are painted on Arches 90 lb. cold-pressed finish, which I’ve stretched onto a piece of wood. A painting can take from several days to several weeks, depending on the complexity and research involved. I usually have friends or colleagues pose for my paintings, rather than professional models. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with digital art. I illustrated Bad Princess entirely using Photoshop and Painter.
Q. Do you exhibit your art?
A. I’ve shown my work in numerous galleries and museums including the Ruskin Library, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the New York Open Center. I have several pieces in the permanent collection of the Mazza Museum at Findlay College, one of the largest and most important collections of children’s book art.
Q. What is your design background?
A. I have over two decades’ experience. These include seven years at a major New York publishing house as a book designer under the late, great art director Atha Tehon. Though my employment was as a print designer, I’ve expanded into the digital realm to design iPhone apps, e-books, websites, and videos.
Q. Are you available for hire as an illustrator or designer?
A. I am currently not accepting clients due to book deadlines. Sorry!
Q. I’d like to reproduce your art in my novel/manuscript/other work of art/website. May I do so?
A. Many of my illustrations have graced book covers, cd packages, greeting cards, and calendars. Licensing information is here.
Q. Is your art available for purchase?
A. Yes. Contact me here.
other popular questions
Q. How do I get published? Will you read my manuscript and recommend a publisher or literary agent for my book or deck? Can you tell me how to publish it?
A. I cannot recommend individual publishers or literary agents for a variety of reasons. However, I love sharing information about the business of publishing—I write about it on my blog and have a publishing advice page.
Q. A card is missing from my deck. Or I’ve lost a card or another component from one of your deck kits—book, booklet, box, bag.
A. You need to contact the publisher directly for a replacement. Publisher contact information is listed on the individual card box or copyright page. I’m sure they’ll do what they can to set you right.
Q. Can you donate art/prints/books/time for my organization?
A. I receive many requests for donations—much as I wish otherwise, it’s simply not possible to fulfill them all. I already donate art, services, and money to local organizations that I am directly involved with. Generally speaking, these organizations are arts-oriented or benefit women and children. If your nonprofit fits this description, you’re welcome to ask.
Q. Will you read my manuscript and give me feedback?
Q. Will you blurb or review my book?
A. Please contact me with information about your book. I’m interested in literary and historical fiction, women’s history, illustrated books, books on the creative process, and mythology.
Q. What is your book review policy?
A. FTC regulations requires me to state that books reviewed on this site are either purchased retail or received from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The opinions stated are mine alone. Generally speaking, I only feature books I like. Life is too short to spend time on things that don’t bring joy.
Q. I’d like to review an Art and Words Editions book or app.
A. Wonderful! Contact me and I’ll do my best to get you the materials you need.
Q. I’d like to include a quote from your book in my novel/manuscript/other work of art/website. May I do so?
A. For the most part, yes. Fair use law allows quoting published work within reason as long as it is properly attributed. Contact me with the exact quote and we’ll take it from there.