general questions

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 is DOOMED QUEENS for Broadway/Doubleday Books. I’ve also designed and illustrated numerous card decks, calenders, and other products. I’ve recently entered the digital realm with apps and e-books.

Q. What exactly is “Art and Words”?

A. Established in 1994, Art and Words is the trademark for my book illustration, design, and packaging business. Under the imprint name of Art and Words Editions I produce sumptuous print and electronic publications which offer wit, wisdom, and wonder. Besides my own books and apps, I also design print publications, e-books, videos, and websites.

Q. Do you have any new books under development?

A. I’ve just finished revisions for THE LILY MAID, my first non-illustrated book and debut novel. Set during late Victorian England’s Aesthetic art movement, THE LILY MAID is about a young woman who poses as the Lady of Shalott for a famous artist; life begins to imitate art when she uncovers a mysterious tragedy involving the artist’s previous model. THE LILY MAID began as a NaNoWriMo 2009 dare. Not being one to let grass grow under my feet, I’ve already moved onto researching and writing my second novel, which takes place in 1850 England and France. For the most up-to-date information about THE LILY MAID and other projects, please visit my blog. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

Q.What inspired you to become an author and artist?

A. From the time I was a small child, I’ve loved making art and writing stories. As a teenager, I couldn’t decide whether to become a writer or an artist. The die was cast when I received a full scholarship to the School of Visual Arts, where I studied to become a book illustrator. After graduation, my first experience in publishing was as a children’s book illustrator and designer. Later, I found my way back to writing books. I now write nonfiction and fiction.

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, Sandra Gulland’s MISTRESS OF THE SUN, and Mary Sharratt’s DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL. However, my favorite book of all time is probably Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE. I consider it the feminist ur-text and reread it every two years or so.

For nonfiction, I’m a big 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.

Q. Who are your artistic influences?

A. While I was at SVA, I discovered the work of the Pre-Raphaelites—most especially the work of William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Edward Burne-Jones. The potent combination of the archetypal and the romantic in their work awoke something in me; I determined that one day I would illustrate, design, and write beautiful books. 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, the Italian Quattrocento. Botticelli and his neoplatonic approach to art. His belief that the contemplation of ideal beauty can be a pathway to enlightenment rings true for me. I also find great support in the work of 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 consider the tarot another way to tell a story, albeit with many more images than most illustrated books. I first discovered the tarot when I was a little girl of about seven. A much older cousin, whom I regarded as infinitely sophisticated and glamorous, had a set in her studio apartment; I thought the cards were so beautiful and so mysterious. When I was in college, I learned how to read them. The art for my first tarot deck, THE GODDESS TAROT, was adapted from my book THE BOOK OF GODDESSES. It amazes me that it has sold a quarter of a million copies worldwide!

Q. What is your work routine?

A. When I’m on a book deadline, I simply try to work as often and as long as possible. Seriously. 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. About every four months I go away for writing retreats where all I do is focus on the book of the moment. Otherwise, on a average work day, I drop off my daughter at school, go for a long walk to shift gears. I always carry a notebook with me for writing my thoughts down—you never know when inspiration will strike! Then I head upstairs to the studio and work uninterrupted for six to eight hours—longer, if possible. Later, I’ll reread what I wrote for the day to clarify my thinking. Often I’ll edit and write notes for the next day’s work session.

about specific books

Q. Where did the idea for DOOMED QUEENS come from?

A. To stretch myself as an author, I wanted to do something completely different from my previous books, which were more romantic and inspirational—THE LOVER’S PATH, THE BOOK OF GODDESSES. 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—Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette. 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 Anne Boleyn). I’m very fond of Victorian-era graphics, so I designed and illustrated DOOMED QUEENS to look like a cautionary pennydreadful of that era. For such dark subject matter, it was a lot of fun to create. 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 goddess-inspired book, PERSEPHONE AND THE POMEGRANATE. Because I was primarily working in children’s books at that time, PERSEPHONE was a picture book retelling of the Persephone and Demeter myth. It whetted my appetite to work on something more ambitious incorporating goddess myths and stories. And so THE BOOK OF GODDESSES came into being. To my surprise, THE BOOK OF GODDESSES became a crossover hit for women as well as a children’s book, and was featured in numerous catalogs as a gift book, rather than a picture book. It became a top ten bestseller for the One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club, and was chosen as an ALA Pick-of-the-List. Beyond this, the art from GODDESSES inspired a best-selling tarot deck, The Goddess Tarot, and a Grammy-nominated classical music CD by the award-winning composer Robert Paterson.

Q. I can’t find a copy of THE BOOK OF GODDESSES or PERSEPHONE AND THE POMEGRANATE. Can you help me?

A. Many of my earlier illustrated books are have 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 convert all of my print publications into digital format. Coming up: THE LOVER’S PATH as an enhanced e-book in 2013.

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 currently underway. That written, I have a soft spot for THE LOVER’S PATH since I probably learned the most making it. It took me ten years of persistent work and has the most unique print format. I’m pleased that THE LOVER’S PATH will be available in Fall 2013 as an enhanced and expanded digital edition from Apple.

art and design

Q. How do you make your paintings? How long do they take you?

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. This way, the paintings has greater meaning for me.

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 as a designer. These include seven years at a major New York publishing house as a book designer under the great art director Atha Tehon; Atha taught me to respect the delicate balance of art and words when creating a book. Though I have extensive experience as a print designer, I’ve since expanded into the digital realm and design iPhone apps, e-books, websites, and videos.

Q. Are you available for hire as a designer?

A. Because my time is limited, I’m able take on select design clients. Please contact me to see if we’d be the right fit for each other. I also offer publishing consulting for individuals and indie publishers.

Q. Are you available for hire as an illustrator?

A. I mainly illustrate projects I have written myself, though there have been exceptions to this rule. If you have a project you’d like me to illustrate, I invite you to have your publisher contact me. I also license my artwork for book covers, calendars, and other publications. Please note that I do not do work on speculation or for hire.

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. More information is here.

other popular questions

Q. How do I get published? Will you recommend a publisher or literary agent for my book or deck? Or tell me how to publish it?

A. I cannot recommend individual publishers or literary agents for a variety of reasons. However, I love sharing about the business of publishing—I often write about it on my blog and have a publishing advice page. If you’re looking for project-related business or technical advice on publishing via traditional or self-publishing, I offer one-on-one consulting at an hourly rate. Please note I do not read unsolicited manuscripts. Nor will I comment on them.

Q. A card is missing from my card deck. Or I’ve lost a card and need a replacement. Or another component from one of your deck kits—book, booklet, box, bag.

A. To obtain them, you need to contact the publisher directly. The Goddess Tarot, Lover’s Path Tarot, Doomed Queens Playing Cards, and Ask the Queens Advice Cards are published by U. S. Games Systems. The Goddess Inspiration Oracle is published by Llewellyn Worldwide. The Anubis Oracle is published by Inner Traditions.

Q. When is the Sacred World Oracle going to be published?

A. It’s finally available from US Games Systems. Not only that, but the Sacred World Oracle won the 2014 COVR Award for Best Divination Product and also for Best Product of the Year—incredibly prestigious honors.

Q. Can you donate art/prints/books/time for my nonprofit 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, mainly to local organizations that I am directly involved with. Generally speaking, these organizations are arts-oriented or benefit disadvantaged women and children. If your nonprofit fits this description, you’re welcome to ask.

 Q. Will you read my manuscript and give me feedback? 

A. I’ve been advised not to for legal reasons. However, I wish you the best of luck.

Q. Will you blurb or review my book?

A. Please contact me with more 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.

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. E-mail me the exact quote and we’ll take it from there.