Did you grow up in Wyoming like Blue?
No, I was 34 years old when I got to Wyoming, but I raised my two sons on a ranch. Like Blue, I moved around a lot, except that I moved from one country to the next. Blue wants to find a place to call home, while I felt that the whole world was my home.
Did you always like to write?
I used to write sometimes in my sketch books, but I doodled a lot more than I wrote. I'd doodle all over my desk and anything that didn't keep moving. But no, I didn't write much until I lived on Crete and I kept running out of oil paints. Back then, in the early sixties, I had to take a long boat trip to Athens to buy more. So I began writing about things that happened in the village I lived in. Since I lived and traveled alone, I had to learn the Cretan dialect so I'd have people to talk to. I was always more visual than verbal, though, so I immersed myself in my artwork after that. When my dad died in 1981, I began working with cloth as a form of therapy to help keep my mom busy. She loved to sew, so we'd send pieces of our quilts back and forth through the mail, and then get together a few times a year to finish them. When my older son and my partner were in an airplane crash, it was working on my tapestries that got me through their long months of healing.
Why did you start writing again?
I thought I'd try to use the other side of my brain to see if it still worked.
Was it hard to find an agent and get a book published?
Actually, I was lucky. A friend was going to the Jackson Hole Writers Conference and asked if I wanted to share a room. I think I'd had a glass of wine too many, because I told her "sure!" Then I wrote 15 pages of an autobiography and an agent at the conference read it and picked me right up. Her name is Charlotte Sheedy, and she's an amazing lady who had more faith in me than I had in myself. I didn't want to disappoint her. She encouraged me by sending me fabulous goodies through the mail, and even seeds for my garden from France, where she has a house. Writing an autobiography was great therapy, but I soon stuffed it in a drawer. And then Blue appeared out of the blue. My agent sent my first chapters off to an editor, and she liked it and took me on. She gave me great advice about cutting out two characters. Actually, one character was a ghost. I kept her alive and sent her off to Montana.
Blue sees "lights' around people and things. Is this stuff true?
Every living thing has an aura. And every living being has chakras, which are part of the luminous energy field. Every culture has paintings or stories of beings of light. Blue's story takes place on an Indian reservation, and there are Native Americans that speak of people who shimmered with light as if lit by an inner fire.
Can you see lights like that?
Sometimes. I've had two times in my life where I saw light everywhere, but those times only lasted for a few days. When I'm with people who are doing healing work I can see the lights streaming out of their fingers and all around them. At night I often play with the lights, just like Blue does. If I can see these things, then I'm sure anyone can. Lots of kids see stuff like that but they don't know what they're seeing, and often they lose the ability when they get big. Sometimes, like Blue, they think everyone sees the way they do.
The places and petroglyphs in your story--are they real?
The book is fiction, but there are places that are similar to the ones in the book.
You write about a Shoshone-Arapaho boy, Shawn, who wants to be a medicine man when he grows up. And you talk about Little People and Water Ghosts. Is that just folklore stuff?
I'm very aware of the sacredness of certain places. There are places where no one goes except the medicine men and their helpers, and places where one goes for a vision. There is a certain feeling you get when you're in a sacred place, and things happen that can't be explained. Is it the Water Ghosts? The Little People? Who knows? The reservation is like anywhere else where some people follow the old ways and others don't. But I have a medicine man who healed me in an instant of something that'd been going on for a long while. I think Shawn is a little like him.
Blue draws a picture of a special place and then finds it. Can things like that really happen?
Once, when I was feeling really sad and down at the mouth, I drew a picture of a place and what my heart desired for my life. A year later, after I'd been in Wyoming for a few months, I saw a ranch that I immediately recognized as the one I'd drawn. The house is the same one that's in my story. And when I was little, I used to daydream over an illustration in the book, The Little Princess, where Sarah is dressed all in black and living on a rooftop. In my mind, it was me on a rooftop in Paris. So when I ended up living in Paris, in an attic flat, and dressed in black, I knew I'd followed my dream.
Are you writing another book?