Born and raised in Suburban Pennsylvania, I went to an average elementary school where the AC did funny things and the water could taste like anything on any given day (Unless it was in the music room -there, it stank like rotten eggs and one press of the fountain could make the entire room reek). In my stay at that school, my favorite pastime was reading and drawing.
I had always loved to draw, and as far back as I remember, I drew. Of course, most of my stuff ended up being incoherent scribbles (but that was excusable, as I was still in the single-digits age range), but I didn’t stop. The reading, however, I blame on my dad. After kindergarten, where we had learned to print our names, he had made it his goal to teach me to read over the summer. So every time he stopped the car, he made me sound out the nearest sign. And I hated it. But I did it anyway.
When I entered first grade after what I considered the literary equivalent of boot camp at the time, I had a reading level well above my peers. My teacher even got me a few books she thought would interest me. One was H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, and the other was Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer. And around this time, my mother gave me the first Harry Potter book. And that sealed my fate.
Before those books were presented to me, around first grade, I only read nonfiction (Partially due to a love of science and the world around me, but mostly because I thought (wrongly) all fiction consisted of Junie B. Jones. I loathed those books. To me, they were a story about a girl living in a suburban neighborhood going to an average elementary school. I was bored with living that. Why in the world would I want to read it?), but the second I started reading the first Harry Potter book, I was in love with fiction. Specifically fantasy.
The Lord of the Rings was next. And then The Chronicles of Narnia. And then the Artemis Fowl books, Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series (Which expanded my concept of fantasy beyond traditional “fairy-tale” settings or the Medieval-esque world of Lord of the Rings and Narnia. And that was how a fantasy addict is made.
In fourth grade, I started writing my novel (Literally writing it out by hand in little hundred-page composition books I’d wear out). It was a shameless Tolkien rip-off, including abandoned, goblin infested dwarf cities and the obligatory elf. Then I shifted ideas again and again.
I kept doing this, going from fantasy to science-fiction (This was around the time I read Dune. A masterpiece of a novel, a must-read for any science-fiction fan!) during middle school until high school, where one of my teachers introduced me to The Dresden Files, and then The Wheel of Time. Amazing books, and they made me want to write even more. I had switched ideas again, but now I wanted to return to my original work.
It was around this time I went through a crisis of writing faith in myself. I didn’t think I could write well (due to some rather harsh criticism of work I had posted online (they were right in their critique of my works, but it was still harsh)) so I bought books on how to write. All of them had the same formula for character development; fill out this sheet, list everything, and then write away! That, suffice to say, didn’t work for me. I needed to be shown, and I knew how to fill out paperwork. What I didn’t know how to do was how to make my characters show through the writing.
And then I met Holly Lisle.
Her Create a Character Clinic was a breath of fresh air. It didn’t just show me how to write a character, it showed me how to build one organically, how to expand and change and let the character grow. I bought more of her clinics, and with her work, I grew.