Authors and Their Stories

As an author, I’m fascinated with where stories come from.


“Where do you get your ideas?”


This is the question you never want to ask at an author talk—it will elicit eye rolling, throat clearing, or a quick change of subject. Nevertheless, I love learning about authors and their stories.

We all live lives, right? From the place where lives and imaginations intersect, stories brew. I flip to the back cover and read the author bio early on in a story—just as I am getting the feel of their “voice.” Not all author bios are revealing, in fact many are not at all. But as you will soon see, Eleanor Glewwe’s is fascinating.


I read “Sparkers” by Eleanor Glewwe this week.

SparkersHere’s the book summary provided by the publisher:


“Marah, an underclass ‘sparker’ in a society ruled by magicians, works with her friend Azariah to find a cure for a mysterious disease that turns its victims’ eyes black.”


That summary leaves something to be desired… The world Eleanor has built, the city of Ashara and beyond, feels like a third world—I thought of China, though I’ve never been—full of color, defined by class structure. Music plays a major role, as do languages and education. Politics looms large, with its complex dance of power, its enormous influence and its weaknesses. Magic is real, friendship cuts across barriers, and solutions to the impending plague lie in uncovering history, cooperation among classes, and learning from past mistakes.


Here’s Eleanor’s author bio:


Eleanor Glewwe was born in Washington D.C., and grew up in Minnesota. She plays the cello and once braved a snowstorm to perform in a chamber music competition. At Swarthmore College, she studied linguistics, French, and Chinese and worked in the music library, shelving composers’ biographies and binding scores with a needle and thread. More recently, she haunted the tunnels under the Minnesota State Capitol as a legislative advocate. Eleanor lives in Los Angeles, where she is a graduate student in linguistics. Visit her at


Clearly, I’m a book and author geek…

but I loved getting a feel for where Sparkers came from—for how Eleanor’s personal world was built, and how her imagination wove this story from its foundation.

Perhaps the thing I like best about seeing these connections between authors and their stories is the way it reminds me that we all have stories to tell. Whether they are fictional or real-life stories, our stories are solid and powerful and important.

One thing I noted as a reader of this book—when a world is built with lots of new names for familiar things: places, titles, religions, etc.—it can get confusing and overwhelming pretty quickly. There is a glossary, which I bookmarked and flipped back and forth to frequently as I read. While not a linguistics student, I am good with languages. I soon learned the new words and their meanings. If I found it distracting or frustrating, that tells me some might find it a reason to stop reading.

This is a lesson to me in world building: too many new words can be difficult. (Readers of Sci Fi and Fantasy encounter this a lot—so that audience is well trained!)


Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe is a gripping book with engaging characters and a real-world-like social structure. I found it riveting, and definitely recommend it. Be sure to bookmark the glossary, and consider it a good brain plasticity exercise!





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