When I was little, and played 'let's pretend' games with my cousin in which we spun out elaborate futures for ourselves and were trying to put a shape to our dreams, she always prentended to be a vet. A vet who catered to dogs, to be perfectly precise. She, who lived in a poky little apartment with barely enough room for her human family and certainly no space to swing the proverbial cat, lived and dreamed dogs who would surround her future self. As for myself, I 'wrote'. I would be surrounded not by dogs, but by words. My own words..
In a moment of frightening prescience, those two children were both right. She became the vet she dreamed of becoming, and she breeds prize-winning Golden Retrievers as a sideline. I... became a writer.
I wrote whole books in my head when I was a pre-schooler. I started wtiting stories down 'for real', in hardcopy, in notebooks, before I was ten. I wrote my first 'novel', or at least a novel-length manuscript. It was painfully derivative and horribly overblown and thankfully does not survive, but it was some 40,000 words by a PRE-TEEN -- I was eleven. My second was done by the time I was fourteen, and THAT one I still have, written out in pencil, in longhand, on 520 pages in three A4-size hardcover notebooks. It was STILL overwritten and it had painful flaws (please don't ask me about the love scene) but the bones of it... are surprisingly good. The story holds up all these years later. That first awful novel was not wasted - it was practice. It was honing the craft that I knew would take me to the stars.
I wrote a story which won a national writing award for children when I was only 12 years old. I wrote REAMS of poetry (some of it is still remarkably coherent!) by the time I was 15. There was another novel by the time I was 16. Another by the time I was 19 - a short one, barely novel-length, but it was *good*, good enough to skate THIS close to being published. The report on the thing, which the would-be publisher actually showed me, began, "This is a work of remarkable maturity for a nineteen-year-old writer, and I have no doubt that she will be a major writer one day..." (but you can hear the BUT coming...) Nothing came of that, except that those words had been said by a VERY well known award-winning writer who had been coopted for that report by the publisher.Nothing came of it in a practical sense, but those words were bricks in the wall of the edifice that I was building, and the walls of the house were rising, getting higher and sturdier every day..
I went to my first science fiction convention in Auckland, New Zealand, in April of 1995. I went largely because one of my favourite writers of all time, Roger Zelazny, was to be the Guest of Honour - and what's more he and his fellow GoH, Vonda McIntyre, would be holding a writing workshop for a lucky five participants on the occasion. I was immensely fortunate and privileged to obtain a place in this workshop. Both the pros were amazing - treating the five of us starry-eyed aspirants not as pesky children who were hanging onto their elders' coat-tails, but rather like younger colleagues who were only just beginning the journey that they themselves had been on for some time. When my story came up, my peers gave their opinions on it, and Vonda McIntyre handed me back her copy of it annotated to an inch of its life in the margins, but Zelazny just sat there, smiling at me, his hands steepled before him. He said he only had two questions for me. He wanted to know how long I had been writing (and I told him, forever - I had been playing at this as a toddler, back when my cousin and I were working out our future and our place in the world). And then he wanted to know whether I had read and/or written a lot of poetry (and to this I said 'yes'). And then he said, in words that remain etched in gold in the back of my mind and to which I return as though to a talisman every time I get discouraged or blocked or depressed: "It shows. You have a voice all of your own. Nobody else will ever write like this."
Mere months after this encounter, Zelazny was gone, taken by the cancer from which he was already suffering at the time of the convention. But the legacy he left me is beyond price. He made the dream I'd had all my life... a posibility, a root in reality. If he said what he said, if he believed what he said, then I had a fighting chance. And by God, I would take it.
The next novel was written while I was pursuing a graduate degree in Microbiology (and being reasonably competent at it, despite being told by at least one enlightened friend and younger staff-member in my department that I was "misguided"). That novel languished for almost twelve years in chrysalis form - and then, after I had moved to New Zealand, I showed it to the NZ branch of Harper Collins, who were branching out into a line of fantasy. And they published it.
Well, published THEM, in practical terms - the publisher took one look at the quarter-million-word manuscript by a completely unknown author and split the book into two volumes, to make it easier to handle. The books became Changer of Days volume 1 and volume 2, published in NZ in 2001 and 2002, and subsequently republished in the USA as "The Hidden Queen" and "Changer of Days" in 2005.
But in the meantime I had written another book. And this one spread out vast wings of angels and flew. To date, "The Secrets of Jin Shei" has been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide - and its successor, "Embers of Heaven" has six languages to its credit so far.
Then I did something different again - I wrote a YA trilogy, Worldweavers ("Gift of the Unmage", "Spellspam", "Cybermage") which brings me right up to 2009.
What was I doing while these books were being published? I was writing more books. Two new novels have been completed over the last two years. I'm about to start another.
I know that I have been very lucky, and very privileged - I've been a full-time writer now for a decade, making a sometimes better sometimes worse living at it but still - this is my primary job, this is what I do. The man I married understood this about me right from the start - the marriage compact was, YOU write, I'LL deal with the household chores. When writing "The Secrets of Jin Shei" I never knew when the laundry was done, or how the food was prepared, or if the house was cleaned. He took care of all of that. I wrote. It's what I do.
I'm still writing. I can point to bulging shelves of books now, all with my name on the cover, and I can say, when people ask me what my job is, "I'm a writer".
That little girl playing at scrying the future, the little girl who wanted to grow up surrounded by words, would have nodded in satisfaction and told me, "I told you so".
I write. That's who I am. That's what I do.