Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: At the grocery store.
Q: What made you think you could write a book?
A: A combination of a big ego and no sense of reality - which makes me the perfect author.
Actually, the truth is easier than that. (The truth about writing a book, I mean. I really do get my ideas in the grocery store. They're located between the dog food aisle and the service desk.)
Actually, I'm a writer because my mother read to me. One of my earliest memories is begging Mom to read NANCY HANKS AND THE WILDERNESS ROAD. This biography of Abraham Lincoln's mother was so old the binding was falling apart, but the words created a world that sang to me in a way I still remember.
When I got into school, I leaped at the chance to read - and write. I was the dreamer who made up stories, wrote them down, and got notes from the teacher that said, "Christina has a vivid imagination, and should pay more attention in class."
All through my childhood, I still wanted my mother to read to me. Together we read LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS. The Little House books are stories of nineteenth century American pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder, and present a girl's perspective of the move out West. This isn't John Wayne; this is real life, and a fascinating life it was. Wilder presents the everyday labor of planting and washing, cooking over an open fire, making maple syrup, building a log cabin and making bullets. She also brings to life the boredom of traveling in a covered wagon, the excitement of a child set free on the new homestead, finding adventure in on the prairie populated only with rabbits, deer and prairie dogs.
Oh, and wolves. Did I mention the wolves surrounding the new log cabin and looking for a meal? And Indians ... Wilder witnessed part of the great Indian migration, and makes quite clear the white pioneers' attitude toward them.
When I became a mother, I couldn't wait to read my two daughters the Little House stories (except that scene when Jack died - I have vivid memories of my husband having to read it because I cried.) Re-visiting Laura Ingalls Wilder was the kind of wonderful surprise I don't often get, because they were as good as I remembered.
I read to my daughters just as my mother did with me, and my whole family discusses Laura and Mary, Pa and Ma, Carrie and baby Grace as if they are living people we know and love. The Little House stories built a bridge between generations - between my mother and me, between me and my daughters. As we share other stories and other genres, it's a bridge that endures and grows. Although my daughters are too savvy to become writers, who knows? Maybe someday there'll be another dreamer in the family who'll make up stories, write them down, and go on to write novels of adventure, history and romance.
I hope she can ignore those stern notes from the teacher.