Happy (almost) Birthday Patricia McPhillip!

Patricia McPhillip’s a leap year baby, what can we say, except we’re celebrating a day early? McPhillip (1948-present) has delighted readers with her fantasy and science fiction novels and series since The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), the start of her Quest of the Riddle-Master series.

Though best known for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, but McPhillip takes the approach that her work is always changing and each new project treads new ground. In an interview for Locus in 1992, McPhillip explained, “I feel uncomfortable when people tell me my best work was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, which I wrote 20 years ago.  I’ve lost interest in doing young-adult books.  I’m over 40, I want to write about adults now.”

We can all learn from a writer who always looks forward and asks what new story am I itching to tell?

Sometimes, that story is not what McPhillip expects. And we are eternally grateful, she let the story guide her.

The Sorceress and the Cygnet started out being one thing and turned into something totally different.  I had an urge to make the hero move from place to place.  Then he went and fell into a swamp, and got himself trapped in a house.   I was expecting to write just a plain, ordinary, male-oriented quest fantasy and that damn book just turned itself around and said, “No, you’re not doing this, you’re writing about women.”  I got so interested in the female characters, that’s the direction the book kept.  Essentially, it became a novel about women, and that’s what I think the sequel is going to be about.”

The sequel (The Cygnet and the Firebird),if you’re curious, is also about women.

For Patricia McPhillip, the best way to celebrate her (almost) birthday is to try out her methods in your own writing. Look ahead to your next project. Let the story guide you. You never know what your imagination will create when it’s set free.