Underwood, Laura J. 1954-
Underwood, Laura J. 1954-
Born December 2, 1954. Education: Attended the University of Tennessee for two years. Hobbies and other interests: Mysteries, fencing, fantasy and science fiction, history, folklore, drawing, sketching, embroidery.
Home—TN. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and librarian. Lawson McGhee Library, Knoxville, TN, librarian. Has also worked as an artist, a harpist, a stable groom, and fencing coach.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Keltora, Land of Myth (stories), Embiid Publishing (Waianae, HI), 2001.
Bogie Woods and Other Tales of Conor Manahan, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2001.
Tangled Webs and Other Imaginary Weaving, Dark Regions Press (Orinda, CA), 2002.
Ard Magister, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2002.
Shadow Lord, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2003.
Magic's Song: Tales of the Harper Mage, Wildside Press (Rockville, MD), 2003.
Gather My Bones (CD-ROM), Eggplant Literary Productions (Bolingbrook, IL), 2003.
The Chronicles of the Last War, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2004.
Marking the Signs and Other Tales of Mischief, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2005.
The Hounds of Ardagh, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.
The King's Wind, Carnifex Press (Ormond Beach, FL), 2006.
Dragon's Tongue (book one of "The Demon Bound" series), Meisha Merlin Publishing (Stone Mountain, GA), 2006.
Song of Silver, Dark Regions, 2007.
The Lunari Mask (bound with Sabre Dance, by Melanie Fletcher), Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2007.
(With Selina Rosen) Bad Lands: A Holmes & Storm Mystery, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies, including Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress V, DAW (New York, NY), 1988; Catfantastic 5, DAW (New York, NY), 1999; Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XVIII, DAW (New York, NY), 2000; and The Four Bubbas of the Apocalypse, Yard Dog Press (Alma, AR), 2003. Contributor of articles, stories, and poems to periodicals, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Horse and Horseman, New Millennium Writings, American Horseman, Appalachian Heritage, and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. Book reviewer for Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Laura J. Underwood is the author of critically acclaimed fantasy tales and novels, including The Hounds of Ardagh and Dragon's Tongue. "There is a complexity to the genre that appeals to me," Underwood told Kenneth Mark Hoover on the Strange Horizons Web site, adding: "I'm a natural born storyteller, and fantasy offers me a medium for stretching the muscles of my imagination as well as using the folklore I grew up savoring."
Underwood often sets her work in the mythic world of Keltora. The Hounds of Ardagh centers on Ginny Ni Cooley, a mageborn who uses her magic to aid the villagers of Conorscroft. When Ginny saves a boy, Fafne MacArdagh, from a pack of hounds led by the demon dog Nidubh, she finds herself embroiled in conflict with the bloodmage Edain. According to Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada, The Hounds of Ardagh is "peopled with likable, resourceful characters." Sherwood Smith, reviewing the work on the SF Site, similarly noted: "The good guys in this story are colorful and appealing, the villainess someone you can enthusiastically hate, and the subsidiary characters a great deal of fun."
Dragon's Tongue is the first entry in Underwood's "The Demon Bound" series. The novel concerns Alaric Braidwine, a young bard with a gift for magic who is accused of smuggling a demon into the Council of Mageborn and falls prey to Tane Doran, a blood mage. Reviewing Dragon's Tongue in Kliatt, Lesley Farmer stated: "The plot has interesting twists and turns, and several characters grow in this fantasy tale," and Teresa Edgerton, writing on the Chronicles Network Web site, remarked that "Underwood's straight-forward style keeps the plot moving, and her sense of humor further enlivens the tale."
Underwood told CA: "My interest in writing first sprang up in my childhood. My parents have said that I was reading to myself by the time I was three, and I had many books in my possession. I had a fondness for telling tall tales, the result of sitting and listening to my elders sharing family histories and stories, and for talking out loud to myself—a habit my mother often tried to discourage because in those days, people thought you were crazy. It wasn't long before I figured out I could bypass parental disapproval by transferring those stories from my head to the written page so I could keep my fantasy worlds alive.
"I do not count [author J.R.R.] Tolkien among the authors who influenced my early work (though in later years, I admit that I read him and enjoyed his work). I was more into reading Alexander Key, Lloyd Alexander, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Allen Smith, Marguerite Henry, William Faulkner, the Bronte sisters [Charlotte, Emily, and Anne], C.S. Lewis, and Edgar Allan Poe as a child, but my earliest influences are admittedly the folk and fairy tales I used to read, as well as the mythologies of other cultures and Mighty Mouse cartoons. (Yes, many of my stories have a bit of ‘Here I come to save the day’ woven into them. Good versus evil, and good nearly always wins.)
"Being a full time librarian means that my writing has to fit into my work schedule. In my early years, I would hurry to finish my homework while still at school so I wouldn't have to carry my schoolwork home and could spend time writing my own stories. The habit of writing when there was time to spare—be it waiting in the dentist office or riding the bus—continues even to this day. I call myself ‘The Lunch Writer’ and use my lunch breaks at work to produce a lot of work. I also spend what time I can find on evenings and weekends writing. As for the actual process, I am just as at home with pen and paper as with laptop or PDA. I do not use outlines, but let spontaneity lead my story along. Sometimes, I think I just follow the characters and record what they do. Other times, it is like this great deep well that suddenly gets flooded, and I am scrambling to follow the flow wherever it takes me.
"The most surprising thing is that there are so many ideas out there just waiting to be written, and even when one is writing something that has been written before, there is always a new way to look at old stories. Many of the tales that I have read as a youth—the folk and fairy tales—manage to work their way into my stories either as part of the background or part of the plot, but I never cease to find a ‘different’ way to present the material. It's all a matter of playing ‘what if.’
"Asking me which book is my favorite is like asking a mother to choose which of her children she likes best. I will say that I am overly fond of writing the tales of a certain Keltoran mercenary and his healer wife and adopted son. The characters of Conor, Eithne, and Rhoyd just entered my life at a perfect time, and of course, their tale, Ard Magister, was the first novel I sold. You do tend to favor your firstborn."
When asked what kind of effect she hopes her books will have, Underwood said: "To entertain readers, to amuse them, to satisfy them, and to just have them saying ‘thank you,’ because they have read a really good story and enjoyed it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kliatt, May, 2006, Lesley Farmer, review of Dragon's Tongue, p. 16.
Library Journal, April 15, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of Dragon's Tongue, p. 71; September 15, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of The Hounds of Ardagh, p. 55.
Chronicles Network,http://www.chronicles-network.com/ (April 24, 2006), Teresa Edgerton, review of Dragon's Tongue.
Laura J. Underwood: Harper Mage, http://www.dm.net/˜harpermage (April 15, 2007).
Laura J. Underwood Home Page,http://www.sff.net/people/keltora (April 15, 2007).
SF Reader.com,http://www.sfreader.com/ (November 1, 2002), James Michael White, review of Tangled Webs and Other Imaginary Weaving.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (April 15, 2007), Sherwood Smith, review of The Hounds of Ardagh.
Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (May 10, 2007), Kenneth Mark Hoover, "Interview: Laura J. Underwood."