Originally posted August 18, 2005.
The world-famous vampire fiction author tells us about her college years, when she got her first work published in a student magazine and learned that she was definitely not cut out for acting.
College attended: San Francisco State University
Major: Political science
How/why did you choose your major?
I meandered through several majors, principally focused on getting an education. I ended up in political science because the courses I took captivated me. I was fascinated by history, social science, and political theory and political history. Also I did very well in these courses.
Activities (sports, music, clubs, theater?)
Never had time for any. I worked full time the entire time I was in college to support myself; after I married, my husband and I worked and went to school full time.
Do you keep in touch with any of your college friends?
For years I have been in contact with a number of college friends—my roommate from freshman year at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas; friends who graduated with me at San Francisco State; and others I met while going to night school at the University of San Francisco (the Jesuit university).
What was your favorite hangout spot?
At San Francisco State, my favorite hangout was the old student union building, which was later replaced. Around midday, I would run into lots of different friends—poets, painters, writers, students from in class and out of class. It was a great gathering place—noisy and informal—one giant room.
Were you a bookworm or a slacker?
I wasn't a bookworm because I couldn't read well enough or fast enough. I focused on teachers who gave inspiring and consuming lectures and I learned from them. One reason I couldn't major in English was that I couldn't read well enough to keep up in a Shakespeare class or Chaucer class. Not until I was in graduate school. Then I made up the undergraduate major in English slowly and got an M.A. in English. But I was over 30 before I could read Shakespeare. Now I read him for fun.
Who was your role model when you were in college?
My role model was Ernest Hemingway, also Virginia Woolf, also Charles Dickens. I wanted to be great like Hemingway. I wanted to make a difference. I was restless.
What was the biggest obstacle you overcame in college?
The biggest obstacle I overcame in college was learning to read. Brilliant professors taught me how to read books with understanding, how to read them on many levels, how to love them and embrace them. Year after year, it got better and better.
Tell us about one thing you did in college that still makes you proud.
What makes me proud: getting a first chapter of a novel, Nicolas and Jean, into the campus literary magazine, Transfer, at San Francisco State. I could hardly believe they published my work. I submitted another story and they rejected it. Come to think of it, I got a shorter piece into the magazine earlier, too. But it was Nicolas and Jean that I remember.
What did you like most and least about your school?
I loved the vigor and seriousness of students at San Francisco State. They almost all had to work, or were older, and they cared passionately about their education, and what they did creatively and politically. What I hated most...that's hard to say. I had so many wonderful teachers—Robin Gajdusek, Richard Wiseman, Mark Linenthal, Eduoro Roditi...I don't remember hating anything about it at all.
Tell us one way in which college changed you.
One way in which college changed me? It educated me. I learned about the whole history of the world—the impact of the world wars on our arts and our literature. I learned somehow how to write books. Everything I am was profoundly influenced by learning.
If you could go back, what about college would you do differently?
If I could go back, what would I do differently? Hard to imagine. I suppose it would have been much better if I hadn't had to work all the time at various jobs—waitress, usherette, claims examiner at a group insurance company. I would spend more time just in class, or in the library. But then my jobs taught me all kinds of things too.
What were two things you did for the first time while in college?
Two things I did for the first time? The only thing I did for the first time I guess was write a thorough research paper using primary source materials. I'd never done that before—going right to 19th century journals, letters, that sort of thing. I was also very briefly in a play at the University of San Francisco—Cyrano de Bergerac. I played a nun. I wouldn't do that again for anything in this world. I hated being on stage. I also met real published writers—authors whose novels were in print. That was thrilling.