I grew up in New Zealand with a mother who was a former librarian and avid reader and a father who was a hydrologist and keen cyclist and tramper (that’s what we call hiking in New Zealand).
I had a gorgeous childhood full of both words and landscapes, with long summers spent on the South Island’s West Coast: hot days lounging and reading on bunk beds, cycling country roads and hiking dusty tracks humming with cicadas, not to mention swimming in rivers.
Margaret Mahy has written an excellent piece about growing up in colonial landscapes while reading stories from other places, and I know that my landscape experiences in New Zealand definitely influenced my imagination as I built pictures in my mind that went with the stories I read when I was young. From L. M. Montgomery’s Prince Edward Island to Ursula Le Guin’s Northern California, my imaginings of places will always be overlaid with the places I call home.
My mother loved reading Science Fiction and my sister and I grew up on a steady diet of speculative titles. I am forever grateful to Dunedin Public Library for having a dedicated Science Fiction and Fantasy section, which introduced me to so many wonderful ways to think about the world.
I am sure that all this influenced my honours thesis in English Literature, which in many ways was about place attachment and conservation principles: exploring environmental and utopian discourse in Californian Science Fiction.
These days, I read widely for work and especially enjoy quirky historical and literary fiction. I very much like super librarian Nancy Pearl’s idea of doorways into reading, and my doorways are definitely Language and Setting (that’s not to say that Character and Plot don’t make for a good book, but superb writing and interesting settings are what draw me in).