Thanks for stopping by my website, and for taking time to read my Bio page. Instead of diving right into the usual Author Bio stuff, I’d like to talk a little about four concepts that are important to me, things that shape and inform the stories I write.

  • Everyone has a story.
  • People can change.
  • Families are complicated.
  • The past matters.

Everyone has a story.

I believe a reader should come away from a story feeling that every character is living a full and complex life just beyond our view. Every character–not just the hero of a multi-book series, but also the second banana who dies midway through book one and the tavern wench who’s “onstage” for less than five minutes. That girl is a real person, someone who goes home after a long day’s work to feed her cat and treasure her dreams. If you don’t get that impression, I haven’t done my job.

Perhaps a character has a small role in this particular story, but he’s still the center of his own story. That’s something I try to keep firmly in mind, IRL as well as in fiction.

People can change.

One of the most compelling aspects of any story is character arc–how people change and grow through the experiences they have and the choices they make. I not only believe that people can change, I believe that we do it all the time.

Every choice has the potential to become a habit, every habit defines our character and shapes our potential. Thanks to three years of studying what happens “under the hood” during habit acquisition, I’ve come to realize that concepts such as “talent” and “intelligence” have more to do with habits than genetics.

Families are complicated.

We all have odd twists, turns, and dead ends in our family pathways. Fiction gives us a way to explore how people deal with the complexities of human relationships. Several of my stories deal with father-daughter relationships. Oftentimes the daughter, for one reason or another, grows up alone. When she meets her father as an adult, they’re strangers, and they seldom see eye to eye.

My fantasy characters have tangible reasons for this estrangement. Arilyn’s parents were kept apart by a magic sword and a vengeful elven queen. Bronwyn was captured as a child and sold into slavery while her paladin father was out doing paladin things. Liriel’s father killed her mother–the only way he could “gain custody” in the matriarchal dark elf society–then promptly dumped her into foster care. Tsigone grew up on the streets of Halruaa, not knowing that her father was the wizard king and that she, by extension, was the world’s most unlikely princess. And so on.

For most of us, the circumstances aren’t quite so dramatic, but everyone, from time to time, knows what it’s like to feel alone in the midst of people who supposedly know you best. Everyone who enters adulthood with living parents experiences the weird process of 1) starting to see your parents as not just parents but people, 2) realizing these people are strangers to you, and 3) learning to reconcile childhood memories with adult realities.

The past matters.

My characters are likely to be bards, people who know the power in old songs and tales and who find answers to present challenges in ancient lore.  That’s partly because I’m a history geek with a music degree and a lifelong fascination with folklore and mythology. But fundamentally, I believe  a knowledge of the past is not an esoteric indulgence, but a practical necessity.  History tells us what succeeded and what didn’t. It helps us avoid repeating mistakes. It shows us where we’ve been, how we got here, and where we’re going. It helps you understand who you are and why you think and believe what you do. It gives you a sense of roots, and adds depths and resonance to the present moment.

Those are a few of the things I consider important, which probably tells you a lot more about me–and definitely gives you a better idea of what you’ll find in my stories–than you’d get from a conventional Author Bio.  

But, hey–let’s cover all the bases.

I’ve been married to my long-suffering high school sweetheart for over three decades. We have two adult sons, one of whom is married to the World’s Nicest Person. We live in coastal Rhode Island and spend a great deal of time hiking various New England trails.  We’re avid board gamers and play several times a week. I sing with the Providence Singers, a chorus affiliated with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and occasionally play the celtic harp.

People who are interested in odd anecdotes and curated bits and pieces of Life As I Know It are invited to join my facebook friends list and follow me on twitter.

43 thoughts on “Bio

  1. I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I was eleven- I’m almost seventeen now, and I still love your books. I can’t wait to read your new work! 🙂

  2. I’ve always found your writing to be fluid and poetical. Elfshadow and Elfsong being my favorites. It’s great to see you on the Word Press platform, Elaine.

    I wish you many adventures with your novellas and other pursuits.^^

  3. Greetings,

    I’m new to this whole site, but I had to join as you happen to be a favorite author of mine. Although I’ve only managed to afford the Starlight and Shadows trilogy I loved it and keep on going back to it to watch my favorite scenes unfold before me again.

    It’s really that series that introduced me to your work and I’ve looked for your name on books since. I’m glad to see you are still writing.

  4. Elaine, out of all the authors of Forgotten Realms literature out there, you are definitely my favorite. Your style of prose is engaging and fascinating. Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

  5. Hi,
    I just read The Windwalker and I think the whole story is amazing, so I would like to thank you. You gave me another magical story which can please my mind.

  6. Like your work ,especially Evermeet and Radient Sphere. What do you think of joining the New Pulp Revolution at Amazon .com and tossing out 100 page novels for .99cents the way john locke and some other authors are doing?

  7. I loved all your Forgotten Realms stories. Lirial’s in particular. Will you be furthering her story in the future with the changes to the Realm’s since the Spellplague?

    1. Hi, Serena.

      Delighted to hear that you enjoyed Liriel’s tale. At this time there are no plans to continue her story, but if the right opportunity arose, I’d love to revisit Liriel and her elven pals.


  8. Hello Elaine

    Huge fan!

    I am reading Evermeet and loving it. However, i’m writing some books of my own and doing lots of research in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and I was wondering of the inconsistencies in elven history of Forgotten realms. In particular, the dark elves. I was wondering what your thought is about how they became distinct from the green elves and why their skin became “dark brown.” You write as if their skin was ebony from the start, but others refer to them as dark brown in color and that their skin only became black when Corellon cast them out and they “Descended.”

    Best Regards!

    1. Hi, Seth. Glad to hear you’re enjoying Evermeet.

      The answer to your question comes in two parts: 1) With each edition change, game designers tinker with the drow. These changes result in inconsistencies. Evermeet was written when 2nd edition rules were in effect. Since then, several very significant changes to the drow have occurred. Way back in the early days of D&D, drow were considered rare and possibly mythological. Most accounts said that they were black because they were cursed for their evil ways. Once Drizzt happened and the spotlight turned on drow, writers and game designers began to flesh out drow culture and history. Along the way, they adjusted for changing views (such as the implied racism of equating black with evil) and gamer inclinations. People loved Drizzt and wanted the drow to be available as player characters. Before edition 3.5, drow magic and magical items were destroyed by the sun. Doing away with this rule added flexiblity for drow PC characters and drow-as-monsters encounters. Fourth edition had “good brown” turning brown and “evil drow” staying black. I’ll be very interested to see how the drow are defined in the upcoming 5th edition!

  9. Greetings,

    First of all i am thankful of your wonderful stories. I am a huge fan of Danilo&Arilyn. Is there a no chance that we may read a new novel about them?

    My regards,

    1. Hi, Eren. Thanks for the kind words. There are no new stories about Dan and Arilyn in the works, but I’d hate to rule out the possibility entirely. I really enjoy spending time with these characters and would welcome an opportunity to explore what they’ve been up to.


  10. I’ve been a long-time admirer of all things Forgotten Realms and especially yours and R.A. Salvatore’s contributions. My roleplay character is lythari and I’ve used what I’ve found in your books and from the Winterfell book to develop her storyline. From this has progressed a number of continuing short stories that I hope to edit into some sort of cohesiveness. Your works inspired my character into existence, and I wish to thank you for the hours and hours I’ve spent in her world.

    1. Hi, Katy! Thanks for the lovely note. I’m very fond of the lythari, as well. I find them far more interesting than werewolves. as well as an intriguing way to think about elves. The lythari’s dual nature is a physical manifestation of elves’ close connection to the natural world, and as such, serves as a reminder that elves are NOT humans with pointy ears.

      Humans see nature, and in particular our “animal nature,” as something to be feared, something to transcend. So werewolves are all about “the beast within”–which translates to angst and danger and violence and gore and twisted sexuality. When humans turn into wolves, they’re monsters. When elves turn into wolves, they’re furry.

      If I return to the Realms, I’d love to spend more time with the lythari. There’s a hidden lythari theme that runs in a thread through my FR stories, and I’d love to pick that up again. 🙂


  11. When I was in high school I started reading the Harper Series books, of which you wrote Elfshadow, Elfsong, and Silver Shadows which I read and completely enjoyed. In fact I have played several MMO’s and use the name Arilynsky (a more male name) for my character name. Sort of a spin off of Arilyn. Arilyn and Danilo are my favorite of your characters and love the way you spin the tale. The books have had such fond memories to this day that I recently found those three and had them sent to a very dear friend of mine thinking she might enjoy them as much as I do and know why I named my character after this half elf.

    Many thanks for such fond memories.

    1. Hi, Jerry.

      I love the name “Arilynsky.” Not only does it sound more masculine, it has the added benefit of sounding Polish!

      Okay, now I’m getting a mental image of a bunch of elves doing the Polka. I think it’s about time for me to turn off the computer for the day…

  12. I am a Huge fan. You and Salvatore are my favorite writers. My favorite characters of yours are Arilyn, Elaith, and liriel. I love the way you portray the Elves in your stories. I notice you have said that you left the realms. Is there any chance of you going back and continuing the stories of some of my favorite characters?

    1. Hi, Doug. Thanks for the note!

      Here’s the problem with returning to the Realms: The timeline was advanced 100 years into the future, so many of the characters will be long gone (unless their lifespans were preserved by extraordinary magical means.) Is there a chance? A small one, in that I’m not ruling out the possibility, but at this time I am not working on an FR story.

  13. Reasonably speaking, are there any hopes of hearing more of Liriel Baenre? I Literally dozens copies of the Starlight and Shadow Trilogy have passed through my hands that I have bought extras of just to make sure I have a copy to pass on to friends. I have the audio books, the eBooks, my hardcover copies are looking rather sad because I’ve loaned them out so many times. I’ve had a great many people that agree with me when I say, the wild little Princess has shown more character and more growth in her three books than other characters that have gotten twenty books.

    Or are our fears true? That since the Realms were handed to lesser authors whom were employed to kill off characters in canon defying ways to shoe horn in 4th edition, the world we loved has come to an end? Are we going to continue to lose our best authors and characters because of this need to shrink the world?

    1. Hi, Kaote. I’ve often thought about continuing Liriel’s story, but I think the odds of it are pretty slim. Right now, the novels department at WotC is…non-existant. There are only 3 books planned for 2015, and the editing has been shopped out to freelancers. I have no idea what the future holds for Forgotten Realms fiction.

        1. Hi, Kaote. I keep in touch with some of the FR authors, editors, and designers through Facebook and email, but I’m not in the “official loop.” Just so you know, there IS no in-house fiction department at WotC at present. The books on the schedule for 2015 will be edited by freelancers. I’m not sure who’s calling the shots at present, and I don’t know what plans WotC has for the future of fiction. It will be interesting to follow.

  14. Hi Elaine,
    This is a followup question to the one posed by Doug Mealing. Just because the FR timeline advanced so much, would you ‘have’ to write in the same timeline? Could you continue with Dan and Arilyn where you left off in Spheres? Did Reclamation’s time line follow right after Spheres? Would your hand, no pun intended, be forced by WoTC guidelines or rules?

    1. Hi, Mark.
      I haven’t been in the FR loop for quite a while now, but last I heard, WotC was adamant about keeping fiction in “current time.” In fact, I got the distinct impression that a major reason for advancing the timeline was to provide a definitive cut-off point for most of the continuing stories. WotC’s stated objective was to make the Realms less daunting for potential readers by providing a new “starting point.” Having books set in past time, about characters who’ve had several other adventures, would negate this strategy. Obviously, Drizzt and Elminster are exceptions to this.

      Yes, the events of RECLAMATION followed DREAM SPHERES. If memory serves, that would put most of the action in 1364-1365, Dale Reckoning.

  15. Hi Elaine, I just wanted to say that your book Daughter of the Drow is my favorite book in existence. My copy has been through hell and back. The back cover has fallen off and it’s horribly frayed, but I can’t bring myself to get another because it means so much to me. I’ve never really had the nerve to send you a message, but I’m feeling particularly brave at the moment, so I figured I’d do it. Your literature is sublime and has helped me through some very tough times, and I hope to read more of it in the future when I have the funds to purchase more books. I hope you’re doing well.

    1. Hi, David. Thanks for the note! Very much appreciated.

      I’m doing well, thank–busy with a bunch of projects and looking forward to spring and hiking. 🙂

      As for books, have you considered checking with your local library? There might be some copies available, either paperback or ebook.


  16. I have been a fan of your forgotten realms works for years. My question is will there be a follow up to Dream Spheres?

    1. Hi, Gary.

      Unfortunately, a sequel seems unlikely. The 100-year time jump that happened with fifth edition D&D effectively put an end to most of the ongoing story lines.



  17. Hi Elayne,

    I love all your stories, my favorite characters are usually elves and I love how many of your characters are somewhat conflicted with their nature or circumstance, outsiders if you will. Like Ferret, Kiva(my favorite) and of course Liriel.

    I wanted to ask you about the Tale of Sevrin novels and if there are any plans on those stories. I’ve only read the first two and haven’t found the third yet. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, and I can’t wait to see more from you in the future.

    Your adoring fan,

    1. Hi, Andy. I put the Sevrin storyline on the back burner for a number of reasons, so the third book was never written. Not sure what I’m going to do with this story. Right now, I’m focusing primarily on non-fiction and writing the occasional short story. There’s an new anthology in the works that I hope you’ll enjoy. And yes, it does have an elven character. 🙂

  18. I have a vivid memory of my 14 year old self looking through some books in a Barnes & Noble. I had minimal experience with D&D and none with the Forgotten Realms, yet I knew I liked fantasy fiction and I wanted to start reading more of it.
    Where should I start, though? I had heard none of these authors, titles, or characters. I only barely recognized that Forgotten Realms logo. There were several other Forgotten Realms books on that shelf, and countless more fantasy books of other imaginations.
    It would have taken a lifetime to explore all the choices I had before me, but I only had $10 and a single afternoon to pick a book. Such a heavy decision my 14 year old self had to make that day.
    In my hand was a book titled Daughter of the Drow. A pretty dark-skinned elf and a rugged young man were on the cover. The cover seemed to promise adventure and romance. Is that what the Realms had to offer? Would these two show that to me? It looked as good as any other book to me, so I figured I’d take that one.
    I fell in love with the book that evening. I fell in love with the Forgotten Realms in the following months as I read other books by Elaine Cunningham. I fell in love with reading as a form of entertainment and as a playground for my imagination in the following years as I explored more and more stories.
    And in recent years, I’ve fallen in love with writing, wanting to share my imagination the same way the author of Daughter of the Drow shared hers.

    To you, Elaine Cunningham, I say thank you. I turn twenty-nine this year and yet my imagination of wondrous fiction remains an important part of my identity. Telling stories, writing stories, sharing and living stories with others… These are the joys that Dungeons and Dragons represent to me, and I credit my love of D&D and the Forgotten Realms to the story Liriel and Fyodor. My 14 year old self didn’t know at the time, but picking a certain book that day so many years ago turned out to be a decision of a lifetime.

    1. Jason, thanks so much for sharing this! I believe that stories are important and powerful, but it’s easy to lose sight of this from time to time. When writing is a struggle, a reminder of the value of what we do can be an enormous help.

      Wishing you joy and success in your writing,


  19. After too many years to count, I still can’t get Starlight & Shadows out of my head. When I have to remember my favorite authors, your name always makes the list with Stephen King, Louis L’Amour, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen. Thank you for crafting such brilliant stories and inspiring me as both a reader and a writer. I wish I was going to be in Indianapolis to see you at Gen Con! I hope you have a fabulous time there. =)

  20. Hi Elaine,

    I’m an old school gamer (early 80s) that’s reconnecting with the “magic” of my early gaming experience. As a 48 year old…have to say I truly enjoy the novels written in the 80s and 90s. In some ways, I think we’ve lost something with the digital age. The new generation is less likely to experience the joy of thumbing through a paper copy novel. Then again, guess I’m old school like that.

    Suffice to say, I was reacquainted with your work in the “Realms of Shadow Anthology” and loved it. I’ve just ordered a copy of your “Songs and Swords” books to continue my deep dive back into the glory days. I can’t wait to get started.

    All that to say…I understand that buying used books doesn’t kick royalties back to you personally. But perhaps a reminder that your works are enduring and still beloved might make you smile. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.

    1. Hi, Jason. Thanks for the lovely note!

      I was speaking with my son last night via Skype. He has been reading digital books recently but was very excited about his new copy of a Terry Pratchett novel, and the rediscovered tactile pleasures of a physical book. I love ebooks for convenience, but as delivery systems go, it’s hard to beat ink and paper.

      I have no problem with used books. Books want to be read, and sitting in someone’s shelf is not their idea of fun. I’m always happy to see them finding a good home and new readers. 🙂


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