Brought to you by OBS reviewer Angie.
- Read our review for Dreamfisher, here.
Nancy Springer: I’m flattered that you’re interested. I can’t remember exactly, because this story was written decades ago, but a lot of my writing has been inspired by mythology, starting in college when I became fascinated by the poetry of William Butler Yeats and researched the Celtic mythology therein. Then I read Frazier’s The Golden Bough and Robert Graves The White Goddess and branched out from there.
Angie: What is the significance of the characters not having names and how did you come up with this for a story line?
Nancy Springer: Even in childhood I might have sensed that names have a magical component. My mother raised Shetland Sheepdogs and would think aloud for days about what to name the puppies. Fascinated, I realized that names could affect the future of a show dog; to name was to dictate destiny. (So why the heck did she give me such a banal name as Nancy?) Anyway, later on I read a story of Ursula Le Guin’s called, I think, “The rule of names,” and at the same time I was studying name derivations and keeping lists of names I might use for fictional characters, and aware from my research that sorcerers gained control of supernatural powers by the naming of names. I’m sorry I can’t remember where I heard the quote from Herodotus; perhaps at a science fiction convention? But in any event, I was well primed to write a story about naming things.
Angie: What (if any) lesson were you trying to convey with this story?
Nancy Springer: Lesson? I wouldn’t dare. I just write stories that tell the truth in the way only stories can.
What research did you do for this story? Is there some factual basis to it (tribes, location)?
Just that quote from Herodotus, or something similar to it, which I ran across somewhere, and it hooked me. It posits a generalized prehistoric Mediterranean setting. I like to read a lot of nonfiction, and when writing, I usually draw on my existing knowledge rather than doing specific research. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.
Angie: What kinds of questions would you like to see posed in a “book club” discussion about this book?
Nancy Springer: Who is this Nancy Springer and what other wonderful stories and novels has she written? I’m only partly kidding. To me, “Dreamfisher” is a minor work. “Dark Lie,” my novel forthcoming in November, 2012 from New American Library, is a major work.
Angie: What is one question that no interviewer has asked that you really wanted to answer?
Nancy Springer: Oooh, that’s a good question. And I have a ready reply. Interviewers are unwilling to talk about mental health issues in creativity. No interviewer has ever asked me depression or why it is so widespread among writers and artists.
Angie: We like to get to know our authors outside of their work, and have a few fun questions we’d like to ask feel free to answer as many or few as you like.
Angie: Do you listen to music when you write or do you prefer quiet?
Nancy Springer: When there’s music playing , it compels me to listen. I have been known to pause under the speaker in the ceiling of a supermarket to listen to a favorite song. So when I’m at home I prefer quiet, but I can write in a restaurant, airport lounge, anywhere my laptop goes with me.
Angie: What kind of music do you enjoy?
Nancy Springer: Bruce Springsteen; even though he tends to sing like a frog, I love his lyrics. The Eagles, especially Don Henley – more good lyrics. Bach and baroque instrumental music. The Dixie Chicks. Folk music, bluegrass, the Chieftains, and the list goes on.
Angie: What people, living or dead, would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? What would you serve your guests? What would be the main topic of discussion?
Nancy Springer: Yikes. It would have to be a cookout rather than a dinner party, and the rowdy bunch I’d ask, assuming for the sake of fun that they could communicate with each other, the main topic would be a biggie, maybe the nature and existence of the soul . I’d ask Dr. James Barry (Look him up; he was a she.), Siddhartha, Florence Nightingale, the historical Jesus of Nazareth, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Shakespeare, Simone de Beauvoir, Barack Obama and his family, my mother and father (deceased), my daughter and my son (believe me, they would have no trouble following or contributing to the conversation) and myself. My husband, who is Chilean, would take care of the food, serving asado, a feast of flank steak, homemade bread, various salads, empanadas, pastries, and Chilean wine. Plenty of wine.
Angie: Who was your favorite teacher in school? What did he or she do to stand out above the rest?
Nancy Springer: I had lots of good teachers, but the one who saved my life almost certainly does not remember me, and I don’t remember his name. When I was thirteen, I had suffered so much bullying (and perhaps childhood depression) that I was on the brink of failing school. Then my family moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On my first day at the middle school, a nice young man (guidance counselor?) gave me a brief test. (I remember I enjoyed completing the geometric figures, filling in the designs, that sort of thing.) He told me that I was very intelligent, he planned to put me in advanced classes, and I should do well. I was flummoxed, because nobody had ever told me I was intelligent or any good for anything. I blurted, “I’ll probably fail.” He reacted with genuine surprise, “Why?” I went on, of course, to ace all my studies from then on because someone had told me I could. His friendliness, the way he treated me respectfully as a person, gave me the first sense of confidence I had ever known.
Angie: Have you ever told this teacher how he or she influenced or inspired you?
Nancy Springer: Nope. I wish I could, but I have no idea who he was.
Angie: What advice do you have for someone who is trying to become a published author?
Nancy Springer: Read. Ask yourself as you read what the author is doing right or vice versa. When you start to write, join a critique group, be nice, but pay no attention to what anyone says about your work. Instead, conceptualize your own values as a writer by critiquing the work of others. The only time you should be guided by a critique is when it comes from an editor, and even then, trust your instincts and protect the integrity of your work.
Angie: Would you prefer a vacation in the mountains, on the beach, or somewhere else?
Nancy Springer: Mountains. I’d love to go horseback riding in the Rockies. Even more I’d love to visit the only rain forest in the U.S.A., in Puerto Rico, and explore it while riding a Paso Fino.
Angie: Do you prefer texting, emailing, or phone calls for brief conversations with friends?
Nancy Springer: Phone calls. Even better, drop in. The solitary nature of my work prevents me from having nearly enough human contact.
Angie: When you were little how did you answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Nancy Springer: I didn’t. I was shy. I’d run and hide in the woods.
Thank you for asking! I love questionnaires. <G> Nancy Springer
Thank you to author Nancy Springer for an amazing interview!