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 also 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 recently finished revisions for A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, my debut novel and first non-illustrated book. Set in late Victorian England, A GATHERING OF SHADOWS is about a young woman who poses as the Lady of Shalott for a famous artist; life imitates art when she uncovers a mysterious tragedy involving his previous model. A GATHERING OF SHADOWS began as a NaNoWriMo 2009 dare. Not being one to let grass grow under my feet, I’ve moved onto researching and writing my second novel, which takes place in 1850 England and France. I was recently awarded a residency fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for it.

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

A. I’ve always 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 fiction and nonfiction.

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 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 was first exposed to the tarot as a seven-year-old child when an older cousin, whom I regarded as infinitely sophisticated and glamorous, showed me her deck. I was immediately struck by the cards’ beauty and mystery. The art for my first tarot deck, THE GODDESS TAROT, was adapted from my book THE BOOK OF GODDESSES. It amazes me that the deck has sold a quarter of a million copies worldwide and is now considered a classic. And yes, I do read the tarot—it’s just another way to tell a story.

Q. Where do the atmospheric photographs on your blog come from?

A. Me! I am addicted to my iPhone camera and adore the Hipstamatic app.

Q. What is your work schedule?

A. When I’m on a book deadline, I 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 and edit what I wrote, 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 different from my previous books, which were more romantic and inspirational. 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. 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 poor fertility-challenged Anne Boleyn. For such dark subject matter, DOOMED QUEENS was a lot of fun to create. Because I’m fond of Victorian-era graphics, I designed and illustrated DOOMED QUEENS to look like a pennydreadful. 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, a picture book retelling of the Persephone myth. PERSEPHONE whetted my appetite to work on something more ambitious incorporating goddess stories. And so THE BOOK OF GODDESSES came into being.

To my surprise, THE BOOK OF GODDESSES was featured in numerous catalogs as a gift book for women, rather than a picture book for girls. It was a top ten bestseller for the One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club, and was chosen as an ALA Pick-of-the-List. The art from GODDESSES had a life beyond the book: it inspired the best-selling The Goddess Tarot, numerous calendars, 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?

A. My early illustrated books 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 digitize all of my print publications. Coming up: THE LOVER’S PATH as an enhanced e-book.

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 I’ve just finished—I especially loved workshopping and researching A GATHERING OF SHADOWS. That written, I have a soft spot for THE LOVER’S PATH because of its unusual interactive format.

art and design

Q. How do you create your paintings? 

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.

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. Though I have extensive experience as a print designer, I’ve since expanded into the digital realm to design iPhone apps, e-books, websites, and videos.

Q. Are you available for hire as a designer?

A. Because of time constraints, I’m only able take on select design clients. Please contact me to see if we’d be the right fit for each other.

Q. Are you available for hire as an illustrator?

A. I primarily illustrate projects I have written myself, though there have been exceptions. That written, I am currently not taking on illustration clients.

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 read my manuscript and 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 information 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 publishing advice, I offer one-on-one consulting at an hourly rate.

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, the Sacred World Oracle, 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. 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 to local organizations that I am directly involved with. Generally speaking, these organizations are arts-oriented or benefit 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 to spend time on things that don’t bring joy.

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.