|I was born in Florida in the latter half of the 20th century. My father was in the Navy, so we moved about quite a lot. My first memories are of the north, since we lived in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania until I was seven. I loved it - then Dad was sent south, and there began my exile. No snow, no autumn leaves, no seasons. I wouldn't have put it that way at the time, but that sounded like the depths of Hell to me. AND it was hot! I have never liked hot, and I desperately missed the north.
Right about then I started reading voraciously - I'd started early and adored the other places that books took me to - and fairly quickly I realised that you can only read The Three Musketeers so many times before you know it verbatim, and then where do you go for the rest of the story? Well, the library didn't have any more Dumas, so I just made it up. With myself in the starring role, of course, as another Musketeer who entered the company rather like D'Artagnan.
What, be a GIRL? No chance! They were either helpless, like Constance Bonacieux, or evil, like Milady de Winter. Thanks, but no. And all the pretty little girls that our heros swived were just being lied to and used. Forget it!
Then I read The Count of Monte Cristo - and the women were all pretty much helpless or, if powerful, evil. Hmmmm. Robin Hood was a little better, but Marion still didn't do a lot, so I had to be one of the men. Then the Arthurian legends caught my heart - ho boy, no female role models there! Faithless Guinevere made my skin crawl, Elaine was a passive/aggressive manipulator, and the Lady of the Lake consisted of an arm. Great. So I had to be a knight. Hmmm.
Then came the love of my reading life, J.R.R. Tolkien, with a prose style to lie down and die for, and a sure grasp of myth that made my heart sing. And there were women, and they didn't just sit around being drips! A warrior woman! Wow!! Yeah, that was me, Eowyn, slaying the lord of the Nazgul, and with one of the best lines - "Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!" Now, that was something you could shout with fervor. However, as I grew older, I realised that Eowyn was a bit - how shall I say this - damp. The British call it 'being wet' - the Americans call it being a wimp. What, a warrior who's a wimp? Well, perhaps that's too strong. I could bore you for pages with my thoughts about Eowyn, but in the end of the day, she still lets the men around her decide her destiny and nearly kills herself in the process. Death or glory. It's such a guy thing! Not bright, and not healthy.
You must realise, I never noticed any of this at the time. I knew I had to 'play men' a lot in my imagination, but as time went on I just made myself a woman in disguise in these stories I was composing, or was a little girl (which I still was in real life), and the characters listened to me. And I listened back…well, we travelled around a lot and you can't keep friends at that age who live the length of the country away, so I had imaginary friends, like so many in that situation - only mine were D'Artagnan and Athos, Robin Hood, King Arthur, the passionate Edmond Dantes, and that mighty king-in-exile Aragorn son of Arathorn. Lying awake at night, I had great adventures with them all, and eventually I found that they didn't always run to script. That was when it got really fun.
In the mean time, I was desperately reading Nancy Drew books to (1) try to keep a toe in the realm of what my contemporaries were reading, and (2) well, at least they were all girls, they were (more or less) in the real world, and neither evil nor foolish! The more I read, the more I realised that there were very, very few girls out there in literature to emulate. If only Elizabeth Moon's Paksennarion had been around when I was a kid...
However, in this I was saved by - who else? - my mother. If you've read Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books (and if you haven't, start now, they're terrific!), and know the character Cordelia Vorkosigan - well, she and my mom could have been sisters. My mother had opinions of granite and was a true Southern belle: an iron hand in a velvet glove. If life had been different, she'd be ruling the world even as we speak, or at least the US. (No need to get greedy.) In her, I saw a woman who was brilliant and talented and strong, and showed it, and intelligent men fell over themselves to be near her, to do her the least service and be rewarded with that glowing smile of hers. She wasn't a classical beauty, but it never mattered to anyone. She was kind to the unfortunate, generous to those who needed it, and a rock against which fools and bastards dashed themselves to pieces. It was a damned hard thing to fight against as a teenager, but dear heaven, that was a role model! It's a safe bet that all that is best in Lanen Kaelar is based in all that was best about Martha Newman Morris.
Hmmm - typical novelist, this is getting overlong. Back to the plot, Elizabeth!
I went to St. Andrews University in 1976, and when I stepped off the plane that October day - literally from the moment I put a foot on Scottish soil - I knew I had come home. The air was blessedly cool, with a tang of winter that made me weep with the memories it brought back. I had come home to the north. So strange - it was as if a great weight had lifted from my shoulders. The place, the people, the language, everything was just right. It's a curious feeling, being at home so far from where you were born, but after all, being in the Navy, nowhere was home, particularly. I've lived in Scotland, on and off, ever since.
I adored St. Andrews, but struggled to get a degree. I wasn't used to working that hard! It was certainly an eye-opener, and I just scraped through, but get a degree I did. It was one of the first of my 'If I can do this, I can do anything' events. Handy, those. They do teach you that you can get through damned near anything, one way or another. Scary as hell while you're doing it, but dear heaven, the freedom that comes once they are done, and the strength you develop while undergoing those tempering fires! Whether you want to or not...
Writing is an amazing profession, and I am still honoured (not to say astounded) to realise that I'm a real writer, after all those years. The self-discipline is the hardest part, sitting down in my tiny office in front of a computer. I'm a gregarious soul, and I miss the company!
So far I've only written three books - well - only had three books published. Not the same thing. Song in the Silence, The Lesser Kindred and Redeeming the Lost.
Thanks for dropping by, and thanks so much for reading my work - I'll see you in Kolmar!