I have always loved stories in every form, but it never occurred to me to write for children until my granddaughters were born. To entertain them on long car rides, I would make up stories about mischievous fairies that lived in the woods near my house, and pretty soon they started suggesting plot lines and inventing their own characters. Telling stories became our favorite activity–right up there with tending to my small flock of chickens and exploring the strange and beautiful things Nature leaves for us to discover outside.
An event in Eleanor’s life gave me the idea for my first book, The Climbing Tree. When she was about three years old, I taught her how to climb the tree in her front yard. She was nervous at first but kept at it, and soon the tree became her special place, a place to play and imagine and dream. When the family moved, she was heartbroken to leave her climbing tree behind. I was struck by the depth of her feelings for her beloved tree, and that became the basis for the story. The rest comes from my own imagination.
Having written a story for Eleanor, I wanted to write one for her sisters, Virginia and Caroline. The characters in Virginia Loves Dogs and Caroline and the Not-Mamma both possess the traits of the little girls who inspired the stories. The irrepressible Virginia does indeed love dogs so much she would practically fling herself at any canine she encountered on a walk, and I feared for her safety. And Caroline, when she was very small, regarded me with a mix of fury and terror when I would come to babysit. It took a lot of patience, books, and blueberries to win her over!
These days, I work and write from my 100-year-old farmhouse in the Virginia countryside, where my granddaughters and I still look for evidence of magic in the hollows of trees.