The Thorndike Press large print edition of The Reluctant Fortune-Teller comes out on August 1, 2018. In honor of this beautiful version, here is a post on my own fortune-telling childhood.
Readers love to know where novelists’ ideas come from. At book signings, readers ask me how I came up with the idea of writing about fortune telling. Of all the questions I could get, that’s the easiest one.
I didn’t have to do any research about card reading or psychic consultations. I learned all about it during my childhood, from my mother. She considered herself to be a witch.
What did your mother want you to be when you grew up?
My mother wanted me to be a psychic, the way other kids’ parents wanted them to be beauty queens or A-students. She looked for any evidence she could find that I had “the gift.”
For example, whenever we moved into a house–which happened about every two years, she would ask me to predict how long we would be there. I would shrug and say, “Oh, I don’t know. About two years?” I was working from the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Two years later, my impressed mother would declare, “You were right! You predicted we’d be out of here in two years. You must be psychic!”
I never predicted anything that couldn’t be explained by logic, but my mother was never discouraged about my psychic potential. She introduced me to every occult book she could find.
Maybe your mom taught you how to knit or how to drive. My mom taught me how to read cards, palms, and tea leaves. At twelve, I was drawing up astrological natal charts, and at fifteen I was gazing at auras. It was all a lot of fun, and unlike my character Norbert, I wasn’t a bit “reluctant” to tell fortunes. It was a great ice breaker when I got to my college dorm.
All of us, as kids, want to be what our parents hope we will be. But we also know who we are. My mom wanted me to be a psychic, but in my heart, I always knew I was a writer. All along, I saw my yet-to-be-written novels lined up on a bookshelf, somewhere in the future. If my mother were alive today, she would say, “See? You saw it before it happened. That means you are psychic!”