I read at will from my parents' large library, so
that even when I was not outside I was still running wild -- in the
world of words. But no Disney for me. A television set arrived in
the house when I was six, but I never turned it on; that was for my
father to do when, nightly, we gathered as a family to watch for an
hour. Aside from beautiful horses, nearly everything about cowboys
and Indians traumatized me. I hated TV. Still don't like it much.
But, as I have said, when I was thirteen, we moved -- to Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, where there was no more time for TV because my parents
had acquired a small motel. The guidance counselor at my new school
informed me, to my astonishment, that I was very bright. And wonder
of wonders, my new classmates did not torment me.
Overnight I transformed from an underachiever into a straight-A
student. I still went outside every day after school, through farm
fields down to a creek, but now I did it to walk Mom's Sheltie dogs--mostly.
Still, I kept to myself. I skipped being a teenager -- all those
messy emotions; my parents wouldn't have liked it. Instead, I cleaned
motel rooms with them, read Steinbeck and Hemingway, drew wistful
pictures of horses, taught myself to play guitar, practiced my violin.
Also, I began to daydream so much, so graphically and so vividly that
I worried about myself.
The daydreams continued right through college, although by then I was
having some fun. Thanks to Twiggy I was no longer a joke, and I
shocked my parents (about time) by becoming a fashionably long-haired,
raccoon-eyed hippie. But beneath my ponchos and beads I had no
beliefs, no causes, no clue as to life goals or emotions or love. So
when a nice-enough boy named Joel Springer asked me to marry him, I
said yes. That was what smart girls went to college for in the
sixties, to be teachers or get married. I didn't want to be a teacher
so I got married.
Very shortly I discovered that marriage was not a cure-all. Those
shivery-strong daydreams were still with me, so in an attempt to
offload them I wrote my first fantasy novel. I had no ambition to be
a writer; in fact I felt no authority to write -- in English Lit we
had studied only male novelists -- but I couldn't help it. Meanwhile,
I had my first baby, Jonathan Paul, and upon making his acquaintance I
experienced, to my bone-deep astonishment, an overwhelming emotion:
love. Finally growing up, I admitted I might want to be a writer,
sent out my first novel, and was published. For a little while I
became my own world's wonder. Over the moon. And pregnant again.
This time a girl -- perfect! -- Nora Lynn.
But after the second baby's birth, I had postpartum depression which
escalated -- let me put it this way: all the tantrums I had never
thrown as a child, all the rebellions I had never rebelled as a teen,
all the doors never slammed, angers never shouted, grudges never
spoken, all detonated at once, attacking the only permissible target:
myself. I wanted me dead.
I scared me sleepless.
It's called clinical depression. The less said about the next
several years, the better. Ultimately my writing saved me. Looking
back, I can see myself gaining a little strength in each book.
First, in the Isle fantasies, working out the yang and yin of good and
evil. Then, starting in Wings of Flame, realizing that I was female,
and later claiming power as a woman -- in The Hex Witch of Seldom,
Fair Peril, Larque on the Wing. Less depressed, I grew less
interested the inner world of my psyche; I wanted to turn my vision
outward, to the real world. I bought a horse. A horse! The
childhood dream. And I started writing children's books about horses,
taking a break from fantasy.
My wonderful, thriving son and daughter, plus horseback riding, plus
allowing myself to be human, plus the amazing and incomprehensible
fact that people wanted to read what I wrote -- all of this made me
feel a whole lot better.
I kept growing more and more, not only as a
self branching out socially but as a writer branching out into
different topics and genres, now that I was writing for the love of it
rather than out of desperation. In 1994 I had five different books
released by five different publishers. In 1995 I won my first Edgar.
In 1996 my husband left me.
Stupid old story; I'd always sworn it wasn't going to happen to me.
Once I'd learned love from my firstborn, I worked hard at putting some
into my marriage. For a while it seemed to work. But I had become a
real person, no longer the passive waif my husband wanted, so a few
weeks after my daughter started college I found myself completely
alone in the empty nest. Then (honestly, a horror writer couldn't
have plotted it better) along came menopause.
Which dumped me into depression almost as awful as before.
Again, the less said of the next few years, the better.
Yet, during this ridiculously difficult time I wrote the best work I
had done so far. With the encouragement of my wonderful agent, Jean
Naggar, and the coaching of a brilliant editor, Michael Green, I
completed I Am Mordred: A Tale of Camelot, then went on to write I am
Morgan Le Fay.
I sound terribly professional. It wasn't like that. I still needed
the comfort of my mother (Mother Nature; my real mother had
Alzheimer's), but my beloved Morgan mare had been struck by lightning
and killed (Honestly! I couldn't make this stuff up.) so rather than
trail riding, I walked a lot. When I couldn't be outside, I did
things my ex wouldn't have liked, such as painting flowers on the
walls. I even took a life-sized ceramic woodchuck, put a daisy-decked
straw hat on it, and painted its portrait. My friends told me I
needed to get a life.
I was trying to do so, working at a no-kill animal shelter while
taking in stray cats on my own. Then one day in late 1999, I met a
man who wanted a Chihuahua.
His name was Jaime Fernando Pinto, and he's been around ever since.
He loves me out loud.
No more obsessive daydreams for me. No need.
It was Jaime who gave me the encouragement and support I needed to
get out of the house where the ghosts of husband and children haunted
me. I fell in love with a chalet-style home by a lake, moved there,
married Jaime, and rediscovered my childhood joy of fishing. Several
years later, so that Jaime could retire into a dream of aviation, we
moved again, to the Florida panhandle, where we spent a year in a
hangar at an airport located in an absolute paradise of a swamp.
Every day I watched the wading birds, the long-winged tropical
butterflies, the lizards basking. Every night I went out to see the
tree frogs, toads, huge silk moths, and snakes. A small (5-foot)
alligator attended my 59th birthday party, and 911 had to be called to
escort him away! The only thing better would have been if someone
had given me a pony.
Jaime and I now live in a real house just down the road from the
airport where I still ride my bike, looking for trouble to get into.
Other than that, I write, I feed feral cats, I do face-painting for
public library fund-raisers, I read, I fly with Jaime over this Edenic
place where two of my favorite things, water and forest, come
together, and I write some more. Every day is a new story.
(click to close)
Nancy Springer is an award winning author who has written more than 50 books. Her works include children's, young adult and adult writings and she has won a collection of awards including:
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Best Novel nominee (1982): The Sable Moon
- World Fantasy Best Short Story nominee (1987): "The Boy Who Plaited Manes"
- Hugo Best Short Story nominee (1987): "The Boy Who Plaited Manes"
- Nebula Best Short Story nominee (1987): "The Boy Who Plaited Manes"
- Tiptree Award (1995): Larque on the Wing
- Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery (1995): Toughing It
- Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery (1996): Looking for Jamie Bridger
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Best Novel nominee (1997): Fair Peril
- Carolyn W. Field Award (1999): I am Mordred
- Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery nominee (2007): The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery
- Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery nominee (2010): The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline: An Enola Holmes Mystery