"I always wanted to be a writer but everyone kept telling me it was impossible to break into the field or make money. I've proven them wrong on both counts."
-Barbara Hambly


Barbara Hambly was born in the Naval Hospital of San Diego, California, on the 28th of August, 1951. She grew up in Montclair (in southern California), except for one high school semester spent in New South Wales, Australia. Besides the usual compliment of parents, she has an older sister (Mary), and younger brother (Ed).

She attended University of California at Riverside, specializing in Medieval History and eventually earning a masters degree in 1975. She also spent time in Bordeaux, France as part of her studies.

Anyone who's read the standard bio knows that she was attracted to fantasy after reading The Wizard of Oz "at an early age", and in fact, there are reference to this work scattered throughout her books. I believe that the older version of the standard bio went something like, "and then progressed through Tolkien, etc...". Hambly's Ingold Inglorion, from The Darwath Trilogy, gained his name from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings; both Ingold and Inglorion are monikers found in the trilogy. I've had several letters documenting references to or visits by Mary Poppins, the Beatles, Han Solo (outside of the Star Wars books, obviously), and The Phantom of the Opera in various Hambly books.

She searched for a job that would allow her time to write, trying various positions: (recite them with me, now...)a high-school teacher, a model, a waitress, a technical editor, a professional graduate student, an all-night clerk at a liquor store, and a karate instructor. She also wrote scripts for cartoons at one time, including three for the show Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and one for He-Man. She has been contacted about writing an adventure/fantasy Comix series, and has contributed a graphic novel to The Victorian, a comic series produced by Pennyfarthing Press.

In 1982, Del Rey published her Time of the Dark, and the Darwath Trilogy was born. From there, she proceeded to a historical mystery - The Quirinal Hill Affair, now out of print - a format that she returns to with the Benjamin January murder mysteries. Her first volume of "straight" historical fiction - a book about Mary Todd Lincoln called The Emancipatorís Wife - is already gaining her a new audience. Not too many years ago, Barbara Hambly could be defined as a fantasy author, but her very successful foray into historical mysteries has earned her a whole new set of mystery-loving fans.

In fact, even her fantasy books are hard to pigeonhole into any given category. Several have definite historical themes (the above-mentioned, plus The Magicians of Night, an excellent blending of fantasy with the Nazis of WWII, and Bride of the Rat God - Chinese culture and turn-of-the-century Los Angeles and Hollywood).

Others are written for universes/story lines not her own. She has written for the Star Trek universe, including the "intentionally silly" Trek book, Ishmael (her words, not mine), a crossover between the television program Here Come the Brides and Star Trek itself. Her other Trek books are Ghost Walker and Crossroad. Her renditions of the Beauty and the Beast television program (Beauty and the Beast and Song of Orpheus) are beautifully done as well. And of course there are her two New York Times Bestselling Star Wars books, Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight. The newest installment in this theme is Magic Time, inspired by and co-written with Marc Scott Zicree.

There are dragons; the excellent story Dragonsbane is often cited as a "favorite" Hambly book; a trilogy revisiting the Winterlands appeared more recently, with the further adventures of Jenny, John, and Morkelb concluding (for now, anyhow) in Dragonstar.

Another theme is vampires; Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling With the Dead, as well as the short-story collection she's edited (Sisters of the Night), deal with the stalkers of the night. Those Who Hunt the Night has been optioned for a film a few times (with Harrison Ford as James Asher, or at least Hambly would like it that way, and Johnny Depp as Ysidro). This leads to one of her writing techniques, which involves "casting" the main characters. This way, she can hear and see them, thus making them more alive. Tom Baker was her choice for Antryg Windrose (check this out, he looks just like the way I pictured Antryg). James Asher also appeared in earlier stories of hers, set in the Wild West.

Oh yes, and we mustn't forget romance. This generally is worked into the plot line, subtly and well, and has earned her some accolades from fans of science-fiction-romance. In the fall of 2004, Harlequin will publish Barbara's first foray into "straight" romance, a contemporary romance novella (also classified as "spooky" and "occult"!), called Someone Else's Shadow.

One common theme of her fantasy works is that of cross-over, where a character from one universe, often from California, crosses through the Void to another (The Windrose Chronicles, The Darwath Trilogy, Sun-Cross) - this category could conceivably be extended to include Ishmael. Another theme seems to be estrangement of (adult or young adult) children from their families (Stranger at the Wedding's Kyra, The Quirinal Hill Affair's Marcus, Gil and the Icefalcon from the Darwath Trilogy, and Joanna from the Windrose Chronicles, for example). Stranger at the Wedding was based in part on her visits home to spend holidays with her family, with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (can you see her tripping over everything? Haha!) cast as the two main characters. She also manages to get a good bit of humor into her books; not of the rolling-on-the-floor variety, but generally more wry or sarcastic humor. I particularly enjoy the way her mages are feared/hated yet completely passionate about what they do - which is a jolly good way of portraying them, if you think about it. Her background in SCA and karate means that when Hambly characters go into battle, the action is plausible, and her mages actually get tired, work hard to understand and learn power, and set limitations on their spells.

Partly because of her history background, one of the things she does very well is setting the scene for the stories she writes. Even the alternative-universe books are researched (for instance, the Windrose Chronicles are set in, roughly, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the Sun-Cross books are Roman-ish, and the Sun Wolf/Starhawk books Renaissance European). The Benjamin January books are of course the best example; the copious dedications to the Historic New Orleans Collection attests to someone not unfamiliar with dusty archives and libraries! The Emancipator's Wife, and its soon-to-be sister novel Patriot Ladies branch further, into straight historical fiction.

She has been the President of the Science Fiction Writers of America (1994-1996), has been a Locus award winner, and a multiple Nebula award nominee, and Guest of Honor at many conventions over the years. She has admitted to not being good with titles for books (perhaps The Quirinal Hill Affair would not be out of print today if her original title idea, The Baby Eaters, had stuck). She enjoys many non-writing hobbies, including karate (she holds a black belt in Shotokan Karate), dancing, painting, historical and fantasy costuming (something she's enjoyed since high school), tarot card reading, and the occasional bout of carpentry (this makes me wonder about that "big ugly house"...). I don't know if she's still involved in SCA, but she was once a member, and has been known to attend Renaissance Festivals.

Currently, Barbara lives in Los Angeles (and I'll not speculate any further about the big ugly house part...except to say that the kitchen has now been redone) with cats, lizards, and two "of the cutest Pekinese in the world." Her mother might add that she takes care of said dogs when Barbara goes on vacation.

What does the future hold? More books, of course! January of 2007 will bring Patriot Hearts, concerning some of the early First Ladies, and Renfeild: Slave of Dracula emerges in September, 2006.