Robert Salvatore was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, the youngest of a family of seven. A graduate of Leominster High School, Salvatore has credited his high school English teacher with being instrumental in his development as a writer. During his time at Fitchburg State College, he became interested in fantasy after reading J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, given to him as a Christmas gift. He developed an interest in fantasy and other literature, promptly changing his major from computer science to journalism. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications/Media from Fitchburg. He earned this degree in 1981 and later a Bachelor of Arts in English. Before taking up writing full-time, he worked as a bouncer, an experience to which he attirbutes his fierce and vividly described battle scenes.
In the fall of 1997, his letters, manuscripts, and other professional papers were donated to the R.A. Salvatore Library at his alma mater, Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.