When Answering Questions from Fans, Don’t Pull the Answers Out of Your Ass

… without first consulting Google, or referencing a dictionary or …
10th – 12th century embroidered band (and not something I pulled from my ass).

Better yet, don’t pull answers out of any bodily orifices that don’t contain biochemically encoded encyclopedias.

Of course, if I’m giving you this advice, then I clearly already made the mistake for you. You see, it started like this …

My daughter loaned her copy of The Grasp of Time (plug! plug!) to one of her classmates with the caveat that she has to return it before Christmas Eve. So, her friend starts reading it right away, since dear daughter’s been talking it up for quite a while now.

While she’s waiting for her bus home, my daughter relays her friend’s question to me: “When and where did the tapestries originate from in the House of Forgotten Shadows?”

What? I thought. How the fuck should I know? But oh yes … I’m supposed to know. After all, Robin and I have been crafting this universe for twenty years, so surely I can summon my muses to tell me.

Like any writer on a high from receiving a complex question from a reader, I didn’t wait for research or reason, and immediately texted back, “It’s from England. Before the Norman Invasion.”

But oh-ho! Any Anglo-Saxon or textiles history buff would be all over me in a trice, but it would take me an hour to know why.

As it turns out, while Anglo-Saxons had been making textiles to hang on their walls to keep warm since about the 3rd century CE, they didn’t call them “tapestries,” since “tapestry” originates from the French word “tapis” (full etymology here), and thus hadn’t entered into Old English vocabulary. Instead, they hung textiles, usually embroidered, and not as ornate as those of the future English tapestries after the 12th century. This explained why I couldn’t find anything about them–in England–prior to 1138, and all of my Google searches only turned up pages and pages of links about the Bayeux Tapestry.

Once I’d completed the research, I was able to amend my statement to my daughter’s friend:

The “tapestry” Piotr stares at in the House Master’s room is a secular, Anglo-Saxon textile snagged prior to the Norman Invasion, around the 10th century CE. It is embroidered, and more detailed than most. The House also contains tapestries and textiles from various times and locales, including a 3rd c. CE Coptic tapestry from Egypt, a Persian one from the 9th century, a German one with birds from the 12th century, and a Chimú tapestry from the 14th century.

All this is to remind other writers: don’t pull answers out of your ass when you’re answering fan questions. Pause. Take a moment if you aren’t certain. I have no idea (yet) how to do this successfully at a panel, since all of the panels I’ve been on didn’t directly relate to my writing. I’ll let you know once I’ve made those mistakes.

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