Cat & Bee’s love; writing what’s already been written; back to SF? (Spiritwalker Monday 3)

It’s June.

COLD STEEL comes out this month!


RT Book Reviews has given it a Top Pick (4.5 stars) review in RT Book Reviews: “the conclusion is delicious.”

Here’s your weekly reminder that I’ll be doing events in San Francisco (June 27), San Diego (June 29), New York City (July 2), Seattle (July 8), and Portland (July 9).

The COLD STEEL giveaway is over (winners picked by random number generator), and now I have to start answering the amazing questions people asked.

I’m starting with three questions from winners Rima, Elodie (needs an accent mark above the first E), and Eve. No spoilers involved.


Rima Z asked:

My question is: where did your initial idea to make the primary focus of the novel about the relationship between Cat and Bea come from? Most people are either ‘plot driven’ or ‘character driven’, but I find that you have a really excellent mix of both, which means that at points the plot is independent of relationships (in particular, Vei and Cat), but still finds ways to bring together the importance of most of all the characters introduced.



Thank you for your kind words. I do try to balance plot and character (and setting) because that is what I love best to read. A central concern for me as a writer is in how people’s relationships inform and influence the choices they make. I always try to take into consideration and to develop who people are and where they come from in terms of how they fit into a family structure, a lineage, a society.

The story of Cold Magic came to me originally as an image of two young women in an 18th/19th century style setting who are sitting together in a classroom and looking out over a courtyard as a carriage drives into the courtyard with a mysterious visitor. In that image I knew already that the two girls were sisters (or cousins) who loved each other deeply and whose central relationship was with each other. From initial conception through final volume, the steadfast love Cat and Bee have for each other has always been the emotional core of the Spiritwalker books.

As well, I was eager to write a book in which female friendship/sisterly love was central, not secondary. I love books that treasure and foreground this kind of relationship and I’m always excited to read (and write) more of it.


Elodie asked:

Did you ever feel like a story you were writing (or parts of it) had already been written before by someone else, but without knowing if it was true or just a feeling (or which book it could come from )? If yes, how did you react?


I think that everything we read and experience gets churned into the clay out of which we shape our stories (or art or music or however we express our creative selves). Story doesn’t spring fully formed from the head of Zeus. It’s all linked up and bound in to everything else.

So if I write a love story I know that I am writing a story that in some ways may be like all other love stories or that may be influenced by specific love stories I have read, but I also know that my unique take on the story and characters I tell is something only I can bring to it. In terms of creating it’s worth remembering (in my opinion) that as a creator you are unique. No one else can bring the perspective you bring even to a story type that seems to have been told a thousand times before.

In a specific sense: Have I ever thought I was inadvertently paraphrasing or rewriting an actual book I had read, and yet wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing?

When I was young and learning how to write I at times modeled what I was writing on things I had read. It’s not quite full-blown imitation; I think it’s a normal part of the learning process in writing. [aka “I loved Lord of the Rings so I’m going to write a world with noble elves in it . . . and then there will be a handsome elf lord who falls in love with a human girl . . . ” No, I did not start writing that story when i was 16, what could you possibly be thinking?]

I continue to be influenced by what I read in ways I can’t always consciously process. So I do occasionally have to stop and look very carefully at something I’ve written.



Eve N asked:

Early in your career, you wrote SF; your later work (to the best of my knowledge!) is all fantasy. Do you envision going back to SF at some point?


Answer: I would love to write SF again and hope to do so in the future. I have far more ideas I’m super excited about than I could ever write in one lifetime, and because I make my living from writing I do at times have to prioritize those ideas according to how whether I think they can make me a living wage (I don’t write fast enough to toss off side projects, and in fact at the moment I’ve so heavily booked up that I don’t have time for side projects regardless).

I do see a resurgence of science fiction in the YA field right now, and I’m hopeful that may open up sf in book form again (SF is pretty standard on tv and in film and gaming now; it’s basically gone mainstream in the visual media.)


5 thoughts on “Cat & Bee’s love; writing what’s already been written; back to SF? (Spiritwalker Monday 3)

  1. It seems like the kind of imitation you describe is well within bounds for published fiction these days. I’m not sure where the line is drawn, but I am seeing an increasing number of derivative works (well, not that Tolkien imitation is anything new of course).

    Also, Cat and Bee’s relationship is great–extra points for their never fighting over a man!

  2. I think each generation wants to re-tell the stories it grew up with in its own way. Make them “their own” as it were, react and respond to them.

    Also, while it is true that cultures have always borrowed, blended, stolen, expropriated, lent, absorbed, accepted (and so on) elements of other cultures (wherever cultures meet this is going to happen), I think that today the mash-up has become a thing specific to itself, a way to mix up disparate things and see how they bounce off of and contrast with each other.

    re: Cat and Bee. One of my least favorite tropes in fiction or film is two girls who fight over a guy because the chance of the guy’s interest is more important than their relationship. Ugh.

  3. I agree! And even when they ultimately decide their relationship is more important than the guy (which I see in a lot of works where the central relationship is between two women, where the guy is really just a plot device to create conflict in their relationship), it’s just so cliché and doesn’t ring true to me. I’ve had my share of fights with friends, but never over guys.

  4. Yes, agreed.

    A recent book I read that touches on this very tangentially is MARE’S WAR by Tanita Davis (GREAT BOOK, highly recommended). It’s a YA about two teen sisters who have to accompany their eccentric grandmother on a road trip.

    There is a tiny bit of mild drama (it’s a minor subplot) with the eldest sister, one of her friends (left back in their home town), and a boy — Davis handles it deftly and very subtly highlights how the girls (via letter and phone calls) choose their friendship rather than fighting.

  5. >When I was young and learning how to write I at times modeled what I was writing on things I had read. It’s not quite full-blown imitation;

    Heh. Trial by Salad.

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