Rett MacPherson

Author Of The Torie O'Shea Series

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Rett MacPherson
I was born, Lauretta Allen, in the sixties on Lafayette Street in St. Louis, Missouri. My mother was from central West Virginia. She was born on Little Elk Mountain in a place called Lockwood. My father was from a tiny place called Cedar Fork in Perry County, southeast Missouri. Cedar Fork was made up of a creek of said name, a few farms and a Methodist church with a cemetery. My parents moved around a lot when I was little, so I lived all over south St. Louis. Then they moved to Tustin in Orange County, California. I was three. I have lots of memories of sunny California. Mainly, San Juan Capistrano, the beach, and my yellow bikini. Then we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of D.C. (My father was following work, which at the time was plastering pools.) My main memories of Alexandria were of my father visiting every Civil War battlefield within two hundred miles, and my big yard that I played in from sun up 'til sun down. Then we moved back to Missouri, just in time for me to start school. I was almost six when we settled in a place called Arnold. It's just south of St. Louis County, and it's where I spent the rest of my childhood, young adulthood and early twenties.

There was nothing overly sensational about my academic career. In fact, it was rather dull and average. I was an under achiever. I hated school, for the most part. I thought it was pure torture to have to spend my days doing something other than making up stories. But at the same time, I loved to learn and still love to learn new things. In school, I did excel at history and I loved choir. Then in college, I majored in history (medieval European history in particular) with a minor in political science. The most commonly asked question I get is "What made you want to become a writer?" Well, I honestly don't remember. Suffice it to say I come from a long line of storytellers. My father and his father could keep a person enraptured with tales of their youth. My mother's father was quite the storyteller, too, and he embellished quite a bit. Which is something I picked up a long the way, which I can't say, has always been a good thing.

My mother, like my character, Torie O'Shea's mother, was in a wheelchair from polio. She caught polio in October of 1952 when she was ten, and spent almost two years in a hospital. One hospital she was in was Morris Memorial Hospital, in Huntingdon, West Virginia. It's now a retirement home. For a really good book on what it was like to have polio, read Peg Kehret's Small Steps, the Year I Took Polio. Since my mother had been in a wheelchair since she was ten, I never knew her any other way. For many years she was very strong. I can remember her moving the refrigerator and cleaning behind it, all by herself. She was an artist, as well. Unfortunately, post-polio syndrome took hold and my mother became weaker and weaker until she died of pneumonia two years ago. She was only 60. I felt it important to have Torie's mother be like my mother for several reasons. One was to show that people in wheelchairs can live normal and productive lives, get married and have children if they want. Needless to say, when my books first came out, some critics thought that Torie's wheelchair-bound mother was the most unrealistic part of the books! And that was the part based on real life!

My father was a jack of all trades. He basically liked to work with his hands, so carpentry, tile setting, plastering pools and the likes, were jobs that he could do well. He was also an artist and a musician. I've just started to explore the painter in me, but I feel it was inevitable, since both of my parents were artists, and my husband has a degree in art. My children have picked up this love for art, as well. My father died of prostate cancer in 2001. I have a nephew and a half sister by him. My extended family is pretty big. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles. My mother's family has always been a source of strength and rejuvenation for me. I would be lost without them.

In my youth, it never occurred to me to actually become a writer, because I thought that was reserved for brilliant artistes and millionaires who had too much time on their hands. And even though I talk quite a bit, I still wasn't sure I could think up that many words! So, I went to work with books rather than writing them. I've worked in a library, a major chain bookstore, a book wholesaler, and a used bookstore. 

I got married in my early twenties and had two daughters. Along the way that marriage didn't work out too well and I got divorced. A few years later, I married Joe, whom I met at one of my many book jobs. He was a fellow book lover, so I knew we had some common ground. To this day, watching him read a book is a turn on. He and I added to the children count with one son.

When I was twelve I wrote a sequel to Star Wars (which was nothing like what George came up with) and just thought that was the coolest thing in the world to be able to create characters and make them talk. I got made fun of quite a bit for it from the kids at school. (I was always considered "weird.") I wrote some screenplays and I'd written the first three chapters to at least 3 dozen books throughout my teens and twenties, but never finished them. To this day I break out in a sweat when I get to chapter four, because I'm always afraid I won't be able to get past it. Basically, I've been creating worlds and characters my whole life. When I was very young I would make up news stories, type them out and then read them out loud in the living room. My father told my mother that I was in desperate need of counseling. I also wrote a ton of poetry as a child, and at one point I even made up my own language and refused to speak English for a solid week. Bless my mother that she didn't kill me. Little snippets of dialogue pop into my head at the oddest moments (I really hate it when it happens in the shower, because inevitably I forget it before I get out) and this has been the way my mind has worked my entire life. I've never not written in some form or other. But, I suppose it was when I was about 26 that I started seriously trying to write. With the coaxing and encouragement of local authors, Eileen Dreyer, Elizabeth Stuart and Karyn Witmer-Gow, I unleashed the writer in me and it's a monster that can't be contained most of the time.

In 1994 I joined a group of St. Louis authors, called the Alternate Historians. Nobody in the group writes alternate history, so we're not sure why that name stuck. We get together once a month to critique each other's work and socialize. The Alternate Historians include, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sharon Shinn, Mark Sumner, Marella Sands, Debbie Millitello, Tom Drennan and myself. When I joined the group, Laurell had only two books published and now she's on the NYT best seller's list! Mark had a few YA books sold, but since then his News From the Edge books were made into the Sci-Fi network series Chronicles. So, I like to say we've come a long way. Most of the time we meet at Sharon's house since she's centrally located. Meetings require lots of food, especially cookies or pie from Debbie. And we usually spend an equal amount of time talking about movies, books, and ranting about "the business," as we do critiquing. These people have literally changed my life and enriched it beyond belief. After more than a decade, they've become my dearest friends. No biography of myself would be complete without them.

Genealogy started as a form of therapy. I was about nineteen and had just gone through a really abusive relationship. (One I wasn't sure I would survive.) I needed something desperately to pour myself into. I'd always been interested in the stories about my family. My grandmother's cousin sent me a few bits and pieces on their family tree and that was all it took. For several years I hunted down my ancestors with the tenacity of a bloodhound. I find it completely fascinating. And once I knew where I came from, the vision of where I was going was much clearer. It changed my life. It made me more interested in women's history in general. 

The second most common question I get is "Where do you get your ideas?" Anywhere, everywhere and nowhere. In fact I don't "get" my ideas. If you have to go hunting for an idea, you're not a writer. They just come to you. Then they simmer in your head until they become soup. I write to music, usually. I love soundtracks. Some soundtracks that I write to are, The Piano, Hero, Last of the Mohicans, Portrait of a Lady, Gattica, Lord of the Rings (although I always cry when I hear "Into the West" and usually have to stop writing to get a tissue) Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and Desperado. Other music that I listen to a lot when
writing: Sinead O'Connor, Tom Waits, Sheryl Crow, Indigenous, Johnny Cash, Jet, White Stripes, Dave Matthews, Nina Simone, B.B. King, U2, Willie Nelson, Counting Crows, Tori Amos, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Bob Seger, Jeff Buckley, and, the Chieftans. I also listen to quite a bit of classical (I'm a big fan of Pucini and Vivaldi) bluegrass, bagpipes, ska and chamber music. There are two CD's, one is called Appalachian Waltz and the other Appalachian Journey, which are sort of classical meets Appalachian folk/bluegrass. I love both of those, too. I know I've left out a ton of music that I love and that has influenced me, but I only have so much space. Basically, I like music and so does my husband. Between the two of us, there's new music being played in the house at all times. My father was a musician and I've lived through more jam sessions than I can count. Family gatherings on my father's side usually ended up being jam sessions, since all of his brothers were musicians, too. Some of my most precious possessions are recordings of my dad and his brothers made in the sixties and seventies.

My favorite hobbies are photography-I think I would die without a camera--genealogy (of course, and if you think we're related, please e-mail me) scrapbooking (where else can I incorporate photographs and family history in such an artistic way?) quilting, and listening to my husband play music. My other favorite past time is watching my three children enjoy THEIR hobbies! Soccer games, volleyball games, marching band competitions, choir and band concerts . . . (Being a parent is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.) I love anime, Nordic and Celtic mythology, hawks, horses, wolves, dragons, fairies Lake Superior and snow. Favorite TV shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (always will be, no matter how many times I watch them) the X-Files and the short lived, but wonderfully written, Firefly. In fact, I consider Joss Whedon the person I would most want to work for. I don't really watch much television, and I have never seen a reality show in my life. (Hey, we need to keep us writers and actors employed.) Renting television shows on DVD has been wonderful. Since, in that format, I can watch them when I have the time. I've been able to see the first season of the West Wing and CSI that way, which I also enjoyed a great deal. I will say that I was a Star Trek, James Bond, Johnny Quest, Speed Racer, Avengers, Nightstalker and Bionic Woman nut when I was a kid. 

I don't have enough room to list movies. But I love movies. In fact, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a director. (I'm not lying.) I also desperately wanted to be British and used to go around talking like Emma Peel. Then there was that summer that I wanted to be Nadia Commaneci . . . I love John Sayles and the Coen brothers films. I love the old horror flicks with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I also love Chinese film and British film.  

The first books to really grab me when I was a kid were Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time series. I read voraciously as a teenager (not so much as a child.) Stephen King, Edgar Alan Poe, Anne Rice, Agatha Christie and J.R.R. Tolkien were early favorites of mine. I love mysteries by Margaret Lawrence, William Kent Krueger, Steve Hamilton, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Henry. Other favorite authors are: Charles de Lint, Elizabeth Hand, Juliette Marillier, Emma Bull, Jennifer Crusie, Kathy Reichs, Neil Gaiman and Charlaine Harris. And of course, the Alternate Historians! Sometimes I read for fun and sometimes I read to be wowed. Basically, I just read because life doesn't work right when I'm not reading. Often, I have several books that I'm reading at once. Usually, one non-fiction or history, and one fiction. One of the best feelings in the world is when I start a book and I just cannot put it down until I know how it ends. I love that feeling! Hopefully, that's what I've done for people. 

Things you'll find on my desk: Pictures of my kids. A piece of Anasazi pottery, a shark tooth, a typewriter hinge box that my mother gave me, more pictures of my kids, a pin that says, Frodo Lives, in both English and Elvish, and a ceramic tea-bag holder in the shape of a pig. My walls surrounding my desk are plastered with a collage of pictures of my family, my kids, angels, friends, fairies, drawings from my kids, and postcards that I've either picked up or people have sent me.

The one thing I will be remembered for among my family and friends is, I am the girl with the camera! I got my first 35 mm, a gift from my father, when I was 14.

Things that bug me: People who want to talk to you bad enough to call you, but call as "anonymous" or don't leave a message. Does that make sense? Courthouse fires bug me, too. They have no idea what sort of curve ball that is for the genealogist. It bugs me that the dish fairy doesn't visit my house and that it takes my husband twenty minutes to order in a restaurant (but that's okay, he has a lot of good qualities.) Religious persecution. Racism is number one on my list of things that bug me.

As you might guess from the fact that my taste in music, art and literature vary a great deal, so my tastes vary when it comes to writing. I've written several books that aren't in the Torie O'Shea series, or even mysteries at all. Hopefully, one of those will find a home soon.

Mysteries by Author:

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