When did you start writing Paksenarrion's story and how long did it take?
I started writing about Paks in September of 1982. Originally, it was going to be a short story for a friend's son. It turned out to be a very long story, for me and not for that boy. I used an old typewriter that had belonged to my grandmother; it had elite type (smaller than standard.) Since I was writing for myself and paper was expensive, I started at the very top, wrote all the way to the right margin, and all the way to the bottom--a lot of words on a page. Somewhere around 70 pages, I realized it was going to be a book, not a story. Somewhere over 200 pages, I realized it was going to be multiple volumes, if it ever got published, something I hadn't thought about until that point.
The first third (what is now Sheepfarmer's Daughter) took about 8 months. In November 1983, we adopted a child and bought our first home computer. The advantage of the computer over the old typewriter didn't quite cancel out the loss of writing time to a new baby and the time it took to enter all the previous work onto 8 inch floppies. My fantasy of writing away with the sleeping infant cuddled in a sling next to me was....a fantasy. I finished the book in January 1985, the week he started walking.
Is Paks taken from any real person?
No, but her good points are a composite of several of my friends. In the early days of serious support for women's college athletics, I was lucky enough to be taking a second degree at U.T. Austin and played on some non-varsity teams with women on athletic scholarships. I had been considered tall back in the 1950s--but here were women taller and far stronger and more athletic than any of us had been allowed to be. They were good sports about having an older woman playing sports with them. Among my other friends were a six-foot-tall surgeon and a "jock" friend from my first college days--I stole one or two desirable character traits from each.
Is Paks anything like you?
We both like fried mushrooms. Actually, her tastes in food are similar to mine (that was easy) but she drinks ale and beer--I don't like them. We both like being outdoors (except in really foul weather.) If we were in the same world, we'd both be athletes in college and sport fencers. As it is, she's taller, stronger (and younger!!) and would skewer me with a sword in nothing flat, but then she's a professional with a sword and I'm a late-starting amateur. Aside from that, no. She's a much nicer person than I am.
Are any of the characters taken from a real person?
No--just composites of traits and behaviors I've seen. For bad traits I look inside.
What background did you have for writing this kind of fantasy?
I have a degree in history from Rice University, with a concentration in ancient and medieval history, and also took courses in cultural anthropology--all very useful for making up fictional cultures in pre-industrial societies. I had always been fascinated by military history, and three years active duty in the USMC gave me some first-hand experience with the military mindset and a very distinct military culture. We live near a large Army base, where I took hospital training for EMT and Paramedic certification--with exposure to a different military culture. As a volunteer on a rural ambulance service, and assistant in a rural clinic, I had exposure to trauma and sickness at the practical level--very useful for a writer, though that's not why I did it.
In another essay later, I'll talk about my research sources--everything from books to personal experience.
Elizabeth Moon was born March 7, 1945, and grew up in McAllen, Texas, graduating from McAllen High School in 1963. She has a B.A. in History from Rice University (1968) and another in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin (1975) with graduate work in Biology at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
She served in the USMC from 1968 to 1971, first at MCB Quantico and then at HQMC. She married Richard Moon, a Rice classmate and Army officer, in 1969; they moved to the small central Texas town where they still live in 1979. They have one son, born in 1983.
Community activities: EMS volunteer, 1979-1985. Elected twice to City Council, served a term as Chamber of Commerce president, served on Library Board several terms. Singer in various church and community choirs (presently with the Parish Choir of St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin.) Other church activities have included teaching Sunday School, working with youth group, serving on vestry, etc.
Writing: Started writing stories and poems as a small child; attempted first book (an illustrated biography of the family dog) at age six. Started writing science fiction in high school, but considered writing merely a sideline. First got serious about writing (as in, submitting things and actually getting money...) in the 1980s. Made first fiction sale at age forty--"Bargains" to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress III and "ABCs in Zero G" to Analog. The first novel, Sheepfarmer's Daughter, sold in 1987 and came out in 1988; it won the Compton Crook Award in 1989. Remnant Population was a Hugo nominee in 1997, and The Speed of Dark was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and won the Nebula in 2004. Find a complete bibliography at http://www.elizabethmoon.com/biblio.htm
Non-writing interests: Horses, space exploration, fencing (Renaissance style: rapier, dagger, etc), restoration ecology, wildlife management, classical music, just about anything but housework.