Born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I have also lived in New York, California, and Pennsylvania, but spent most of my life in my present home of Pittsburgh, PA. SF was my childhood escape from miserable school and life situations. I have experienced deaths of close relatives and friends, suffer from no less than four chronic medical conditions, and am frequently unemployed, but I have also found the Lord, spent a quarter century married to the best wife in the human-settled universe, and spent thousands of days reading books and doing amateur scientific research (astronomy and climatology).
Writers who influenced me include Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Brian Stableford, J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L'Engle, C.J. Cherryh, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Al Franken. I could go on a lot longer, but those are the major ones, I think.
My finding the Lord, aside from its central purpose of saving my soul, has had the helpful literary side effect of giving focus and a theme to my writing. It seems to work even with atheist and pagan readers. I find that a serious reader will appreciate a book written by someone with different beliefs as long as it is well-written and tells a good story. For instance, I find the late Robert Heinlein's ideology pernicious, but there are books of his I dearly love (especially "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel"  and "Friday" ).