Imagination is the forming of ideas, images or concepts of objects external to our tangible senses. A good writer can use words to bring an image to life. For example, if the reader is being told about a bouquets of flowers displayed at a wedding, a good writer can stimulate the reader’s senses to the point where the reader’s imagination allows them to actually smell those flowers describe in the story.
Real life true stores are what inspire me. My job is to stitch them among into events experienced by a fictional character. I have been fortunate enough to have heard a handful of very entertaining tales about my family. These tales were expressed throughout the Extra Innings trilogy and helped to bring the personalities of its major players to life.
For example, in Chapter 1 of The Diamond Thieves, I spent some time explaining how the story’s main characters: identical twins Jimmy and Billy McGee, had very different personalities. To express examples of Billy’s wild-side (compared to his more rationally behaved twin) I used two stories from my dad’s childhood. The first was a story of my dad thinking he could fly like Superman and tying a tablecloth around his neck and leaping into mid-air from the garage roof. Yikes! The second was when my dad, Wes Gibson, set fire to his older sister Rose’s bedroom curtains and the neighbor Mrs. McCrosky saw the flames from across the way. I always loved these stories growing up and felt privileged to incorporate them into the life one of two of the book’s main characters.
My Aunt Rose is famous for using the term: “in all honesty” as is Jimmy and Billy’s older sister Rose throughout the trilogy. Their older friend Skip Jones is a character who the boys all look up to as my dad and his brother Denny looked up to their older brother Skip Gibson.
My grandma Mary Gibson was famous for her chocolate meringue pies – as is Jimmy and Billy’s Grama Purdy. I know when I was proofreading this detail of the book my mouth was watering from the imagery.
In book 2 (Race of the Gemini), I incorporated a story my Uncle Jim had told me about collecting RC Cola cans for cash when he was a kid. Also, the story of Billy spinning the car tires in a mud puddle that splashed up into his dad’s face actually happened to my Aunt Patty when my Grandpa Charles Gibson was trying to teach her how to drive and became so frustrated that he had to stick his head out the window to curse – another great story! The book’s hot dog eating explosion came from my Uncle Denny and the story about Skip pulling Stuart through a car window came from my dad and his late teen years.
One of my favorite chapters is when all the boys sneak out to drink at Ol’ Man Hendersman’s barn. As the boys are sitting around they reminisce a few hilarious tales that my dad had told me from his childhood (read book 2 for these stories).
Billy’s girlfriend Amy Lee Chansey has a brown collie shepherd family dog named Tanker – just like my Aunt Rose & Uncle Jim’s dog while I was growing up.
The description of the twins’ High School prom was an exact description of my mom, Marilyn Gibson’s gymnasium was decorated for her prom.
There are a few small details depicted in the book that really bring a particular room in a house or section of town to life. My favorite is the mention of a paper mache ghost candy dish that is the centerpiece of the McGee family dining room table in the Halloween chapter. My entire life growing up I remember that same ghost candy dish on our dining room table throughout October. My mom had made it with her friend Joan. I now have this candy dish and I place it out every October. I believe these small details are critical to effective storytelling.
In book 3 (A Hero Among Thieves), I was privileged to be able to interview the head baseball coach and dean from Ol’ Miss who shared with me some important facts about the campus and its students during the early 1950’s. This information really helped to enhance the authenticity of this portion of Jimmy’s. I think anyone who’s attending college and lived on campus will be transported back to their experience in the dorms and campus life. One particular college dorm room scene in this book was taken directly from my experience at UMASS Amherst.
Lastly, some of Billy’s journal entries were told to me while I was interviewing veterans from the Korean War. These stores really helped to bring Billy’s experience in Korea to life and I will be giving mention to these brave and fascinating individuals in the credits of Book 3.
When Jimmy meets Maria Regalo, the supper she feeds him that night at her house is a plate of homemade salami, pepperoni and cheeses that she cut from her supply hanging in her basement – just like my Grama Gibson.
There are many more examples but these are the ones that come to the forefront of my mind. I hope all who read this trilogy will at some point feel themselves traveling back to a moment of their teen years or childhood and recall the sights, sounds and smells of some good memories and MOST OF ALL … THANK YOU for all those who inspired my imagination with their real life true stories.