I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on December 11, 1945, the first of three girls. Six years later my family emigrated to England where my father, an ex-policeman, wanted to study for the Anglican ministry. We lived in an ancient and very dilapidated cottage in the heart of the English Buckinghamshire woodland, and later in a small village in Oxfordshire called Great Haseley. I grew up surrounded by countryside that I observed, played in, and grew to know and love passionately, and I wrote lyrically of its many moods.
My father had his first parish in Oxford, so in 1956, having passed the eleven-plus exam, a torture now fortunately defunct, I attended what was then the Oxford Central School for Girls. I was a very good student in everything but mathematics. Any academic discipline that is expressed and interpreted through words I could conquer, but math was bewildering and foreign, a maze of numbers and ridiculous symbols with which I had nothing in common. I liked chemistry, because I was allowed to play with pretty crystals and chemicals that behaved as if they had magic in them. I studied the violin, an instrument I struggled over and gave up after two years, and the piano, which I enjoyed and continue to play, along with the recorders. Music has always been important to me.
Then in 1959 my father accepted a parish in Virden, Manitoba, and the family left for Canada. After three months at the local high school, I was sent to a boarding school in Saskatchewan. It was the most dehumanizing, miserable experience of my life. In 1961 I began one inglorious year at the University of Manitoba’s Brandon College. I did not work very hard, and just before final exams I was told that my sister Anne was dying. I lost all interest in passing.
Anne wanted to die in the country where she was born, so we all returned to New Zealand. She died a month after our arrival, and is buried in Auckland. The rest of us moved down to the tip of the South Island where my father had taken the parish of Riverton. For a year I worked as a substitute teacher in three rural schools. I enjoyed the experience as long as I was allowed to run the classroom my way. My children made great strides in their reading studies, and began to write great poetry, but I was not very enthusiastic about the job. Nevertheless, in ’64 I attended the Teachers’ Training College in Dunedin, South Island, where my writing output became prolific but again my studies suffered. I did not particularly want to be a teacher. All I wanted to do was stay home and read and write. I was eighteen, bored and restless. I met my first husband there. A year later I became ill and did not return to Dunedin for a second year.
In 1966 I married and returned to Canada, this time to Alberta, with my husband and my family. I found work at a day care in Edmonton. My husband and I returned to England the next year, and my first son, Simon, was born there in January ’68. In 1969 we came back to Edmonton, and my second son was born there in December 1970.
By 1972 I was divorced, and I moved east of Edmonton to the village of Edgerton. I wrote my first novel and entered it in the Alberta Search-for-a-New-Novelist Competition. It took fourth place out of ninety-eight entries, and though it received no prize, the comments from the judges and my family encouraged me to try again. The next year I entered my second attempt, a bad novel that sank out of sight. Finally in 1975 I wrote and submitted Child of the Morning, the story of Hatshepsut, an 18th Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, which won the competition. With it came a publishing deal with Macmillan of Canada and the rest, as they say, is history.
One curious event that appeared in my life at this time came in the form of a letter from a woman in France. She had been a teacher in Algeria, and in the letter she went on to say that she was proud of what I’d accomplished. She said that I’d been one of her students, and she recognized my name on the cover of the book but it wasn’t until she saw the photograph inside that she knew for sure that I was her student from years before. The odd thing about this, of course, is that I’d never been to Algeria, whether as a student or for any other reason. But it made me wonder now and then since that time how my doppelganger is getting along.
In 1978 I published another historical novel, set this time in Roman Britain, called The Eagle and the Raven. Three years later, in 1981, I published my first fantasy novel, Stargate, and was finally able to tour Egypt. It was an emotional and entirely magical experience.
In 1984 I returned to Egypt in my writing, publishing The Twelfth Transforming. Two years later I left the country and took a house near Edmonton so my sons could finish their schooling in better academic conditions. I was constantly homesick and to my horror my writing dried up. I experienced burnout and thought I would go insane, but during this time I met and fell in love with my second husband.
In 1990 I moved back to Edgerton and at once the urge to write returned. I wrote Scroll of Saqqara during this time, but the next year I came back to Edmonton so my husband could attend college. He hated both the city and the college, but I published another novel, The Covenant, my attempt at gothic horror. We left for Edgerton in 1993, this time for good, and the next year I wrote House of Dreams.
My second husband and I divorced some years ago, but I have stayed in Edgerton, where I continue to spend my days in the company of interesting and wonderful characters both real and imagined.