Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

What's in a Name?
Interviewing Rosemary Edghill

By Lazette Gifford

osemary Edghill has been a professional writer since 1984, but you won't find her earlier works unless you know the secret password: eluki bes shahar. That's the name on her driver's license, and the name under which she sold her first short story, Hellflower, to George Scithers' Amazing.

This talented woman has written material ranging from science fiction to Regency romances, mysteries, and even an X-Men tie-in.  In addition to her own wonderful novels and short stories, eluki has worked with three of the most popular female writers on the planet, publishing novels with Grand Master Andre Norton, the prolific Mercedes Lackey, and the late Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Rosemary is currently working on collaborative projects with Mercedes Lackey and is in the early stages of working on a new epic fantasy of her own.

Rosemary's web site can be found at


Vision:   You've written in a number of different genres -- do you have a favorite? Is there one that you would still like to try and haven't?

Rosemary:  The book I'm working on at the time is always my favorite <g>. I do love writing Urban Fantasy, which is why the Bedlam's Bard collaborations I'm doing with Mercedes Lackey are so much fun, and fantasy historicals are my second favorite thing. The one genre I've never done - and the only one, BTW, since I've written everything from horror to technothrillers - is a Western. I'd really like to do a Western....

Incidentally, thanks to the Warren Concordance, I've finally been able to track down some of my early (mid-to-late 70s) work for the Warren Magazines. I was really surprised to find I'd actually had a story published in Vampirella, since I only remembered selling to Creepy and Eerie. Only about half of them made it into the concordance, for some reason, and I've long since lost all my copies, and my copies of the original scripts....

Vision:   So, what's the story behind the names? How did you go from one name to another?

Rosemary:  Turkish Delight - a Regency - was my first sale, and St. Martin's Press wanted a Very British pseudonym for it, since they really didn't think "eluki bes shahar" would fly on the cover. So with a little thought I came up with Rosemary (Rhett Butler's sister) and Edghill (Mom's maiden name). Edgehill - with an 'e' in the middle, is also the site of the first battle of the English Civil War. Can't get more English than that. (What my editor actually told me was that Corporate's opinion was that the readers' perception was that the books were written by dead Englishwomen, and could I please come up with a dead Englishwoman's name?)

So Rosemary went her merry way writing Regencies, while meanwhile her evil twin, eluki bes shahar, was writing the Hellflower trilogy for DAW. So comes the day when DAW wants me to try a fantasy series, and to keep people from thinking they were going to get more space opera, they wanted to put a new name on the cover, preferably one that would be easier to alphabetize. So rather than come up with yet a third pseud, I dusted off Rosemary (the market for Regencies having suffered one of its periodic die-offs by this point, and Ms. Edghill having gone into hibernation) and had her write The Twelve Treasures. Of which there are only three, alas.

I continued to use "eluki" on my short-story work for a few years, but then converted over to Rosemary there too, since it was less confusing for readers who might possibly be looking for my short fiction. Meanwhile, I did a couple of tie-in books and projects (a King's Quest novella and two X-Men novels) for which I used "eluki." For everything else, I ended up using "Rosemary," because that was the name that had become established.

I can't remember why I used "Rosemary" on the Bast novels, actually.

Vision:   You not only write in many genres, but you also publish short stories as well as novels. Which would you rather write? Is there a different approach to writing short stories as opposed to novels?

Rosemary:  Both lengths have their own rewards. I've started editing anthologies as well - I have one forthcoming from Warner titled Murder and Magic - and editing anthologies is Big Fun in a whole different way. But you can get a lot more experimental in a short story - try out different styles, approaches, characters. Sometimes you take a novel idea for a test-drive, as I did with "Little Rogue Riding Hood", which grew up to be the novel Warslayer. Other times you play with bits and pieces that didn't fit into a novel, as I did with "Riis Run" and "Read Only Memory", both of which are set in the Hellflower universe. And sometimes you just set the bar really high, as in "The Sword of the North" and "The Intersection of Anastasia Yeoman and Light", to see if you can do it. Both the last two are going to be in my forthcoming short story collection, Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which will be out later this year from Five Star Press. It's got a way cool cover....

Vision:   You have a new book, The Vengeance of Masks, coming out from Wildside Press. Can you tell us a little bit of the history of this book?

Rosemary:  I wrote it back in 1988, just to entertain myself, at the same time I was working on Hellflower. Literally. I'd write a chapter of one, then a chapter of the other. Originally Vengeance was two separate books, Vengeance of Masks and Dream Lover (which is Cady's story), but I realized it worked if I combined the two and did some heavy flashbacking here and there. But that was much later.

So anyway, I wrote them and nobody wanted them. They not only didn't want them, they hated them sincerely. My agent (this was a few agents ago) said she wouldn't even use the manuscript to line her birdcage, and I don't think she even had a bird. Everyone who saw the manuscript, in all its incarnations, for the next 15 years, simply said that there was no market for this kind of book, which made me sad, as I do love it dearly. But you know, now that Anne Bishop and Jacqueline Carey are out there, I think the story might get a little more sympathetic response from the readership.

Vision:  How much background work (like character creation, plotting) do you do before you begin the writing a manuscript? How much research do you do for Regency Romances and other historical works?

Rosemary:  I do a lot of research, both general research and targeted research. You never know when a fact is going to be useful. Right now I'm researching Early Hollywood for a project, and I'm still researching 60s San Francisco for a couple of projects. As for character creation, some of it I do on the fly, some of it I set up in detailed bios before I start the book.

I do a detailed plot before I start, and I try to stick to it. Since at this stage in my career I tend to sell on proposal, the first stage of a book is the short outline, which is basically a ten to fifteen page summary of the book. It's like a book report: you set up the situation and context, explain the main characters, gloss over the midsection, and get really specific about the ending, or, how the problem is solved.

Next comes the long outline. This one is about 35 pages. This is a scene-by-scene breakdown, one paragraph per scene, of all the action in the book. It should note, identify, and solve every action and structural problem in the book (it never does, but it should.) Sometimes a long outline gets appendices, which would be detailed character outlines, detailed scene and object and character descriptions, bits of dialogue and business too good to risk forgetting, and so on. I try to stick closely to the long outline. One paragraph of description equals five to fifteen pages of finished manuscript, so for a 100K book, the long outline is going to run about 70 scenes. I don't break a long outline down into chapters, but some people do.

(For a look at some of her background material check out: Background Documents: Links to Outlines, Proposals & Stylesheets on Rosemary's website)

Vision:   If you were looking for your first publication today, which genre do you think you would attempt?

Rosemary:  I think I'd probably go try to be a mystery writer. I'd make sure I had a good steady full-time job, of course, because the market is even tighter than it was when I broke in. But yeah... mysteries.

Vision:   What writers have influenced you and how?

Rosemary:  Too many to count. Damon Runyon and Mark Twain, for use of language. C. L. Moore and Eric Frank Russell, ditto. For storybuilding and sheer artfulness, John Le Carre. For language (again!) Margaret Atwood. For a great story, which is the First Thing in my book, John D. MacDonald, Peter O'Donnell, Ian Fleming, Leslie Charteris, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett (and we're back to the language thing again).

Kipling. Poe. Clark Ashton Smith. Robert E. Howard. Robert A. Heinlein. Lovecraft.  For that matter, I think I owe as much to the great editors of SF's silver age as to the writers, so here's to you: John W. Campbell, Groff Conklin, and Damon Knight.

Basically, it all comes down to one thing. I want a good story with prose that sings. I want a hero who is larger than life and death. I want villains with hearts as black as death and hell. I want love strong enough to stop time. If you can't give me that - if you won't give me that - don't waste my time.

Vision:   You've written a set of Alternate History Fantasy books (Shadow of Albion and Leopard In Exile) with Grand Master Andre Norton. What was it like to write with her?

Rosemary:  It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about putting a story together - what to put in, what to leave out. We spent a lot of time on the phone together assembling the world and the storyline. Then I'd go away and write a bunch of pages, and come back and discuss them with her. And we'd hammer out the fine details of the next bit.

Vision:   You've also written books with Mercedes Lackey in the popular Bedlam's Bard universe. Was there a lot of difference in working with her than with Andre Norton? If so, how?

Rosemary:  Misty does a lot more of the actual writing, though since the first book, we plot them together. For Beyond Worlds End, I started off with a detailed outline from her and the first 70 pages, and took off from there. Along the way, she sent me more chunks, which I incorporated as I reached the point they'd appear in the story. Then we swapped overwrites until the final product was all smoothed out. These days, once I finish the detailed outline, she picks her scenes and I pick my scenes, and we go off and write them, then shuffle them together. There's a lot of cryptic emailing back and forth the whole time, since she's the final canon arbitrator on what Underhill universe Elves can and cannot do. (I'm the one that made NYC a "no-fly" zone for Elves, though!)

Vision: You have also collaborated on a four book series (Ghostlight, Witchlight, Gravelight, and Heartlight) with the late Marion Zimmer Bradley.  What can you say about working with her?

Rosemary:  Working with Marion was great fun.  Because of her serious health issues at the time of the books, it was a different situation than working with Andre and Misty, and much more than in either of those cases, I was not only trying to re-create Marion's own style without intruding anything of my own, but to re-create her style from about 20 years ago, which involved immersing myself in her gothics, so I could not only pick up her style, rhythm, and word choices, but her ideas and her motifs.  I was working from some unfinished manuscripts that she passed on to me for source material, and I used a lot of elements from them.  Along the way I dug up some pretty obscure Bradleyana, like her "Sixth Sense" media tie-in, "In The Steps Of The Master", and a novel called "Can Ellen Be Saved?" which I think was based on a TV movie.  Marion was a journeyman pro in the grand old tradition, who wrote anything that had a paycheck attached.

Of course she oversaw everything I did, and when I finally got to meet her at the Fantasy Worlds Convention out in Berkeley, she told me how delighted she was with Heartlight, saying it was exactly the story she had always wanted to tell.  I was so pleased: plotting Heartlight was sort of a detective story in itself, going back through Witch Hill, The Inheritor, and Dark Satanic to pick up the scattered and fragmentary clues to Colin MacLaren's past and weave them into a coherent whole in line with Marion's overall philosophy.  Working with Marion really taught me both how to plot on an epic scale and to anchor a book in character at the same time. 

Vision:   What is it like to write media based novels like the X-Men? How does a writer get a media tie-in contract?

x-mencov.jpg (36320 bytes)Rosemary:  I've been an X-Men junkie since Issue #1, 1964, so it was a serious Dream Come True. I got to play with the Mutants!

Generally, tie-in contracts go to writers with something of a previous track record in published books, which I had. Often, their agent will suggest them for a project. Sometimes, in the case of something that has a huge appetite for material, like the Trek lines, they'll just go pitch (through their agent, of course, assuming they have one). In my case, I knew the editor of the line, who was looking for writers, and he knew I was an X-Men fan and he asked me if I wanted to submit a proposal. The important thing about my being a fan is because the other vital thing in writing tie-ins is a previous familiarity with the property.  You need to know Highlander, Buffy, Quantum Leap, Charmed canon off the top of your head, because nobody is going to spoon-feed it to you.

Vision:   The Bast mystery books are filled with New Age Wiccan views. What influenced you to write these interesting and popular books?

Rosemary:  I wrote the first one to amuse myself, and sold it on a three-book contract. As for why I wrote the first one, well, it's based on a true story. A friend of a friend of a friend (you know how these things go), a young woman in her late 20s, healthy (she'd just passed a medical examination to qualify for life insurance) went home one night, lay down on her bed, and died. And nobody ever knew why.

This being Real Life, this is as much of her story as I ever knew.

edgspeak.jpg (156583 bytes)But I knew bits and pieces of other people's stories. Stories about people surviving various emotional predators. And stories about people seeing ethical violations in the New Age Community, and finding a complete lack of interest from anyone when they tried to discuss the fact. And over the years, all these bits and pieces coalesced into Speak Daggers To Her.

Also, I have to admit, I'd gotten pretty tired of reading fantasy-driven Urban Witch stories. I wanted to write what was basically an ecclesiastical detective story where the denomination of the ecclesiastical detective happened to be Wiccan. Bast's closest spiritual cousin is Father Brown.

Vision:   The Hellflower books have been described as an exciting space opera, and highly acclaimed. Have you considered writing more along this vein?

edghell.JPG (157387 bytes)Rosemary:  As I mentioned earlier, there are two short stories, "Read Only Memory" and "Riis Run" set in the Hellflower universe. I've actually plotted another trilogy set 20 years after the end of Archangel Blues, called Steel Phoenix. But since Butterfly isn't really available to be the viewpoint character for the next trilogy, it wouldn't be very much like the Hellflower books. I would like to write more space opera though. Someday.

Vision:   Tell us about any upcoming projects on the writing horizon.

Rosemary:  At the moment, I'm mainly involved in collaborative projects with Mercedes Lackey. Mad Maudlin is due out this August, and then we're doing Music To My Sorrow, which is a sequel. I'm in the very early stages of working on an epic fantasy with a young female protagonist set in a world once ruled by evil Elves; some of the worldbuilding I did for that shows up in a short story I had in the Battle Magic anthology.

Vision:   You attend quite a few East Coast conventions. Do you think attending conventions is important for writers? If so, is it more important for established writers or new ones?

Rosemary:  It can be good to get out there and network, but only if it's something you find fun. If you hate it, that's gonna show, and it will end up doing you more harm than good. But if you're a cheerful gregarious type who wants to meet your fellow pros and chat people up, doing a few cons can't hurt. Just remember: you're there for the fans, the fans are not there for you.

Vision:   You share a home with cats, King Charles spaniels, and a sister who also writes. What is your average day like? Do you write every day?

Rosemary:  I write every day from 9 to at least five, depending, though sometimes I take Sundays off to run errands. My office is a mile from the house, so in good weather I walk the dogs down, settle in, get through the email, and get to work. When I'm feeling really uninspired, I revise the previous day's pages or work on something else that needs doing first - a new proposal, editing a story, something like that. If I'm "on", I go right into making new pages. I try to get through at least 10-15 new pages a day, but that's very rough draft.

Vision:   What advice would you offer to new writers?

Rosemary:  Don't quit your day job. It takes ten years to become an overnight success. Develop a really thick skin. No agent is better than a bad agent. Learn to write from an outline. Write every day. Your mind is not your friend. Life just is, art has to convince. Don't quit. Keep your manuscript in submission. Do not wait for the current project to sell before beginning a new one. Get a good accountant. Keep accurate records. Exercise frequently. Learn the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation: and use them. Check your facts.

Vision:   Anything else you would like to add?

Rosemary:  I think that just about covers it....

Click here for ISBNS, Sample Chapters and Cover Art 
to many of Rosemary's works