INSPIRATION for the Main CHARACTERS
They say you should write about what you know. So in writing a children’s fantasy adventure, it made sense for me to turn to the children I knew best for character development. When I wrote the first version, my children, Kara and Gregory, were close to the same ages as Sara and Steven. Gregory was eight years older than his sister Kara. He was a teen when Kara was still in grammar school. So there was actually a greater age difference between them than between Sara and Steven, who are 5 years apart.
Gregory was always very philosophical and he was the “computer wiz” for his class and generation, very much like Steven. He taught Kara and all of us what we needed to know to be competent, as Steven taught Sara. He was a loving and patient brother to Kara when she was little, spending time with her, more than older brothers would have. By the time he was 18, he had less time for her, which was natural and also parallels what happened between Sara and Steven. Kara missed having as much time with him, but she understood. They also joked together constantly, making each other laugh, the way Steven and Sara did before their mom died and how they began to do again as they healed.
Gregory was also the reason Kara developed an interest in singing and went on to study voice for many years. Gregory had a great voice and was in chorus and musical productions in high school. He loved Les Mis and knew all the songs, singing them passionately around the house and inspiring Kara’s interest in music. It turned out she had a great voice too.
Kara in the woods with my original Lucinda creation. I made her from a real gourd. Lucinda and Kara have both changed quite a bit since then!
Gregory loved The Lord of the Rings and read all three books to Kara, as well as The Hobbit, something Kara will remember with love and a sweet sadness for the rest of her life. He took time to do this, even though he was now getting ready to move on to college. It was a special time together, sharing those books.
Gregory at age 25
I refer to Gregory in the past because her brother died unexpectedly of congenital heart disease in 2011; that is why I say sweet-sadness. It wasn’t a parent that died when they were kids, but many years later, it was her brother who died, our son. I wrote the final version of the book well after Gregory’s death and so I had a better understanding of deep grief when I wrote this final version. But the relationship my children had is the basis for Sara and Steven’s. Steven doesn’t teach Sara about music and literature, but he teaches Sara things about his passions in archeology, computers and science. They share that teacher/ student quality in their sister/brother relationship, plus humor and trust. I suppose I was envisioning what Kara and Gregory would be like if they lost me or their dad when they were young. And then I embellished on their grief when I wrote this final version after our son’s death.
Kara at age 3, dressed as a princess in a costume I made for her. She is ready for her first real Halloween.
Sara too is based on many characteristics of my daughter when she was the same age. Kara was and is inquisitive and well-rounded in her interests. So is Sara. Sara loves the artwork of her mom and her mom’s artistic views have made an impression, but she is also drawn to science. When she makes her own Halloween costume, she uses both artistry and engineering to design it. Kara loved Halloween as a child, adored it, and the excitement of putting together her Halloween costumes. She still loves Halloween today and is known in the family for her Halloween parties.
She is an art scholar by choice but is also drawn to science and technology. She will learn whatever she needs to in order to accomplish what needs to be done. Sara will show that same willingness as her character grows and matures in the next book. She will learn what she needs to in order to make sure what needs to be done is done.
Sara loves her conversations with Lucinda about the meaning of life and the future of the world, and Kara always did and does enjoy those kinds of conversations. Sara is secure in her physical body and active, despite her sadness in the beginning of the tale. Kara was and is physically active. And of course Sara’s main attribute is her abilty to empathize and to communicate. Kara was born this way, sensitive and strong and a great mediator. So yes, Sara is based on Kara.
The setting of this first book is also based on reality. The garden in the story and Lucinda’s choice of home in Sara’s backyard is exactly how our garden was in the home we lived in before the present one: the home we raised our family in. It was old, built in 1887 and had a creaky screen door out back. You went out the back door, off a little laundry room, into the backyard.
The garden was indeed like a sunken room, with steps off the driveway down into the garden and the retaining wall in that garden was made of stone. There was a flower bed along the top, alongside the driveway, above the garden and you could sit on the edge of the wall with your feet dangling off the edge with the upper flower bed next to you. This is where Lucinda pops up as she breaks through the earth after digging her chimney chute.
Directly below the wall and underneath the flower bed was an empty space in which a 100-year-old disconnected waterline lay, and there was a slate cover over the entrance to this space…Lucinda’s front door. So the reality of our garden inspired the exact location of Lucinda’s first weeks in this world, and will play another interesting role in the second book.
The slate cover against the stone wall; the original inspiration for Lucinda's home.
Our home, built in 1887, where we lived for 28 years and where I raised my children.
When I was writing the first version and imagining Lucinda’s world, I would discuss this with Kara when we were outside in the garden. At one point I made a paper Mache prototype of Lucinda and we pretended to be conversing with her and had a couple “tea parties” on a blanket in front of the door out on the grass. These are all lovely memories. This will be the exact spot of the opening of the second book. I used to watch Kara swirl out here on the grass and that became my idea for the painting by Sara’s mom that Sara loved so much and which hung over their fireplace in the family’s living room. The configuration of the kitchen, living room, dining room and upstairs bedrooms were all based on our previous 19th century home.
Of course the plot is pure fiction. Kara and I did pretend there were special fairy spots in the garden when she was very little and we loved looking for tiny flowers that sprouted in the wooded portion of the property and grass and we would pretend we were making fairy bouquets for their little homes. The garden was magical for us and we shared times outside and on walks that became part of Sara’s memories of her mom. So there were autobiographical touches. But the richness of my children’s personalities definitely gave depth to Sara’s and Steven’s and their relationship.