I was born and grew up in Nevada -- everywhere from small towns like Hawthorne and Tonopah to the big cities, Las Vegas and Reno. Even when we settled in Reno, we didn't stay in one house too long, so some of my best friends were always books. Books didn't care if I changed schools, if I never listened to popular music on the radio, or if I was inordinately proud of how well I'd done on the latest test. (Looking back, I am amazed and grateful for the real-life friends who put up with that.)
At an early age, I knew what I was going to do with my life: I would be a doctor, a pediatrician to help kids. A fortune-teller, I was not.
I dabbled with writing, primarily playing with poems, although I had one rather short-lived attempt at a historical romance novel. (I'd recently overdosed on Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer, with side helpings of Phyllis Whitney, Helen MacInnes, and Mary Stewart.) However, having been told that I needed a science background to get into medical school, I didn't spend time on a lot of other electives in school. Even in college, I only picked up non-science courses that my major (biochemistry) required. This, I regret. College should have been when I took everything that sounded fun and even remotely interesting, and that's what I recommend to others now -- whether you want to be a writer or a policy buff in an embassy, however focused on a specific goal, take whatever interests you now. It's much harder to find time to go back later, and a broad background is helpful in life.
When I applied to medical school, I was turned down. They wanted evidence from my activities that I knew what was involved (like, say, volunteering as a candy striper at one of the local hospitals, or joining the Pre-Med Honor Society). Oh, and a broader interest base wouldn't have hurt, either.
At that point, I knew I needed to get a job, get some experience, and maybe reapply in a year or two. One of my professors recommended me for a laboratory technician position (at the medical school), and so I went to work. I did not, however, begin volunteering or doing anything else that would increase my chances of getting in if I reapplied.
Rather, I joined a fencing class, as I'd wanted to learn to fence for years. Also, I went back to writing. Sent out submissions to Asimov's and Sword and Sorceress, and was very miffed that they didn't recognize my genius and sent me form letters. Kept working in the lab, kept writing short stories, started a novel (fantasy), and began planning a second novel (science fiction)
Then a well-meaning friend told me I should focus more, not spread myself out by trying to write and do science and whatever else. Basically, she said I needed to decide what I was going to be when I grew up, and I believed her.
I shelved the writing and applied to graduate school, specifically molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. I wasn't high on UCB's list of applicants, I know -- I wasn't asked to come visit until the final round, and at that, they called me only a week beforehand. I've always assumed that someone higher on their list had already told them that the student would be going elsewhere. However, they called me, they accepted me, and off I went.
The less said about graduate school, the better. There was definitely some similarity in my preparation for medical school and graduate school -- I had no idea what the life was really like, what would be expected of me, or how I should go about pursuing my goals. I had a wonderful advisor, good friends, and thesis committee members who were friendly to talk with except during an actual committee meeting. I also had a lack of clear vision for my thesis project and no real idea of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to focus on after grad school, which my thesis advisor tried to point out to me. I don't always listen well.
Then came the accident that changed my life. For the record, don't argue right-of-way with a motorboat propeller. I spent a month in the hospital, and then more months at home recovering. When I went back to the lab, although I spent some time trying to work on the project I'd started before the accident, I also talked to my committee members, looked into other options (like a degree in science writing), and even considered teaching high school biology.
I discovered freelancing. I studied and worked and started my own business, The Well-Chosen Word, doing indexing, copyediting, and proofreading of nonfiction texts. Joy! I could work at home, set my own hours, and do many different projects.
Along came the Wizards of the Coast open call for The Maiden of Pain. I met lots of cool people pursuing writing as a career, and one of them pointed others toward both NaNoWriMo and Forward Motion for Writers. I was hooked.
I've spent the years since learning the craft, writing, editing, submitting, and learning the business. This time (I think) I have a better idea of what I'm getting into.
I still run my business, and I spend time with my husband, our two children, and our English cocker spaniel. We've also had cats in the past, and they're also in our future (certainly if the kids have their say). Time away from the keyboard goes to gardening (when the weather isn't too cold or too humid -- which leaves maybe three weeks a year), knitting and crocheting, quilting, cooking, reading (always reading!), and doing my best to avoid unnecessary housework (Buying groceries is necessary, as are cooking meals and cleaning up afterwards. Clean clothes are necessary. Everything else is negotiable.).