I was born in November, 1980, just after the election of Ronald Reagan, just before the assassination of John Lennon. The defining events of my childhood (in terms of "newsy" events rather than personal ones) would be the Challenger disaster in 1986, the start of the Gulf War in 1990, the collapse of the USSR a year later, and Clinton's election the following year (I was 20 and in college when the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred). I was born and raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and attended public schools in the Coatesville Area School District.
Many of my interests and hobbies date back to my childhood--for example, I first got involved in politics in first grade, just before I turned seven, and I first started writing seriously at the age of 11 or so. My first book, completed about a year later, could be described as Narnia fan fiction (of course, I didn't know the term "fan fiction" back then). My lifelong interest in epic fantasy started at the same time, with the same inspiration, although C.S. Lewis has since been eclipsed in my heart by several other authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, and Robert Jordan. My next significant writing project was in the early-to-mid 1990s, and was a series of six X-Files inspired stories with a continuous plot (sort of a serial novel).
Tornalia began to develop in the summer of 1997, just before my junior year in high school. My primary inspiration at the time was The Lord of the Rings, with other influences including The Prydain Chronicles, Narnia, the card game Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer (I've actually never played the game...I just liked looking at the catalog!), Hawthorne's The Marble Faun, and The Princess Bride. The world as originally conceived was rather Tolkienesque; as it developed, it became more and more original and unique.
During the process of writing the first Tornalia novel (The Dagger of Despair, written from 1998 to 2000, when I was a senior in high school and a freshman at Cornell), another key influence was Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which became one of my primary obsessions for the next several years. Other obsessions of my childhood and early adulthood, in rough chronological order (there was a lot of overlap): trains, dinosaurs, baseball, Legos, Star Wars, UFOs, The X-Files, The Lord of the Rings, Magic: The Gathering, The Wheel of Time, the Civilization series of computer games, anime, and political websites. Clearly, I'm someone who has a tendency to develop obsessive interests. I think my geek credentials have been well established!