For many years I've focused on writing nonfiction and editing various book series and anthologies, so my fiction output has been comparatively small. That's now changing, I'm delighted to say. Here's the fiction I have in print so far, with more scheduled to come:
The Wood Wife
a novel, Tor Books
(Winner of the Mythopoeic Award, and listed on Modern Library's "Reader's List of 100 Best Novels.")
I grew up on the North-east coast of America and never had a particular interest in the desert landscapes of the Southwest. In fact, I remember visit Tucson once, looking out at that dry, alien, cactus-studded land and thinking, "Why would anyone want to live here?" A few years later, however, the desert stole my heart and it hasn't let go now for almost twenty years. In this novel, I wanted to use the tropes of mythic fiction to explore what it's like to be slowly seduced by the land below ones feet.
"Some writers give us stories that are like keys to the door of our cage. They let us escape out of a world that is mostly mundane, often confusing and troubling, into worlds of light and beauty. Because of them, we learn to hope for a better world. Then there are writers who give us stories that are like looking glasses, through which we can see our world with fresh, strangely clear vision. Because of them, we learn to love the world we have more fiercely. In her fairy tale The Wood Wife, Terri Windling gives us a story that begins like a key, but turns into a looking glass in our hands." -- Grey Walker in The Green Man Review (read the full review here)Cover art: The painting on the American edition of the book is by Susan Seddon Boulet. The Wood Wife illustrations below ("Thumper," "The Wood Wife," and "The Spine Witch") are by Brian Froud. More of Brian's Wood Wife art can be seen in The Journal of Mythic Arts, along with Niko Sylvester's article, "Madness, Shapechanging and Art in Terri Windling's The Wood Wife
Here's a link to a Question & Answer session I did with readers over on the Goodread site, discussing some of the themes running through The Wood Wife. And a link to "The Spine Witch," a charming little book created by Australian artist Oliver Hunter.
The "Old Oak Wood" series follows the adventures of a young faery named Sneezle who lives in an enchanted Dartmoor woodland. Wendy and I both live on Dartmoor, and our idea was to create picture books for children inspired by its mystical landscape and ancient faery lore. The art consists of Wendy's amazingly life-like dolls, photographed in various enchanted settings.
The process of creating Old Oak Wood was a true collaboration -- sometimes Wendy's characters came first and sometimes my story ideas came first, all mixed together into one magical world. Working with Wendy was a true privilege, and spending time with little Sneezle was an utter delight. John Lawrence Jones provided the book's luminous photographs, Brian Froud helped with art direction on the photos, and Robert Gould contributed his book design expertise to the project.
Click here to read an interview with Sneezle, conducted by Professor Arnel Rootmaster of King Oberon's Royal Library, in which he discusses his participation in this human/faery book collaboration.
"Of all the denizens of Faerie, surely one of the most charming has to be Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, a hawthorn root faery with a heart as large as the sky and an unfortunate penchant for getting into trouble.Windling's prose has all the delight and resonance of a tried-and-true fairy tale, the kind of storytelling that is simple but sometimes soars, and always holds the promise of some greater mystery lying just beyond the edges of the words. Froud supplies the wondrous dolls that illustrate the tale, while her husband Brian built the sets and directed the photographs that bring them to life. " - Charles de Lint in F&SF Magazine
The Winter Child
by Wendy Froud (artist) & Terri Windling (author)
Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Our second outing into Old Oak Wood is my favorite of the three (although the first one is probably the best for younger children, being simpler and shorter). You can see a charming little flash movie based on the book over on the World of Froud website, where they have also posted interviews with me and Wendy.
"I love Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh and have been checking my garden just in case he is sleeping under one of my crabapple trees. This second adventure of Sneezle & Co is even more satisfying than the first, full of charm, myth-stakes, wickedness, heroics -- and a lost child." -- Jane Yolen
"The Winter Child reminds us of the profound importance of the things we take for granted: the changing of the seasons, the continued renewal of life. Terri Windling's writing combines the graceful flow of fairytale with wry characterizations and unexpected humor. Wendy Froud's charming art underscores the nature of the Old Oak Wood, coaxing us to come with her beyond the world we know." -- Patricia A. McKillip
The Faeries of Spring Cottage
by Wendy Froud (artist) & Terri Windling (author)
Simon & Schuster Children's Books
In our third book, Sneezle comes out of the woodland and into the human world, finding fresh adventures in an old Dartmoor cottage on the edge of the faery forest.
"The magic of faeries is often referred to as glamour, and Wendy Froud's creations remind us why that is. ... Terri Windling's text is masterfully wedded to the pictures, the two blending together to complement one another. Either element could stand on its own and be considered brilliant, but the two together knock one's socks off.
"I think that I can give the book no greater praise than to say that when I received my review copy I had to retrieve it three times from my pre-teen kids who kept on snatching it up every time my back was turned. I had told them that I was going to be getting a copy of the next Sneezle adventure, and they asked if they could read it first. My sons have read Lord of the Rings and are working their way through the historical adventures of G.A. Henty, yet amid all that sophisticated reading, they still identified with the simple beauty of The Faeries of Spring Cottage." -- Matthew Scott Winslow in The Green Man Review (read the full review here)
I created, edited, and wrote a number of stories for this Urban Fantasy series for Young Adult readers, the first volume of which was published (by New American Library) in 1986, the most recent (by Random House) in 2012.
"Bordertown is one of the most important places where Urban Fantasy began." - Neil Gaiman
"The original node for smart urban fantasy." - Cory Doctorow
"This is punk-rock, DIY fantasy, full of harsh reality and incandescent magic." — from a starred review in Kirkus
The wonderful book trailer video for the latest Bordertown volume is here, created from a script written by Ellen Kushner, with the help of students at an inner-city New York high school. ___________________________________________________________________________
for 8-to-10 year old readers, Random House
It surprises many readers to learn that writers have virtually no say over the covers on their books, which are controlled by the publishers and their marketing departments. We can voice an opinion, which might or might not be listened to, but ultimately the publisher decides. I've mostly been lucky with the covers on my books -- but The Changeling's cover I hated so much that I won't even show it here! Instead, I've made my own cover for it (pictured above), borrowing a piece of art from my friend Brian Froud.
The story is rooted in the folklore of faery changelings, set in the mountains of North Carolina.
"Because it was a slim, large-print book intended for younger readers -- part of Random House's Bullseye Chiller series -- I expected it to be a quick read. And I was right. What I didn't expect was the power and emotion locked in the words. This was for children? Sure...but it's for adults too.
"The Changeling is a story about courage. It's also a story about music -- Charlie finds his strength and salvation in his father's old fiddle and in the lessons which honed his own mastery of the instrument. It's also about Irish folklore, and the migration of mythology to the New World. Sure, it's a kids' book, and I recommend it highly for any young child's library. But adults should take the hour needed to read it, too. They won't be disappointed." -- Tom Knapp in Rambles Magazine (read the full review here)
This book was part of the "Voyage of the Basset" series, based on the magical art of James Christensen. Other volumes in the series were by the likes of Tanith Lee, Will Shetterly, and Sherwood Smith, fine writers all. I agreed to take part in this project partly because Christensen's art is charming, but mostly because it gave me the excuse to work in collaboration with Ellen, whose wonderful books and stories I deeply admire. Since the Basset series is set in Victorian times, we came up with twin protagonists whose parents are Pre-Raphaelite painters spending the summer in the arts colony of St. Ives. And then we threw a bunch of faeries into the mix, including the Raven Queen of old faery lore...
"Windling and Steiber alternate chapters but the writing is seamless and polished. There is not so much of the Basset itself in the book, but the authors make up for that with a rich and compelling narrative with its roots in folklore. The characterizations are well-executed and believable, and Devin is particularly sympathetic. A very well done and useful note at the end of the book offers further information on some of the elements of the story, as well as some related Web sites, and rounds out the book nicely." -- Donna Scanlon in Rambles Magazine (read the full review here)
There were several things I wanted to explore in this story, the primary one being the way that illness can drain our lives of color and fire. The chronic illness I've lived with is a different one than Tat's, and I'm a very different kind of person than she is --but I did, nonetheless, draw on some of my own experiences to tell her story.
Loosely connected to The Wood Wife, this novella was first published in an anthology about magic and music edited by Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, & Don Keller. It was then reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts, and can be read online here.
"...I can't get the story out of my head. And not simply the story, but the resonance of it. It's one of the longer offerings in the anthology, easily novella-length, and for those of you who enjoyed her novel The Wood Wife, you'll appreciate how characters from the novel and novella show up in each, albeit somewhat offstage. As the novel does, 'The Color of Angels' deals with the creative impulse and the complexities of human relationships, but here the focus is on printmaker Tatiana Ludvik, who is undergoing a crisis of faith. That, combined with the frustration of how multiple sclerosis is steadily weakening her body, sends Tat from her London studio to a small chapel in the Devon countryside that she had renovated in the days when she was stronger....The Devon countryside becomes as much a character here as the Sonoran desert did in The Wood Wife, while Windling's narrative skills seem to only grow stronger, particularly in how she balances her lyrical passages with those more firmly rooted in the grittiness of everyday life." -- Charles de Lint in F&SF Magazine
A Navajo woman once told me that, as a girl, her uncle had taught her to locate peyote cactus in the desert by listening for its song. The woman's respectful relationship with this "medicine plant," contrasting with American society's prevailing views about such plants, planted the seeds for this little tale. I was careful to respect the traditions of the Native American Church by not taking Pip (the main protagonist) or the readers inside the ceremonial tipi. Pip brushes against this world only fleetingly, but it has an affect nonetheless. I've met kids like Pip and her friend Creek lurking at the edges of ceremonies, and I always wondered what their stories might be.
"In 'Red Rock,' by Terri Windling, a half-Indian Creek brings his teenage girlfriend, Pippa, to his mother, who lives within a Navajo community. Pippa is a girl used to living on the streets; she and Creek are broke and plan to steal some peyote from the Indians. Windling draws a strong, believable character in Pippa and conveys in a short space the world of the Navajos: a magical place where spirits walk the earth and where people can find their true selves. Pippa’s journey to regain herself is all the more convincing because of the rich setting that serves as backdrop." -- Aliette de Bodard in The Fix: Short Fiction Review
a short prose piece published in The Armless Maiden, Tor Books
This interstitial little piece, falling somewhere between a story and a prose-poem, is based on the Donkeyskin fairy tale. I wrote it when I was putting together The Armless Maiden, an anthology of folklore-inspired stories exploring the subject of child abuse. I especially wanted to include a piece based on the Donkeyskin fairy tale, because of the tale's overt incest theme. Robin McKinley offered to write one for the book -- but her story ended up turning into a novel instead (called Deerskin, which I highly recommend), and I was suddenly short of a Donkeyskin story. There was no time left to commission another writer, so I sat down and wrote one myself....
"Windling takes an updated text allusive to Charles Perrault's version of the tale, and inserts the experiences of a modern child in a similar situation to that of the heroine of the older tale. The functions of the tale — to use a Proppian analysis — follow the order of memory, rather than chronological positioning, strengthening the poignancy of the tale. Each verse begins with a header, taken either from the fairy tale text, or from the text of the headlines; the phrase, 'Once Upon a Time. . .' is juxtaposed with the unfortunately equally familiar opening of 'Have You Seen This Child?', found on milk cartons and bus station posters. The combination serves as a painful reminder of just how common the themes of this fairy tale can be." -- Helen Pilinovsky in Donkeyskin, Deerskin, Allerleirauh: The Realities of the Fairy Tale (read the full article here)
I've also written a couple of essays on the subject of fairy tales and child abuse. One of them, "Surviving Childhood," was published in The Armless Maiden; the second essay (published in Mirror, Mirror on the Wall) is available online here. For more information on this subject, visit the Kids page on the Endicott Studio site.
The Green Children
a short story published in The Armless Maiden, Tor Books
This story is based on a folk tale from the medieval chronicles of Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newbridge. According to these accounts, two "green children" were found at St. Mary's of the Wolf-pits in Suffolk, England, during the reign of King Stephen. They were taken as curiosities to the house of a certain knight, Sir Richard de Calne, where they spoke in a strange language and would eat nothing but beans. I transplanted the story to the Arizona desert in the present day.
"A subtly beautiful contemporary fable." -- Locus Magazine
Novels currently in the works: The Moon Wife (adult fantasy for Tor Books), and Little Owl (Young Adult fantasy for Viking).
Art credits: American Wood Wife cover art by Susan Seddon Boulet; all other Wood Wife art by Brian Froud. Color of Angels painting by Abbott Handerson Thayer. Red Rock photograph by Stu Jenks. Donkeyskin ("Catskin") painting by Arthur Rackham. Green Children sketch by T. Windling. Changeling ("Toby and the Goblins") painting by Brian Froud. Raven Queen painting by James Christensen. Old Oak Wood series cover art by Wendy Froud.