My early life was not all that ordinary — I was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) many years ago, at a time when the recently independent British colony still behaved socially very much like an outpost of the British Raj. So I know what "tiffin" is. It was a strange society — one that has now died — but I still remember snippets.
At age five, my family upped stakes and moved permanently to Melbourne, Australia, where they've remained ever since. I did all my schooling in Melbourne, finished university with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, then moved on, together with my dear husband, acquired along the way, to London.
Of course, we didn't just hop on a plane and fly. No. We took what proved to be one of the last true overland journeys from Katmandu to London — through northern India and the Ganges Valley, up into Kashmir to laze on houseboats on the lake at Srinagar, then through Pakistan and on up the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan (predestruction). From Kabul, we continued west, across Iran (then still with the Shah), down to Isfahan, then up to the Caspian Sea, then all the way across Turkey to the ages-old fascination of Istanbul. I still have the most vivid memories of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey — the most wonderfully dramatic and lonely scenery — places where Nature really impinged on your consciousness. After wandering across Europe, we eventually reached London, after what will undoubtedly rank as the journey of our lives.
In London, I took up a position as a research scientist — and my husband did, too. We lived in a lovely little cottage — a 16th-century woodcutter's cottage, complete with 16th-century tiles (you can tell by the wooden pegs that hold them on), built onto an oasthouse (those places with conical roofs where they used to dry hops) — surrounded on all sides by the lush green fields of rural Kent. Of course, next door was the protected remains of a first-century Roman villa, and down the lane was a 14th-century castle, still owned by the original family. The main house was now mostly Queen Anne in style, but with some Tudor buildings still remaining.
We spent four wonderful years living in England, touring England, France, Spain, Portugal and northern Italy, entirely off the beaten track. Provincial France became a favorite haunt; Portugal was a different sort of paradise. On our return to Australia, we both continued on with scientific research — in my case, in the cancer research field. I remained in cancer research, rising through the ranks to heading my own laboratory...until fate took a hand.
I had read romances since I was 13 — when my mother borrowed Georgette Heyer's romances from a workmate, and I read them after her. These Old Shades was the first one I read — I was hooked for life. In England, I'd had the opportunity to stock up with Regency romances that were never available in the U.S. or Australia — I still have shelves of them. After our return to Australia, one day I literally ran out of books to read. I wanted a new Regency romance — but there were none in the stores. In desperation, I decided to write one — something I'd always had a hankering to do but had never done.
So I did. I just sat down and wrote the story, writing at night and on weekends, primarily to entertain myself. To my surprise, being one of those people who always have craft projects lying around unfinished for years, I actually finished the book — mainly, I suspect, because I wanted to know the end. But there it was — and it didn't seem too bad. Perhaps...
That first manuscript became Tangled Reins, my first romance — a British Regency romance published by Mills and Boon. Subsequently, I wrote seven more Regency romances for Mills and Boon.
Somewhere along the line, I faced the fact that the life of a research scientist, certainly at the level I had reached, had palled. Stress levels were too high. But I now had something else I could do — I could write romances.
So I "retired" from scientific life, to more relaxed and fulfilling endeavors, and at much the same time, crossed the Atlantic publishingwise, and, after some uncertain times, eventually signed on with Avon.
©Stephanie Laurens. Used with permission.