I grew up in the Monterey Bay area of California, but my family always maintained close relationships overseas as well as locally, so I had the chance to travel and to learn French at an early age. For a while I wanted to learn “every language” (until I figured out exactly how many there are!).
I’ve always been very interested in science, and toyed with becoming a Biology major in college, but after suffering in Organic Chemistry I decided that language was the way to go. When I showed up at the Linguistics department talking about the fascinating links between language and culture, they sent me over to Anthropology. In the end, I majored in Anthropology and Japanese as an undergraduate, and then turned to theoretical Linguistics for my Master’s degree. In fact, my linguistics department at UC Santa Cruz was once home to Marc Okrand, who later invented Klingon – okay, so it’s a coincidence, but I like it…
I’ve lived in Japan three times. The first was during my senior year of college, when I lived with a host family in the city of Kyoto – a fascinating city full of marvelous treasures and history. The next year I lived in Tokyo, where I met my Australian husband, Tim. Once back in the US, I taught Japanese for two years before beginning my Ph.D. in Education. In my dissertation I combined everything I’d done before, looking at cultural clashes in classrooms where American students were learning Japanese, and investigating how those clashes influenced the students’ use of politeness grammar. My research took me back to Japan and involved lots of listening to people talk, and breaking down how they expressed information about social position.
I started writing fiction while studying for my Ph.D., and by the time my degree was finished and my son was born, I realized I’d never stop writing. At this point I work at home, caring for my kids and writing. I owe a great deal of my success to the unfailing support of my husband, who has made it possible for me to have spare moments, and to travel to writerly events.