Monday, August 22, 2011

An Introduction: Pat Esden

First I want to thank all the other Cabinet members for inviting me to be a part of this blog--and for sending me questions that were remarkably harder to answer than I’d anticipated.

Official Bio: Pat Esden would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries—or of slogging around in swamps, calling birds and studying wild plants. When stuck indoors, Pat was likely to be found brewing up a concoction from plants she’d harvested in the woods or huddled over a paperback gothic novel that she smuggled into the house. Over the years, Pat slowly migrated north. She can now be found in her Vermont country store, arranging flowers and selling funky collectables and antiques. Pat writes YA and middle-grade fantasy, both contemporary and historical. Her short stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and Wildside Press’ Cat Tales.
Cabinet: Tell me about the kids that hang out at your florist shop. Any characters that really inspire? Do they chat and learn flower arranging, or stick to themselves? I’m so curious.
Pat: Except for ordering prom and dance flowers, I don’t get a lot of kids hanging around the floral end of my business. However, I do travel to schools and give design demonstrations. Oddly enough, the boys seem to enjoy those demos as much as the girls (Well, I do tend to be pretty interactive and I prefer noisy groups to quiet orderly ones). The kids who do hang around the store are either into candy or the antiques (specifically, knives, vintage jewelry, antique bottles or books). As for characters--yes, I meet an incredibly wide range of people through my businesses.

Cabinet: I’ve heard that you know how to find edible mushrooms in the wild. That seems really brave! Are mushrooms really as deadly and scary as we believe?
Pat: Yes, I do collect mushrooms and other edible plants. No, I’m not brave as far as mushrooms go. I stick to easily identifiable ones.  When I was little, my older sister and I watched an episode of Twilight Zone which involved poisonous store bought mushrooms. Afterwards, my sister gave me a nasty smile and told me I better watch what I ate. That was when I decided picking my own food was probably the safest way to go.

Cabinet: If you could be any species of plant, what you be?
Pat: That’s easy to answer. I have endless favorite plants but if I had to be one, it would be a sundew. They live in wonderful, remote places, and are beautiful and fascinating—the bejeweled vampire of the flower world. 

Cabinet: Who is your favorite writer of gorgeous, evocative settings?
Pat:  This is an interesting question. I think for a setting to be both gorgeous and evocative it has to blend and interact with the plot and characters. In other words, a great setting is a character as well as a backdrop and tone setting devise. Charles de Lint’s MULENGRO and Carolyn Chute’s BEANS OF EGYPT MAINE achieve this to a high degree, as does Kathi Apelt’s THE UNDERNEATH and Diane Setterfield’s THIRTEENTH TALE, and most recently Victoria Schwab’s NEAR WITCH.
Yeah, that’s not one writer, but I included specific books to redeem myself.

Cabinet: Who is your favorite writer ever?
Pat:TerryPratchettJohnFowlesTHWhiteAnnRiceVictoriaHoltGeorgetteHeyerJamesJoyceWendleBerryRobertFrostOctaviaButlerNeilGaimenHollyBlackMelissaMarr . . . Okay, I’m going to settle on Peter S. Beagle--THE LAST UNICORN and all his other stories.

Cabinet: Who is your favorite writer currently writing in your genre?
Pat: This is another tricky question. I read for pleasure and for learning, so this would be the author of any fantasy on my bedside table right now: Terri-Lynne Defino, Kersten Hamilton and Mandy Hubbard (Ask me next week for a different answer).

Cabinet: Which cartoon character would you like to be?
Pat: I’m going for Rico in The Penguins of Madagascar.  Yeah, he’s psycho, but sometimes a feel a bit too restrained. Besides, his ability to vomit up whatever is needed could come in handy.
If we’re including classics, then I’d go for Sherman in Peabody’s Improbable History. I love stories involving fractured history, and can’t think of anything more fun than traveling in my own WABAC (wayback) machine.

Thanks again, guys. This was fun.


  1. Favorite wild mushroom? We're big fans of chantrelles here in our WWA corner.

  2. Chantrelles are yummy, but puffballs are my favorite. They are tasty and pretty much impossible to mistake for anything else.

  3. Great interview, Pat. Your store sounds great, and I love the photo with the dog at the door. Awww. I bet he/she brings in lots of customers. =)

    I've never seen Penguins of Madagascar, but now I'm going to have to.

  4. I've always been a great fan of cartoons. The Penguins amuse me in a demented sort of way.

    And you're right, the dog has lots of fans, dispite being a bit stinky right now.