Those who don’t know me very well may ask, “How did you get the idea for this weirdo story?”
Those who do know me well probably think, “Wow, you really restrained yourself from telling an even more off-the-wall story. It’s so normal, considering it’s you! Good job!”
The cast of unusual characters
Pink Kitty, Sharky, and most of the other cast of weirdos have been staples in my night-time story inventory since my son was 3. Over the past 4 years, they have had a chance to grow into the strong personalities they are now.
There is a strong science & engineering slant to just about every story I make up. That is because we are nerds — real math-and-science types with a problem-solving outlook. We also know a lot of artists and chefs. Sharky is based on my own love of adventure-eating…
As for Crabby Juku, the junk shop owner? Straight out of real life, because some people in my family run a resale shop. I’ve worked the counter and the junk-tastic “back room,” so I KNOW it’s enough to make anyone gruff, cranky, or gruff AND cranky, as Pink Kitty calls her great-aunt.
So our ideas for the characters come from life, as all art tends to do.
The candy-centric story
We’ve always been fans of holiday and seasonal stories, too, and the idea for this particular mystery also comes from real life! There’s a particular candy that some people go CRAZY for — Brach’s Halloween Mellowcremes. These right here. They are like those pumpkins that come in candy corn mix, only there’s no candy corn, and there are different flavors!
As I recall, they come in the blobby shapes of cats (chocolate), moons (lemon?), pumpkins, sheaves of wheat? (maple???), ears of corn (banana), maybe honey pots (no idea.) I think that’s all of them. There’s a detailed review on this candy here. And another one, even more detailed, here.
Anyway, our household is sharply divided on the subject of Halloween Mellowcremes. For some of us, they are ambrosia! Treasure falling from the sky during the month of October! It’s not Halloween until you’ve eaten at least one chocolate cat!
For others, they are disgusting non-food items and DONT EAT THEM YOUR TEETH WILL FALL OUT.
The thing about Halloween Mellowcremes (and ONLY Brach’s will do) is that you can’t find them in any store but certain Walgreen’s. Or online… they’re easier to find because of Amazon, but watch out for the expiration date. It’s hard to imagine this pure-sugar candy past its prime, but according to the reviews, a lot of the bags “expired.”
Anyway, I heard my father and my son talking about a “special shopping trip to Walgreen’s,” and I knew exactly what they meant. Like a shower of banana-flavored ears of corn hitting the creative center of my brain, inspiration struck!
Every 1 or 2 nights, I’d write the first draft of a chapter and read it aloud. My first-grade beta tester would tell me what he thought should happen next, and most importantly, which parts were funny/exciting/boring/confusing. He insisted that I should keep all the science stuff in, because after all, “they can just skip it if they think it’s boring.”
The next story will probably be a holiday story as well. Perhaps I can get one done in time for winter, but if not, Valentine’s Day is a great target.