Where Do These Creatures Come From?

I am now deeply into the third Marcy Mary book, provisionally titled Princess Marcy Mary’s Memoirs: A Dachshund Desert Tale. I am having so much fun because this book is really flowing and also because each book brings in a few more of God’s creatures for us to meet. 

Recently, I was asked, “What inspires the characters in your books?” After thinking about it for at least five minutes, this is how I think my characters develop. During life, we all pick up bits of information, have relationships and experiences that influence our attitudes, and then we become educated, and that changes things. All of these sources turn into a creative soup. Unlike my human characters, my creatures just jump onto the page. Let me tell you about the birth of a few of them …

Many readers are intrigued with Jack, the coydog—including Marcy Mary.  Our home sits on a chaparral-covered hill. For years, a pack of coyotes have lived on the ridge where the street dead-ends. We hear their distinctive eerie ululations and high-pitched yips frequently. Dogs in the neighborhood often answer their calls. At times, the coyotes answer the emergency vehicle sirens. Animal owners must take care and respect their presence. 

One day, I was looking up at Coyote Hill and saw a pack of about four coyotes running, accompanied by two golden retrievers. The retrievers looked huge next to the coyotes and seemed to be having a good time. I wondered what was happening, and then I read about coydogs: canines who are half coyote and half dog. So when I needed a hero to help rescue Rex in book one, Jack was born. He came to me complete with golden fur and eyes, smaller than a retriever but larger than a coyote with a teasing, wild, unpredictable nature and a heart of gold. In my mind, Jack is one-third coyote, one-third domestic canine, and one-third Nick Nolte in his prime. As Marcy Mary says, he is definitely attractive in a dangerous sort of way.

Kotty, on the other hand, is based on a mélange of felines I have known over the years. I love Siamese cats. They have such distinct personalities.  Miss Kotty is a superior feline who has never quite gotten over having a dachshund sibling. She says what she truly thinks, loves to tease Marcy Mary, and in general has a negative outlook on life. But Kotty, the roof-dwelling gargoyle cat, has good qualities too. For instance, when faced with incontrovertible evidence that does not align with her sour viewpoint, she will grudgingly change her mind. She is brave and loyal to her family, she loves Pinky, and she always comes through in a pinch.

I want to give you a glance of one last character who debuts in the next book. I had been reading about an endangered species: California kangaroo rats. A few days later, Marcy Mary and I met Hank, the kangaroo rat, crouched under some bushes lining the wall of the desert golf-resort condo where the Anthonys were vacationing. I immediately fell in love with Hank, and I think you will too. He and the Princess hook up after Hank has an unfortunate encounter with Kotty. Together, they have some exciting and often harrowing experiences …

I have often heard writers say that their characters live and breath and do pretty much what they want to do. I have to concur. These creatures have definite minds of their own. I think I will stop here, because Marcy Mary and Hank have something they want to tell me. Oh dear, here comes Kotty …

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