If you are what you eat, I used to be beefsteak, fried okra, and hominy. That comes from growing up in Oklahoma. I also lived outdoors most of the hours of every spring, summer, and fall day, and way too many hours of every winter day. That comes from growing up on a working farm.
If you are what you read, then I used to be an Andre Norton protagonist, at least in my imagination. Although I never met or corresponded with her, Andre Norton was something of a long distance mentor.
Alice Mary Norton legally changed her name to Andre Norton early on, in an era when being a woman was no help to a science fiction writer. I didn’t know that when I first read her; I thought Andre Norton was a man. Not that I thought about it much, but she didn’t write like a girl. Looking back, I see that she actually wrote like a person, but I wasn’t that sophisticated then.
One reason Norton got away with writing gender neutral fiction was that her characters spent most of their time alone. Even in their relationships with others of their own kind, they were loners, if not complete outcasts.
Star Man’s Son was the first Norton I read. In it, Fors spent all but a few pages on a quest away from his people; that was a pattern to which Norton frequently returned. I could easily identify with the solo quest while I spent endless hours alone on a tractor. The only variations in my daily life were whether I was pulling a disk or a hay rake, and which Norton novel was replaying in my head, forty years before someone invented the iPod.
Every time Shann Lantee on Warlock, or Naill Renfro on Janus, or any of a dozen other young men found himself stranded alone, or nearly alone, on an alien world, I could look up from my tractor seat at the Oklahoma prairie and say, “Yup, been there.”
The best thing about Norton’s characters was that they didn’t whine about being alone. They liked it. So did I.
I didn’t live in a city until I went to college. I spent my adult life living in the suburbs of a reasonably small city, and taught school in a very small town. As soon as I could retire, I moved to a few acres in the foothills. I would move further out if I could afford it.
I was born not liking cities, and my opinion never changed. It should be no surprise that my first novel was about a hunter surviving alone in the woods, or that my first science fiction novel was about a hundred or so humans stranded on an alien world (Jandrax, presently appearing in Serial). My three fantasy novels have a rural and medieval feel. David Singer, in A Fond Farewell to Dying, is a mountain boy who has to go urban to get his life’s work done. And Cyan, due out soon, begins with ten explorers on an empty world, then continues with the story of the peopling that world by hyper-urbanized refugees from an overcrowded Earth.
You write what you’ve lived.