Sunday, October 21, 2012

Revisiting The Snow Queen

(From an e-mail interview by Vancouver writer Casey Wolf)  You can read the complete interview here.

cw: Eileen, could you give a sketch of the intent behind The Snow Queen? Who do you hope to reach, and what would you like them to get from the novel?

ek: Well, naturally one intent is entertainment--I'd like to think I've written a page-turner. But as well, I wanted to celebrate a classic of fantasy literature with uniquely independent female characters. In this post-feminist age we still need adventure stories for girls. The Victorian period, remarkably enough, was the heyday of the woman traveller -- all those intrepid ladies with the courage and stamina -- and the financial means -- to set off on journeys of exploration to the most dangerous corners of the world. It's fun to speculate on what might happen to the characters after a story ends -- and I decided that what the future should hold for Gerda was not marriage to Kai, but a life of travel and adventure. So I made some changes to Andersen's conventional mid- Victorian ending. Reworking the story also gave me the chance to expand the role of the Little Robber Maiden, who has always been my favourite fairy tale character. As to who I hope to reach, my answer is to readers of all ages.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

From the BBC News Magazine:

Mohenjo Daro: Could this ancient city be lost forever?

 "Pakistani officials say they are doing their best to save one of the most important archaeological sites in south Asia, Mohenjo Daro. But some experts fear the Bronze Age site could be lost unless radical steps are taken."







Available from Winter on the Plain of  Ghosts: a novel of Mohenjo-daro








Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A tale of three covers

Three covers for the same book -- three very different interpretations of the central character,  Naeri the earth witch.

This is the cover of the original 1989 edition of The Sarsen Witch.

cover by Jill Karla Schwartz

Below is the Timothy Lantz cover for the 2008 Juno Books edition --  a striking and I feel an accurate depiction of a character who is "spare and strong and hardy as the gorse".                                           

This highly romantic interpretation -- with, unfortunately,  the title misspelled -- is an earlier attempt at a cover for the Juno edition. Though this version was never used, it does show up on some online sites.

 You can find reviews of The Sarsen Witch and an excerpt from the book on the Juno website. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Les chimères

Gustave Moreau, Les Chimères

On one wall, half in shadow, was a large untinted photographic reproduction .... In the background I could see the pinnacles and archways of a gothic palace or cathedral; mysterious towers half-hidden in vegetation; and on the far horizon, rocky crags. In the foreground, fantastic images were layered one upon another, bewildering to the eye: naked goddesses mounted on bulls and hippogryphs, a queen in the crown of Charlemagne stroking a unicorn’s head, a serpent-headed goat; as well as fairies, angels, witches, and all manner of fabulous birds and beasts.

“I see you are admiring M’sieu Gustave Moreau’s famous picture,” said M. d’Artois. “Les Chimères –a masterpiece of artifice and invention, He never finished it, you know. To portray all of myth, all of history, all of religion – what artist is equal to such a task?”

And I, who know so little of art, could only murmur, “It’s beautiful, and very strange – and I think quite frightening.”

“Just so. A journey through the haunted forests of the imagination. The reflection of our dreams, our terrors and our innermost desires.”

Even in black and white, the picture had the power to mesmerize. If one looked too long, one had to tear one’s gaze away. I could well imagine that beyond the distant mountains of that never-to-be- finished painting lay a still more marvellous and seductive country existing only in the artist’s mind.

I was raised to believe that in this life, at least, there is only one reality, and that is the world of ordinary experience, that has no place for unicorns and hippogryphs. But all that has happened these past months has tested that belief. If we believe in Heaven, is it so impossible to believe, as spiritualists do, that other worlds exist above and beyond our own?

Friday, May 4, 2012

In HPB's study: an excerpt from Wild Talent

I asked – as many others have asked before me -- “Madame Blavatsky, is that real magic you do, or jiggery-pokery?”

HPB does not easily take offense, and this made her laugh. “Mostly the second. But never question, Miss Guthrie, that I can do the first. Shall I show you?”

When I hesitated, she turned those brilliant azure eyes upon me, and said, “Listen then, and learn. This is magic. This is the music of life. And have no doubt that it is real.”

And from somewhere there came a ghostly music, faint and distant at first, so that I strained to hear; then growing louder till it filled that snug, close, lamplit room. It was high and sweet as the sound of a flute, but unlike any instrument I could name. With that intense and piercing sweetness came a scent of herbs – wild thyme, or rosemary – so that I thought of the Pipes of Pan, of their dangerous music, beckoning and enticing.

And now I could hear voices singing – a melody without words that made my heart catch in my throat. The voices, languorous and seductive, twined themselves around me. I could not move, could scarcely draw my breath. More than anything in the world I wanted to yield to that music, let it wash over me and transport me. My gaze drifted to the photo of the Tibetan Master. His eyes, dark and wise and beautiful, seemed to say, “Leave this world behind. I will lead you over the high lonely passes.” And I was filled with a terrible foreboding. I remembered Alexandra’s story of the painting, with its haunted landscape, and her words -- : “Be careful. You could be pulled in.”

But pulled into what? I knew only that I must step back from a nameless peril.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

History and Women review of Wild Talent

"Although this novel is listed as a young adult novel, it transcends this limitation easily into adult or women's fiction. It is richly written with a high regard for historical detail, making this novel a true and accurate journey into the richness of the Victorian world." 

You can read the full review on the Wild Talent page  at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New printing of The Alchemist's Daughter

My 2004  historical fantasy The Alchemist's Daughter, set in Elizabethan England, has been sold out for some time. I'm pleased to see that it's once again available, in a recently released fifth printing. You can  find it online at ChaptersIndigo and

The year is 1587. Queen Elizabeth is on the throne of England, and the country is on the brink of war with Spain. In a world of Renaissance magic, dire portents and dangerous secrets, eighteen year old Sidonie Quince has inherited the ability to foresee the future. Sidonie, whose true interest is in the rational world of mathematics, is frightened by her powers of vision, knowing that they brought about her mother's death.

Sidonie is summoned to Hampton Court Palace as a temporary replacement for the Queen's astrologer, Dr. John Dee, while he travels abroad. However, Queen Elizabeth knows all too well what the future may hold, if she cannot obtain gold to build more ships and supply her navy. The real purpose of the visit, in this age of subterfuge and hidden agendas, is to hire Sidonie's father, the alchemist Simon Quince, to make alchemical gold. And Sidonie knows that in courts all over Europe, would-be alchemists have been tortured and imprisoned, even executed, for promising gold they could not produce.

The story has more than enough intrigue and excitement to engage young readers, but it is the fascinating picture of an era long past, painted with such skill that as we read, we are there, that is the remarkable achievement of The Alchemistʼs Daughter.-- Canadian Teacher Magazine, fall 2004

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Road to Shambhala: an interview by Mary E. Choo

In  1995, when my first YA historical fantasy Dance of the Snow Dragon was released, I talked with fellow fantasy writer Mary E. Choo about my choice to set the story in 18th century Bhutan. Here's the beginning of that conversation. The interview continues at http:/

mec: Your work as a whole covers a wide geography and explores a variety of mythological, legendary and cultural backgrounds. Why did you decide to set this novel in Bhutan?

ek: While I was editing an interview with the Dalai Lama for a non-fiction book on reincarnation (Walking after Midnight), I became interested in the northern (Tibetan) form of Buddhism, and did some further research. As a setting for a fantasy novel, it appealed to me on several levels. Tibetan culture is intensely rich and intensely visual, and I'm the kind of writer who enjoys reading, and writing, that kind of rich visual imagery. The Himalayas are a fascinating setting for a fantasy story -- because of their innate mystery, and because in northern Buddhist culture, magic is not a thing apart, but an intrinsic, everyday part of life. And because Tibetan Buddhism is rooted in Bon shamanism -- the original animist religion of Tibet -- it allowed me to explore a particular interest in shamanist religious experience.

Why Bhutan? I knew my story was to be set in one of the Himalayan kingdoms, and I wanted a country where northern Buddhism, and Buddhist culture, has been preserved to the present day. Nepal has been overrun by tourists; Tibet itself has had its culture systematically destroyed. Sikkim? Ladakh? Then a friend who had just been to a performance of the touring Royal Bhutanese Dance Troupe and the Asia Pacific Festival, came up with the answer. "Write about Bhutan," she said.

A monastery in the hills in Bhutan

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wild Talent is available again on

I'm happy to say that after a long hiatus, my historical fantasy novel Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural, set in the London and Paris of 1888 and 1889,  is once again available on

Here, speaking for themselves, are some of the historical figures who appear in its pages:                                                                                     
Adventure is my only reason for living.
-- Alexandra David-Néel

 To pursue the mysteries on our earth is not without danger, but how much greater the risk incurred by those whose imagination incites them to wander in those domains they believe are situated beyond our normal frontiers. -- Alexandra David-Néel, Le sortilège du mystère

I am but the reflection of an unknown bright light… I cannot help myself that all these ideas have come into my brain, into the depth of my soul; I am sincere although perhaps I am wrong.
--Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

…in a street, in the heart of a city of dreams -- Paul Verlaine

And Jeannie Guthrie's adventure begins:

It was not yet light when I crept out of the house, and I dared not take any food from the larder for fear of waking my aunt and uncle; and so as I made my way in the chill grey dawn toward Berwick I was hungry and thirsty and my spirits very low. But as I came near Berwick I could hear the dawn chorus of the birds, and then the sun rose. From the fields all around came the fragrance of dew-soaked grass, and in the hedgerows the hawthorn was in bloom. I was sorry, then, that I must leave. But I thought, however drab and grey the city may prove to be, and whatever misadventures may await me there, I cannot stay in a place where they think me at best a witch, at worst a murderess. And I remembered how Father used to say that opportunity could grow out of mischance, so as I trudged towards Berwick station I imagined the oak desk, the sunny room, the shelves of books with my name in gilt; and I began to walk faster, with a lighter heart.

So here I sit, on the morning train to London, with my journal on my lap. The woman beside me stared when I sat down, and I know how bedraggled I must look, with my hem all smirched and my boots muddy where I cut across the fields.

But now we have crossed the great viaduct, the Royal Border Bridge, that spans the Tweed from Berwick to Tweedmouth, and the train is gathering speed, hurtling into England. Stone walls and lonely farms and flocks of black-faced sheep all rush by, and on the other side is the sea, the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, and the twin castles facing each other across the bay. Soon we will be in Newcastle, with the Borders and my old life forever behind me. I mean to keep a careful record of this journey, writ plain and in proper English, as a novelist would; for when I come to write the story of my life, this will be the opening chapter.

I must not think any more about George. It was a wicked thing I did, whether I meant it or not, and it is a shame I must live with. But more wicked than the act itself, I realize now, was the guilty joy I felt as my weapon found its mark.