Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Inspiration Behind "The Stone Beach"

Readers always want to know where authors find their inspiration. Often there is no easy answer to that question. Ideas come from all around: family stories, life experience, news articles even jokes. Often a story comes from a combination of ideas.

In the case of “The Stone Beach,” inspiration was a clear as a knock on my door. Our cat, Casey, an alarmingly orange, long-haired tabby, had been diagnosed with diabetes and hyper thyroid disease. He was fourteen years old, and as I watched him shrink from a robust 17 pounds down to 11 pounds (he shrunk to only 6 pounds in his final days), I knew that we didn’t have much time left with him. My daughter was only five-years-old at the time. One afternoon, after one of our many trips to the veterinarian, she asked, “What if Casey just doesn’t wake up one morning?” My heart broke to tell her that might happen. I thought back to other pets I had lost and realized how hard it was to speak of such things to a child. As a parent, I wanted to brush her worries aside, tell her everything would be all right. But how could I make such empty promises, when her heart was so full of love and worry?

So I wrote The Stone Beach. In the course of editing it, I’ve read this book dozens of times, and my eyes still prickle with tears in certain parts, but it brings me comfort. I hope my daughter and all the children who are hurting from the loss of beloved pets, will read it and find comfort too.

Casey (March 31st, 1992 - October 18th, 2007)

Casey started life as a runt. He was so tiny, I worried he wouldn’t live. He was also shockingly orange with wide, blue eyes. His brother, Moe, was identical, but black. I called them my Halloween cats. They came into my life in 1992. It seems like a lifetime ago now, and I guess it was—Casey’s lifetime. We lost Moe in 1995. Casey spent weeks sitting on our back deck, scanning the horizon for his brother.

Casey was a trooper. For the first two years, he came to work with me everyday. We moved ten times in sixteen years and adopted numerous kittens, puppies and other critters. Casey took it all in stride.

For the first few months, he hid from me constantly. He was so timid; I thought I’d never get a cuddle. By the end of his life, he was my constant companion. Many of my typos can be blamed on his big pink and orange paw stretching out to tap my keyboard.

Though he outgrew his runtiness (he was 17 pounds in him prime), his life was plagued with inexplicable illnesses, so I am thankful that I had sixteen fabulous years with him.