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Catherine Fisher (1957-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

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Born 1957, in Newport, Gwent, Wales. Education: Attended St. Joseph's, Newport, and Gwent College of Higher Education. Hobbies and other interests: Fencing, drawing, walking, gardening, exploring old castles.

Addresses

office—c/o Author Mail, Hodder Children's, 338 Euston Rd., London NW1 3BH, England.

Career

Author and teacher. Worked as a primary school teacher, broadcaster, archeological digger, and lab technician; full-time children's book author. University of Glamorgan, Glamorgan, Wales, instructor in writing for children.

Honors Awards

Welsh Arts Council Young Writers' Prize, 1989; Cardiff International Poetry Competition winner, 1989; Smarties Book Prize shortlist, 1990, for The Conjuror's Game; W. H. Smith Mid Boggling Award shortlist, 1993, for The Snow-Walker's Son; Tir-na-n'Og Prize, 1995, for The Candle Man; Whitbread shortlist for children's books, 2003, for The Oracle.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

The Conjuror's Game (also see below), Bodley Head (London, England), published in Three in One, Red Fox (London, England), 1990.

Fintan's Tower (also see below), Red Fox (London, England), 1991.

Saint Tarvel's Bell, 1992.

The Snow-Walker's Son ("Snow-Walker" trilogy; also see below), Bodley Head (London, England), 1993.

The Candle Man, Bodley Head (London, England), 1994.

Empty Hand ("Snow-Walker" trilogy; also see below), Bodley Head (London, England), 1995.

Soul Thieves ("Snow-Walker" trilogy; also see below), Bodley Head (London, England), 1996.

Belin's Hill, Bodley Head (London, England), 1997.

The Relic Master ("Book of the Crow" series), Bodley Head (London, England), 1998.

The Interrex ("Book of the Crow" series), Bodley Head (London, England), 1999.

The Lammas Field, Hodder (London, England), 1999.

Flain's Coronet ("Book of the Crow" series), Bodley Head (London, England), 2000.

Darkwater Hall, Hodder (London, England), 2000.

The Margrave ("Book of the Crow" series), Bodley Head (London, England), 2001.

Corbenic, Red Fox (London, England), 2002, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2005.

The Oracle ("Oracle" trilogy), Hodder (London, England), 2003, published as The Oracle Betrayed, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Snow-Walker Trilogy (includes Snow-Walker's Son, Empty Hand, and Soul Thieves), Red Fox (London, England), 2003, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Glass Tower/Three Doors to the Other World (includes The Conjuror's Game, Fintan's Tower, and The Candle Man), Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Archon ("Oracle" trilogy), Hodder (London, England), 2004, published as The Sphere of Secrets, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Darkhenge, Red Fox (London, England), 2005.

OTHER

Immrama (poetry), Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 1988.

The Hare and Other Stories, Pot Books, (Llandysul, Wales), 1994.

The Unexplored Ocean (poetry), Dufour Edition (Chester Springs, PA), 1994.

Altered States (poetry), Seren (Bridgend, Wales), 1999, Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 2000.

Folklore (chapbook), Doorstop Books, 2003.

Stories have appeared in anthologies, including Scared Stiff: Stories, edited by Wendy Cooling, Dolphin (London, England), 1997. Poetry has appeared in anthologies, including Twentieth-Century Anglo-Welsh Poetry, Seren; Oxygen, Seren, and The Forward Book of Poetry, 2001.

Adaptations

Fintan's Tower has been optioned for film.

Work in Progress

More fantasy novels.

Sidelights

Well known to middle-grade fantasy buffs in her native Great Britain, Welsh-born fiction writer and poet Catherine Fisher has become increasingly well known since novels such as her Whitbread Award-winning The Oracle have been published in the United States, Germany, Greece, and France. Released to U.S. readers as The Oracle Betrayed, Fisher's 2003 novel sets the pace for two other volumes in her "Oracle" trilogy, and also shows that her many other fantasy novels for teen readers are worth seeking out. Often featuring strong female protagonists, Fisher's stories are heavily influenced by Britain's past; for instance, her novel Corbenic retells the story of the Holy Grail as a modern-day teen named Cal is transported back to King Arthur's time while on his way to live with an uncle in Chepstow.

Fisher's "Oracle" series is set in a land that features a mix of Greek and Egyptian culture. In the first volume, which was released in the United States as The Oracle Betrayed, the story focuses on Mirany, a young woman who, in her new appointment to the High Priestess, Hermia, learns that the words of the god, as delivered to the priestess, have been twisted to benefit both Hermia and Hermia's ally, the cunning General Argelin. Determined to thwart the General's plot to take control of the land and wishing to fulfill the true wishes of her god, Mirany teams up with Seth, a scribe familiar with the underground tombs, and the musician Oblek, to seek out Alexos, the boy destined by the god to be his new Archon, or representative on Earth. Unknown to the young Alexos, his life is threatened by Hermia and the General, who wish to put another, more easily influenced, Archon in his place. In the second novel, The Archon—published in the United States as The Sphere of Secrets—young Alexos takes on his role of ruler and diplomat, while also hoping to avoid the ritual sacrifice planned by Hermia that would end his life. Together with Seth and Oblek, he leads a pilgrimage to the Well of Songs to attempt to end the long drought that has been brought about by the angry Rain Queen. However, this is a pilgrimage some do not wish the Archon to survive.

Describing The Oracle Betrayed as a "sprawling, atmospheric adventure," a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Fisher for creating a "crisp, quickly moving narrative and fully fleshed-out characters" that combine to "keep readers hooked." A Kirkus Reviews critic also found much to enjoy in the novel, praising the book's "genuinely chilling" ending and noting that Fisher's "heroes are likable but realistically flawed, her villains despicable and menacing without being stupid." Michele Winship in Kliatt cited the development of awkward and immature Mirany into a self-assured young woman as one of the novel's major strengths, and described The Oracle Betrayed as a "fast-paced and intriguing tale," while in Horn Book Anita L. Burkham commented that "the mythology that underpins Mirany's world is richly imagined." Due to Fisher's skill as a writer, Burkham added, "thoughtful readers will delight in the interplay of the allegorical with the literal, expertly balanced against each other."

Fisher was born and lives in an area of Wales called the Gwent Levels. Discussing her fantasy writing with Duncan Higgitt in an article posted on the IC Wales Web site, Fisher described the Levels as "very flat, very watery, very spooky at night," and noted that her 1994 novel The Candle Man is set in this region. The strong Welsh storytelling tradition that began with the ancient stories collectively known as the Mabinogion, has also inspired much of Fisher's fiction, including her "Snow-Walker" trilogy, which focuses on the sorcerer Gudrun, who emerges from the snows at the world's edge and aggressively takes over leadership of the Jarl people. The 2005 novel Darkhenge also takes its setting and inspiration from Welsh tradition, although its mystery is centered in the present day.

In addition to writing fantasy novels, Fisher has also penned short fiction and has published several highly praised volumes of poetry. She credits her love of words to her Welsh heritage, noting in an interview posted on the HarperChildrens Web site: "A basic love of words (rich, ornamented words) and poetry is very Celtic. Also I have a great interest in spirituality and in the landscape—woods and trees and the history of how people have lived on the earth. Both of those are highly Celtic obsessions."

Fisher continues to live in Wales, sharing a home with cats Jess and Tam. When not writing, she spends a great deal of time reading, and has also taught the craft of writing for children. In addition to reading, she enjoys fencing, walking, and exploring the ruined castles that dot the British landscape. Although she enjoys futuristic writing, she does not mix technology with her work as an author; she does not own a computer and does her research the old-fashioned way: without the Internet. Enthusiastic about the fantasy genre, she offered this advice to beginning authors during an interview posted on the Random House Web site: "Read a lot of the sort of book you want to write. Then read behind those books, from the older layers of story they come from. Write what you want to write. Don't be put off by uninformed comment, but if someone knows what they're talking about and gives you advice, listen to them. Believe in yourself. We can all do a lot more than we know."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2000, Patricia Monaghan, review of Altered States, p. 1839; February 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 1059.

Horn Book, March-April, 2004, Anita L. Burkham, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 181.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 132.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Michele Winship, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1995, review of The Unexplored Ocean, p. 102; January 19, 2004, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 77.

School Library Journal, March, 2004, Margaret A. Chang, review of The Oracle Betrayed, p. 210.

ONLINE

Bookloons.com, http://www.bookloons.com/ (November 22, 2004), Ricki Marking-Camuto, review of The Oracle Betrayed.

Catherine Fisher's Home page, http://www.geocities.com/catherinefisheruk/ (October 21, 2004).

HarperChildren's Web site, http://www.harperchildrens.com/ (November 22, 2004), interview with Fisher.

IC Wales Web site, http://www.icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/ (July 3, 2003), Duncan Higgitt, "Fear Factor."

Kids at Random House, http://www.randomhouse.co/uk/ (March 17, 2005).

Sci-Fi-Online, http://www.sci-fi-online.50megs.com/ (November 22, 2004), Amber Leigh, review of The Archon.*

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