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A Rumor of Gems
June 1, 2005
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Ellen Steiber


I'm a Jersey Girl. I was born in Newark and lived there until my family moved to West Orange the year I began high school. For nearly as long as I can remember, the constants in my life have been my close-knit family, a love of fairy tales, mythology, and cats, and a fascination with nearly every rock and gem that crossed my path.

It's interesting which images from childhood stay with you. I now have to work hard to envision the neighborhood I grew up in, but I still have vivid memories of my grandmother's opal earrings, my cousin Diane's amethyst ring, my aunt Anita's topaz pendant, and of hours spent on the beach at Schroon Lake, sifting the sun-warmed sand for bits of garnet. (There was nearby garnet mine.) For me, stones have always held the promise of magic.

Though I'd been unofficially collecting rocks since I was a kid, it took years before I began to write about them. I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a degree in English and Creative Writing, and exactly one science course, geology. I wrote a story in those years, "Mother, Elijah, & I" about a heroine whose family mined alluvial garnets. It was about 4 pp. long and I believe there was a strange relationship between Elijah and Mother, and I wrote another story that had tourmaline canyons in the first line, and which, like many of the stories in my writing workshops, was about that grand collegiate theme, alienation. It did not occur to me then to write fantasy or to give credence to my own love of mythology and fairy tales.

After graduation, having no idea of what to do with my English degree, I moved to New York and spent a year working in the personnel department of a Japanese trading company. I next wound up at Delacorte Press as the assistant to the editor-in-chief. A job at Random House followed, and then years of freelance work for the New York publishers in assorted editorial capacities: manuscript reader, copy-editor, proofreader, line and series editor. I finally took another office job as a senior editor at Cloverdale Press, where I developed young-adult, middle-grade and fantasy series with a number of wonderful writers, Bruce Coville, Sherwood Smith, Suzanne Weyn, Elizabeth M. Ress, and Deborah Doyle and James D. MacDonald among them. In those New York years I lived in a number of neighborhoods, from the Upper West Side to midtown to Soho to Little Italy (now Nolita) and the Village and finally Brooklyn Heights. And though like most New Yorkers, I had a litany of complaints about the city, I loved it deeply for its energy and diversity and irrepressible spirit. It was my crucible and I will always be grateful for all that it taught me.

Drawn by the mountains and skies of the Sonoran desert, I moved to Tucson, Arizona and began to split my time between freelance editing and writing. Since then I've written over thirty-five children's and teen series books, as well as short stories and essays that draw on the myths and fairy tales that have always inspired me. My short fiction has appeared in the Adult Fairy Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Tucson is a high desert valley, surrounded by four mountain ranges, and I'm lucky enough to live on land that is still desert, where the view outside my office window is often like a scene from a nature documentary. Quail, rabbits, and lizards are almost always in view among the cactus, with more sporadic visits from coyotes, javelina, gila monsters, rattlesnakes, foxes, skunks, and bobcats. And of course, there are the rocks. Lots of granite, gneiss, and quartz in the immediate area, but the most dazzling display is without question the annual Tucson International Gem & Mineral Show. A Rumor of Gems grew out of a combination of my own my increasing fascination with the mythology of gems and seeing the real thing in such phenomenal number and variety at Gem Show. I began reading up on the traditional powers associated with stones and started to wonder what would happen if these powers could be manipulated for good or evil and what the effects might be in a river city populated by humans, gods, and tricksters.

I still live in Tucson where I'm currently working on the sequel to A Rumor of Gems.

http://www.ellensteiber.com/


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