Springer, Nancy 1948–
Springer, Nancy 1948–
PERSONAL: Born July 5, 1948, in Montclair, NJ; daughter of Harry E. (in business) and Helen (an artist) Connor; married Joel Springer (a minister and fine art photographer), September 13, 1969; children: Jonathan, Nora. Education: Gettysburg College, B.A. (cum laude), 1970.
CAREER: Delone Catholic High School, McSherrystown, PA, teacher, 1970–71; writer, 1972–; University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, PA, personal development plan instructor, 1983–85; York College of Pennsylvania, personal and professional growth instructor, 1986–90, instructor of creative writing; Franklin and Marshall College, Et Cetera program instructor, 1987–91; part-time communications instructor at Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts, 1990–95; creative writing instructor, York College of Pennsylvania, 1995–97; Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA, faculty member in master's degree program in popular fiction, 1997–.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Pennwriters (former president), Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nebula Award finalist, 1986; Iowa State Best Books for Young Adults citation, c. 1986, for Chains of Gold; World Fantasy Award finalist, 1987; Hugo Award finalist, 1987; International Reading Association Children's Book Council Children's Choice citation, 1988, Florida Master Reading List citation, 1988, and Georgia Master Reading List citation, 1989, all for A Horse to Love; Nebula Award nomination, c. 1989, for Apocalypse; Joan Fassier Memorial Book Award, 1992; Joan Fassler Memorial Book Award, 1992, for Colt; Young Adults Choice, International Reading Association, 1993; Carolyn W. Field Award Notable Book, 1993; Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1995, for Toughing It, and 1996, for Looking for Jamie Bridger; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age citation, Enoch Pratt Free Library Youth-to-Youth Books: A List for Imagination and Survival citation, and American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults citation, 1995, all for The Hex Witch of Seldom; American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for the Reluctant Young Adult Reader, 1995; James Tiptree Jr. Award, 1995; Pennsylvania Schools Librarians Association Outstanding Pennsylvania Author, 1997; Carolyn W. Field Award, 1998, for I Am Mordred.
The Book of Suns, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1977.
The White Hart, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1979.
The Silver Sun (based on The Book of Suns), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1980, reprinted, ereads.com, 2004.
The Sable Moon, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1981.
The Black Beast (also see below), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1982.
The Golden Swan (also see below), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Book of Vale (contains The Black Beast and The Golden Swan), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1983.
Wings of Flame, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Chains of Gold, Arbor House (New York, NY) 1986.
Madbond (Volume 1 of the "Sea King" trilogy), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Mindbond (Volume 2 of the "Sea King" trilogy), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Chance: And Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate (short stories, poetry, and novellas), Baen Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Godbond (Volume 3 of the "Sea King" trilogy), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1988.
The Hex Witch of Seldom, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Apocalypse, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Stardark Songs (fantasy poetry), New Establishment Press, 1993.
Larque on the Wing, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Fair Peril, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Plumage, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor) Prom Night, I Books, 2004.
Also author of novellas, including "Chance," in Under the Wheel, Baen Books, 1987; "Serenity," in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1989; and "Damnbanna," Axolotl Press, 1992. Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including I Believe in Water, edited by Marilyn Singer, HarperCollins, 2000, and Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by November Sharyn, illustrated by Charles Vess, Puffin (New York, NY), 2005. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
FOR YOUNG READERS
A Horse to Love, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.
Not on a White Horse, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.
They're All Named Wildfire, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.
Red Wizard, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.
Colt, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1991.
The Friendship Song, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.
The Great Pony Hassle, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1993.
Music of Their Hooves (poetry), Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1993.
The Boy on a Black Horse, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.
Toughing It, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1994.
Looking for Jamie Bridger, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.
Secret Star, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1998, published as I Am Morgan LeFay: A Tale from Camelot, 2001.
Sky Rider, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor) Ribbiting Tales: Original Stories about Frogs, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Separate Sisters, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2001.
Blood Trail, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
The Case of the Missing Marquess ("Enola Holmes" series), Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady ("Enola Holmes" series), Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2007.
"ROWAN HOOD" SERIES
Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Lionclaw: A Tale of Rowan Hood, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Outlaw Princess of Sherwood: A Tale of Rowan Hood, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Wild Boy, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Rowan Hood Returns: The Final Chapter, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Nancy Springer's career as an author was cemented in 1977 with the publication of her first fantasy novel, The Book of Suns. She went on to write a dozen more titles over the next several years, then decided to try her hand at a work for younger readers, A Horse to Love. Her adult fantasy works have been described as "quest" novels, and "while the quest is never a mere journey," noted an essayist for the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, "the novels can certainly be read on one level as exciting, fast-paced adventure gently touched with magic and myth, and peopled by believable characters with realistic flaws and strengths."
Springer grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she also attended college. An English major, she taught for a time in the early 1970s before devoting her energies to a husband, home, and family. As she wrote on her Web site, Springer had conformed to the expectations of others for much of her life, and this seemed to catch up with her. Never one to harbor a negative thought, she wrote: "[I] began to hear 'voices' in my head. First they whispered 'divorce' (not permissible), and later they hissed 'suicide.' They scared me silly." Several doctors and therapies proved unsuccessful, but Springer had found success with her first two novels by 1980. She decided to begin writing for two hours each morning, and told her husband of the plan. "He had reached the point where he would agree with whatever to humor the neurotic wife…. But to me it was the most important sentence I ever spoke," Springer recalled in her Internet biography. "With that sentence I stopped being a housewife who sometimes stole time to write, and I started being a writer."
The first few books from Springer's pen were set in Isle, a mythical kingdom replete with royals, gods, and fairy-tale creatures. Her quest tales drew heavily upon Celtic mythology. By 1985, Springer had branched out and created two new kingdoms for her first hardcover book, Wings of Flame. Chains of Gold, which appeared a year later, chronicles the love affair between a virginal "winterking" and his "bride," who must be sacrificed to the gods to ensure fertility in the kingdom of Catena. The two fall in love and decide to flee, but are tracked by pursuers both human and otherworldly.
The success of her books enabled Springer to fulfill a lifelong dream: when she was thirty-three, she bought her own horse. She once likened this act to "a key that let me back into my own childhood in a more complete and realistic way than my fantasy heroes had. And once I started writing books for children, I finally started growing up." Her first work for young readers, A Horse to Love, appeared in 1987. It is the story of an introverted young teen who finds a measure of confidence in herself when she begins to take care of a horse. In her subsequent novels aimed at the same audience, Springer began to present more complex plots and characters. In They're All Named Wildfire, for instance, the bond between two teenagers from different backgrounds is forged through their mutual love of horses, but community prejudices threaten to destroy their friendship.
Springer continued to write fantasy novels for adult readers as well. She wrote her "Sea King" trilogy in the mid-1980s, a series of novels set in a fantasy world. "The books explore relationships, those between choices and consequences and those between people, and the relativity of good and evil," noted the essayist in the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers. "Again the quest is the mechanism employed as both illumination and catalyst. The trilogy is a pleasure to read, gracefully written and resonating with poetic imagery." In 1988, Springer decided to end her creative reliance on fantasy worlds and root her characters in modern-day Pennsylvania with The Hex Witch of Seldom. For this book, she drew upon folklore from her home state to lend drama to the story. "All her fantasy novels since then have been set in the contemporary world," observed a contributor to the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, "and the vividness and familiarity of these settings have proved more conducive to the realistic writing style, strong yet subtle characterization, feminism and humor which had all been growing features of her work. Away from lands of the imagination she was able to abandon the traditional moral certainties of heroic fantasy and introduce stories filled with moral doubt and ambiguous characters."
Springer continued to earn critical praise for her works for young adults. In The Boy on a Black Horse, for example, a young girl named Gray learns that her new classmate, of Romany stock, is actually a runaway. Both share a love of horses, and Gray learns much about herself while trying to reach out to Chav and his brother. Booklist reviewer Julie Corsaro found that here Springer had written "a convincing portrait of an abused child."
Strong, feminist-minded heroines have been a commonplace feature throughout many of Springer's fantasy and science fiction novels. In Plumage, Sassy finds herself working as a hotel maid after her husband of twenty-seven years leaves her. One day a bird in the hotel's atrium soils Sassy's hair, and when she looks in the mirror, Sassy sees a bird instead of her own reflection. She begins to see everyone as a different type of avian species, and she and her new friend, a boutique owner, must embark upon a journey into a magical hidden world in order to bring forth their true identities. "With a touch of Alice Hoffmanesque magic, a colorfully painted avian world and a winning heroine, this is pure fun," attested a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Springer begins another series featuring a strong-willed and capable heroine with Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. Based on the well-known legends of Robin Hood, the books recount the adventures of Rosemary, the daughter of Robin Hood, and her friends and fellow adventurers. In the beginning of the series, Rosemary's mother, Celandine, has been senselessly murdered by suspicious and hate-filled locals for being a woodwife: a type of healer. Her mother was part aelf, but Rosemary has no connection with that magical side of the family, nor with her mother's human relations. Faced with no other choice, Rosemary determines to track down her father, the legendary Robin Hood, in his lair in Sherwood Forest. Running afoul of a local bad guy, Guy of Gisborn, Rosemary becomes a hunted outlaw, much like her own father. Adopting the name Rowan, she gathers about her a band of like-minded adventurers and misfits, including the gentle but hulking bard Lionel; Ettarde, a thirteen-year-old princess on the run from a forced marriage, and Tykell; a wolf-dog hybrid that proves to be a reliable companion and trusted defender. In the course of the story, Robin Hood is captured and must be rescued by Rowan and her friends. Ultimately, she reveals her identity to her father, but elects not to join the Merry Men, instead setting forth to carve her own niche. School Library Journal reviewer Cheri Estes reacted favorably to the book, in general, but she had some concerns with the story. "Ro is a likable character but her story is not well paced," Estes stated. Estes also observed that the characters in the story do not have "ample time to develop, and story lines are not fully explored." However, Sally Estes, writing in Booklist, commented: "This tale is a charmer, filled with exciting action, plenty of humor, engaging characters, and a nice fantasy twist."
Rowan Hood and her band of adventurers reappear in four more novels in the series, and each book provides a focus on one of the supporting cast. Lionclaw: A Tale of Rowan Hood tells the deeper tale of Lionel, the gigantic minstrel who would rather sing and play his lute than fight. When Lionel's father, Lord Lionclaw, is captured by Robin Hood, he tries a reconciliation, but Lord Lionclaw becomes so infuriated with his son's lack of interest in "manly" pursuits that he sends the villainous Guy of Gisborn into the forest to kill Lionel. Gisborn sets vicious steel traps in the forest, and when Rowan is caught in one, Lionel discovers that his fury is righteous when the time is right, and his fighting abilities are more than adequate when the need is there. Cheri Estes expressed reservations with the character of Lionel in a School Library Journal review, stating that "Lionel's development is predictable, and he is so annoyingly quivery and wimpy" throughout the majority of the story that "he isn't a likable or sympathetic character." On the other hand, Booklist critic Kay Weisman remarked that in Lionclaw, Springer "excels at keeping the action and adventure in high gear, and she creates strong characters with clear motivations."
Two more books in the series follow Lionclaw. Outlaw Princess of Sherwood: A Tale of Rowan Hood focusing on runaway Princess Ettarde, and Wild Boy: A Tale of Rowan Hood, centered on Rook, a wild-child of a boy who has run unfettered through Sherwood Forest ever since the Sheriff of Nottingham left his father to die in a deadly mantrap. When Rook finds the sheriff's son trapped in a similar situation, he must choose between vengeance and compassion for an innocent person in a terrible situation. His choice leads to further developments that will forever change his ways. Paula Rohrlick, writing in Kliatt, called Wild Boy a "fine addition to a terrific series." The last book in the series, Rowan Hood Returns: The Final Chapter, again focuses on Rowan Hood, and serves to bring a "favorite medieval adventure series to a brooding but graceful close," commented Jennifer Mattson in Booklist. Rowan swears vengeance on the knights who killed her mother, but she suffers from the corroding influence of the desire for revenge. With her vow of revenge, she loses her woods-child abilities and feels the aelfen powers she inherited from her mother fade. In a confluence of events involving Rowan, her friends, the hated knights, and the aelves, "death, revenge, sorrow and devotion culminate in a stirring end," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic.
With The Case of the Missing Marquess Springer embarks on yet another series featuring a witty, capable, and independent young heroine. The book stars Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of the much more famous Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. A relatively happy childhood has not prepared the fourteen-year-old Enola for her mother's disappearance. When her big brothers Sherlock and Mycroft arrive, they are dismissive of their younger sister and women in general. Unwilling to bend to their overbearing ways, Enola strikes out on her own, determined to locate her mother without assistance. Harrowing adventures ensue as she tracks her mother through a series of cleverly laid ciphers and coded clues. "Enola shows herself to be an intelligent, rational, resourceful and brave protagonist," stated a Publishers Weekly critic. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "A tasty appetizer, with every sign of further courses to come." Enola's "loneliness, intelligence, sense of humor, and sheer pluck make her an extremely appealing heroine," commented B. Allison Gray in School Library Journal.
Blood Trail, a standalone novel, "captures feelings of fear, grief, anger, and revenge" and the ambiguousness and seeming capriciousness of murder. Best friends Jeremy and Aaron, both seventeen, have been constant companions since second grade. When Aaron is viciously murdered—stabbed seventy-three times—fear mounts that a serial killer has struck. Suspicion soon falls on Aaron's brother Nathan, however. In fact, Aaron had told Jeremy that he has not been getting along with Nathan, and had begun to fear him. As the story progresses, Jeremy becomes less and less convinced that Nathan had anything to do with the murder, even though others remain quite willing to blame him. To Jeremy's horror, he believes that the real killer resides much closer to home, and may be his own sister Jamy. The book's "fast pace and suspense" will serve to "keep most readers, especially reluctant ones, engaged," commented Booklist reviewer Ed Sullivan.
Springer once told CA: "People often ask me how I can write novels for both children and adults. I can't understand why this should be such a strange idea to them. The way any fiction writer works is to get inside the main character, to see through the character's eyes, to walk around in the character's skin awhile—and when writing a novel for children the main character is a child, that's all. Style, vocabulary, subject matter, everything else follows naturally once the fundamental act of imagination takes place. It's no big deal.
"I think the reason I perplex people is that they have notions about children's book writers, rather as they have notions about nuns. Aren't children's book writers supposed to be set apart, different, teacherly, idealistic, morally pure? Don't they write for children because they are incapable of dealing with adult interests? Um, gee, sorry to disappoint, but my contemporary fantasies such as Larque on the Wing are quite adult in content. I write for children because I like kids.
"The biggest real difference between writing for adults and writing for children is the distance between me and the audience. In order to get a book anywhere near a child, I as the writer must run a gauntlet of adults—editors, librarians, teachers, reviewers, parents—many of whom are eager to censor out any bit of subversive mischief that might actually be of interest to a child. This is frustrating for me as a writer, that do-gooders are interfering between me and my readers.
"I am spoiled, perhaps, by having written fantasy for many years. In the fantasy/science fiction/speculative fiction field, I enjoyed a remarkable amount of creative liberty. I still write fantasy—for adults and children—but am more and more interested in writing about the real world in a fantastic way, integrating what I have learned from writing fantasy into what I want to say about contemporary life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, April 15, 1994, Julie Corsaro, review of The Boy on a Black Horse, p. 1526; September 1, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Toughing It, p. 36; February 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Camelot, p. 931; April 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Secret Star, p. 1322; April 15, 1998, Sally Estes, review of I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot, p. 1545; January 1, 1999, review of I Am Mordred, p. 782; November 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Ribbiting Tales: Original Stories about Frogs, p. 541; April 15, 2001, Sally Estes, review of Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest, p. 1561; February 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Separate Sisters, p. 939; April 15, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Rowan Hood, p. 1717; October 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Lionclaw: A Tale of Rowan Hood, p. 327; May 1, 2003, Ed Sullivan, review of Blood Trail, p. 1528; December 1, 2003, Jennifer Mattson, review of Outlaw Princess of Sherwood: A Tale of Rowan Hood, p. 669; May 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Wild Boy: A Tale of Rowan Hood, p. 1632; September 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Rowan Hood Returns: The Final Chapter, p. 137.
Horn Book, March-April, 1998, Ann A. Flowers, review of I Am Mordred, p. 219; November, 1999, Kristi Beavin, review of I Am Mordred, p. 765; March-April, 2002, Lauren Adams, review of Separate Sisters, p. 220.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2000, review of Plumage, p. 1514; November 15, 2001, review of Separate Sisters, p. 1614; September 1, 2002, review of Lionclaw, p. 1321; April 15, 2004, review of Wild Boy, p. 401; June 1, 2005, review of Rowan Hood Returns, p. 643; December 15, 2005, review of The Case of the Missing Marquess, p. 1328.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Lionclaw, p. 14; September, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Outlaw Princess of Sherwood, p. 13; May, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of Wild Boy, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 1994, review of Larque on the Wing, p. 80; July 11, 1994, review of Toughing It, p. 80; October 16, 1995, review of Camelot, p. 62; October 21, 1996, review of Fair Peril, p. 76; March 16, 1998, review of I Am Mordred, p. 65; June 26, 2000, review of Prince of Thieves, p. 77; November 6, 2000, review of Plumage, p. 71; March 6, 2006, review of The Case of the Missing Marquess, p. 75.
School Library Journal, July, 2001, Cheri Estes, review of Rowan Hood, p. 114; February, 2002, Laura Glaser, review of Separate Sisters, p. 138; October, 2002, Cheri Estes, review of Lionclaw, p. 173; May, 2003, Gail Richmond, review of Blood Trail, p. 161; September, 2003, Laura Scott, review of Outlaw Princess of Sherwood, p. 221; August, 2004, Cheri Dobbs, review of Wild Boy, p. 129; October, 2005, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of Rowan Hood Returns, p. 174; February, 2006, B. Allison Gray, review of The Case of the Missing Marquess, p. 137.
Fantastic Fiction Web site, http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Nancy Springer.
Internet Book List, http://www.iblist.com/ (September 10, 2006), bibliography of Nancy Springer.
Nancy Springer Web site, http://www.nancyspringer.net (September 10, 2006).
Penguin Group USA Web site, http://us.penguingroup.com/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Nancy Springer.
St. Louis Fandom Web site, http://www.stlf.org/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Nancy Springer.
SFF Net Review, http://www.sff.net/ (September 10, 2006), review of Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest.
SF Site, http://www.sfsite.com/ (September 10, 2006), A.L. Sirois, review of Prom Night.