I like the symmetry of certain dates. My Aunt Minnie passed away on October 5, 1995. She was 88 and had been ill. She was not a casualty of Hurricane Opal, but that fierce storm was coming through Central Alabama at that same time.
Also around that time, I was beginning the story that would become Life with Strings Attached. It would take nine years to go from those first few sentences to publication—if you’re counting between hurricanes. Because during that last bit of proofreading for the novel, when I needed to ship the manuscript back to the publisher, Hurricane Ivan was headed to town. Which meant I was the only one out looking for Liquid Paper as part of my storm provisions.
Fast forward another fifteen years or so. I was envisioning a new project that was a bunch of pieces that needed a connecting thread. Those pieces ultimately became Miss Bertie. As I understand, Aunt Minnie had been a second grade teacher at an FSU lab school for their education department. She was not the actual model for Miss Bertie, but she did influence the development of her back story, and she was something of a muse when I asked myself, “What would it be like to talk to her today?”
Also, just FYI, it felt right to add a cat to the previous story—I did, and I named her Opal.