Launch Week Elements: Neighbors
Welcome to my launch week celebration! If you missed my other posts, you can find the links at the bottom of this page. Today, I’m writing about the influence and inspiration of neighbors in my life and my books.
In each of the three Corgi Capers books, Adam and Courtney have been influenced by their neighbors. In the first book, the neighbors (mostly) come together around the threat of a common serial burglar. In the second book, Adam fears his two new neighbors, thinking they’re witches. In the Curtain Calls and Fire Halls, Courtney finds long-lasting inspiration with the neighbors as one of them helps her to find the right path after the terrible decisions she made on Halloween.
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of neighbors. As a child, neighbors were my first snapshot of the world’s size and scope. Like Adam, I (for a time) thought my neighbor was a witch. She was the kindest woman you could imagine, but her heavy Italian accent and old age made her voice difficult to understand. To a young child with an over-active imagination, those were all the ingredients needed to consider her a witch. But there was more: she grew lots of vegetables in her garden and cooked many things from scratch (she even shared these things with us). To a kid used to eating out of colored packaging, this was different and frightening.
But later, after they moved away (and I grew old enough to understand, not fear, differences in the world), I realized how amazing she had been. She had talents that were dwindling in the age of convenience. But it wasn’t just that one neighbor who inspired me.
Another collected shoes and clothing for church fundraiser sales. She often invited me (with my mother and sister) to browse the offerings. It felt like she had an entire store set up there in her basement. If left to my own imaginings, I never would have thought someone could collect other people’s trash and turn it into treasure. But the way she organized the shoes by size and color, the way she laid out the clothing—it was with such care that you felt like you were buying a slice of love along with a hand-me-down. She taught me that certain people possess a spark, a bit of magic, a blessing—a gift they use to help others.
I’ve had lots of amazing neighbors over the years (I moved around quite a bit), and there’s not room to write about them all—only to say that they’ve all left their mark on my memory and soul.
Over the years, I’ve had not-so-good neighbors, too, though I won’t write about them. Many of them, however, made me realize how much I have to be thankful for. Some earned my sympathy. Others earned only bitterness. But neighbors, to me as a writer, are an inspiration. They’re a constant reminder not only that people are different but that it takes all kinds of people to “make the world go ‘round.”
In writing Corgi Capers, I emphasize the importance of neighbors. Fifth grader Adam Hollinger is a sheltered boy. As he meets new people, he starts to see that there is not a narrow definition of “normal,” as he once thought. In book 3, his new friend Gavin opens Adam’s eyes to just how lucky Adam has been growing up. Courtney learns that all her neighbors aren’t as helpful as she would have liked. By learning how the actions of others affect them, Adam and Courtney start to live by the golden rule—opening their eyes to the ways their actions affect others.
Though a small element in my novel, I hope the interactions of my main characters with those around them inspire us all to take a closer look at our actions and the way we affect others. I can remember handfuls of times when an off-handed remark set my smile back several hours—or several days. Often, a sarcastic complaint by a teacher or an eye roll by a fellow classmate was all it took to cloud over a sun-shining day. Misery is contagious, but so is happiness. It just seems that sometimes happiness is more difficult to spread. In book 3, Courtney learns that happiness spreads almost as easily as gossip, only it feels a lot better!
Thanks for reading this post—and take the time today to spread a little bit of sunshine to just one other person. You never know what kind of a chain reaction you might be starting 🙂
Corgi Capers Book 3 Giveaway
Sign up to follow this blog via email (sign-up is toward the upper-right), and at the end of the week, I’ll randomly select a winner to receive a free copy of Corgi Capers: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls. Haven’t read the first two? The winner can choose one of the other Corgi Capers books instead.
Winner will be chosen on or shortly after November 17, 2014. The prize will be the winner’s choice of Corgi Capers 1, 2, or 3. Paperback copy available only to U.S. addresses. International winners will receive choice of ebook version instead. Void where prohibited.
I’ve already blogged about the winners of the Name that Cat contest (and about cats as well) and about the inspiration of one of the winning names. Being inspired to enjoy life is a constant theme in Corgi Capers, as Zeph (inspired by my own fraidy-dog Yoda) is afraid of most things. Many characters learn to find the heart of a hero beating within, often taking inspiration from neighbors. Curious to learn more? You can view the trailer here. I’m pleased to be working with Yuming Cao to bring this bravery to life through illustration, and this illustrated corgi book will also be available soon.