Erick Setiawan was born in 1975 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. A quiet, shy child, he was raised in a family of gifted storytellers, who taught him that while life might have an endless supply of conflict, not all of it translates into a good story. Due to the anti-Chinese sentiment prevalent in Indonesia, his childhood was often fraught with tension, which prompted him to take comfort in books and in the world of his imagination.
At age sixteen, he left his family and moved to the United States. He knew three people and barely spoke English, yet he managed to be admitted to Stanford University.
In college, he wanted to study English, but his shyness and insecurity about his adopted language prevented him from enrolling in classes that required him to speak. Instead, he chose to major in Psychology and Computer Science. Following university, he worked as a software engineer in San Francisco, but quickly realised that his heart was not in it. He turned to writing in his spare time, before finally quitting his job to finish the book that became Of Bees and Mist.