First of all, even though I was born in 1976, my parents were born in 1925 and 1930. I was the youngest (by far) of six and most of my nieces and nephews were born before me. As a little kid, telling and listening to stories was a big part of daily life. One of the family favorites was from an ancient book my grandma (1910) had, entitled something like Folktales From Around The World. Apparently it's no longer in print, for soon-to-be-obvious reasons. Every story in the book was gruesome, but the big hit was The Legend of the Hobyahs. It goes like this. (You'll have to imagine the illustrations of rolling giant maggots with tiny T-rex hands for yourself).
Once upon a time, in a cottage deep in the forest, there lived an old man, an old woman, and a little girl. They passed their days tending the hemp-stocks and playing with their Little Dog Turpy. Everything was fine until the Hobyahs showed up. They came rolling through the forest one night chanting, 'Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hemp-stocks! Eat up the old man! Eat up the old woman! Take away the little girl!'
But though he was little, Little Dog Turpy was brave, and he barked and growled until the Hobyahs ran away. The old man, who also happened to be a grouchy, ungrateful jerk, screamed, 'Little Dog Turpy! You have disturbed my slumber! If you do it again, I'll chop off your leg!'
So, to make a long story short, the next night the Hobyahs showed up again and same thing happens, and the old man cuts off one of Little Dog Turpy's legs. And again the next night, and the next (I think you know where this is going. Imagine the long, drawn-out, formal, Count Dracula-voice version, if you will). Each night this happened until finally, Little Dog Turpy, having no legs left to sever, got his head chopped off in thanks for trying to save everyone from the Hobyahs.
The following night, with nothing to stop them, the Hobyahs arrive at the cottage, tear down the hemp-stocks, eat up the old man, eat up the old woman, and take away the little girl.
They take her deep into the forest, and keep her in a sack, and once a day the Hobyahs open the sack (which you just know was itchy as hell) to peer down at the little girl and say, 'Look me! Look me! Look me!' (For some reason this was the most terrifying part of the story to me. Probably because it makes no sense and therefore must be code for something unspeakable. Kids have a sense for these things. Also, after he tortures and kills poor Little Dog Turpy, there's not much reader sympathy for the little old man or the wimp-ass little old woman.)
This goes on for a while presumably, until finally one day a kind and gentle hunter wanders into the forest and conveniently rescues the little girl, switching out his courageous German shepherd for her. The valiant canine stays still and quiet until the Hobyahs return. They open the sack to say 'Look me!' and the dog eats them up, leaving the hunter, the little girl, and the dog to live out their days in peaceful hunting-cabinness.
Now, by the time I was five, this story had reached massive popularity with my numerous nieces, who demanded it be told at every family get-together, completely oblivious to my terror.
Because by then my parents and I had moved to Miami. To a little cottage in the woods. An old man (who happened to absolutely detest the sound of dogs barking). An old woman. And a little girl.
No Little Dog Turpy.
The Hobyahs were going to show up. It was just a matter of time.
So naturally, when my mother and father asked me if I wanted to go to India, I jumped at the chance to heroically and fearlessly save their lives.
And that's how I grew up attending a very foggy, very moldy—most definitely but never scientifically proven to be haunted—boarding school in the mountains of Northern India. It was exactly like Hogwarts, only with terrible food, no boys, and no magic. Although, there were some pretty demonic monkeys.
I spent the majority of eight years skipping class to read books. Up until then, my mother had entertained me with at least ten stories every night—stories of heroes of unshakable faith, filled with miracles and magical adventures. Bible stories of great selfless sacrifice, Sikh history stories of warriors fearlessly fighting evil oppressors, victorious against
impossible odds. Tales of growing up during the great depression, brave patriots taking all kinds of inspiring losses defeating Nazis, endless fairy tales and, of course, true crime stories that demonstrated in gory detail why you should listen to your mom if you don't want to be brutally murdered by psychopaths. So I can tell you from experience, sadistic matrons and vile-stench-infused hair oil aside, it can be extremely tough to go from that much excitement to suddenly drowning in college math with absolutely no stories. I'm not encouraging anyone to hide under beds with books and skip class, but still! First grade calculus? And even on Sunday (Yes, there's school on Saturdays in India) it's difficult to watch Hong Kong martial arts movies and Star Trek when the electricity keeps going off, and batteries go dead no matter how many times to lick them and put them in the sun.
In those days there were some pretty weird punishments for getting caught reading a book, the worst of which was having it confiscated. Because feeling does eventually come back into your arms and legs after an hour of what translates as 'chicken holding its ears', but when you've just reached the bathroom scene in The Shining and your book is rudely snatched away from you? It can be damn traumatizing for an eight year old!
But I survived. With my love of reading firmly intact. It was eventually encouraged to flourish by literature teachers who recognized that drowning in math is not a mandatory life requirement. Plus, reading while you eat and walk between classes is allowed in America.
It took many, many more years for me to realize that writers are not Gods. At least, they surely can't all be Gods, right? Some have to be just people. And what one person can do, so can another. Also, it's never too late to follow your dreams and do what you love, even if you are thirty-seven and getting gray hair. Especially if you're over your fear of failure. Because what's the worst that can happen, right? No one buys your book? Or the two people that do give it
really mean reviews? Everyone you know thinks you're a dumb idiot? Pfft...
So I started writing stories.
And it turns out that writing really is every bit as much magical fun as reading.
That's pretty much my life story. I know. Over-privileged lazy people don't have lives that make for mind-boggling great tales, what can I say? I have no secrets so you can ask me anything you're curious about and I'll answer, provided the computer doesn't decide to start up some evil A.I. shenanigan to confuse me.
As of writing this, I live back and forth between the quiet high desert of The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) and an over-crowded, noisy village in Punjab, with my husband and two daughters, extended relatives, and a variety of animals, both wild and domestic. Some favorite pastimes include fantasizing about making friends with authors I love (do Gods and Goddesses need mortal BFF's?) while doodling YA fan art, watching action films, naps, generally avoiding exercise and social occasions, obsessing over books and, above all else, writing.
Life is a beautiful thing.