This episode’s guest is Catherine Asaro, two-time Nebula Award-winning science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She is also a dancer, musician, teacher, and an extremely successful math contest coach. Catherine discusses her scientific background – which culminated in a PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard University – and how she discovered her career path by bringing her passion for science together with her love of storytelling. She also talks about the challenges of raising a profoundly gifted child, and how those challenges led to her becoming one of the top math coaches in the nation.
You’ll hear about how Catherine grew up in a scientific family – her father, Frank Asaro, was a distinguished Nuclear Chemist at UC Berkeley. She discusses growing up as a gifted child in a school system that struggled to provide a suitable challenge, and how the need to come up with her own entertainment brought about the beginnings of her future career as a writer. Catherine talks about how her early plans to become a professional dancer were derailed when she fell in love with quantum physics at UCLA, and how this led to her graduate work at Harvard and her time working as a college professor.
You will also hear about Catherine’s decision to leave academia to pursue her dream of becoming a science fiction author, and what it was like breaking into the industry. She offers insights into her writing process and influences, and describes how the publishing business operates. Catherine and Richard discuss how her background, and continuing interest, in science informs the stories she tells.
Catherine then talks about raising her gifted daughter, and how she worked to make sure she had a sufficiently challenging education. She and Richard discuss the importance of being an advocate for your gifted child, and she explains how she ultimately came to the decision to homeschool. Catherine tells the story of how her second career as a math coach begin as a modest effort to put together a small MATHCOUNTS team for her daughter, only for it to explode into an enormous and highly successful endeavor.