Robert: Thank you so much for having me on your blog this week, Lisa. I’m going to get a little personal in this post in order to share a bit about the creation, or actually, the discovery, of my book’s main character. You see, OPERATION TREE ROPER would not exist without the influence of my children, especially my third child. She was born with only one eye.
When she was an infant and toddler and we’d be out in public, people would often come to see the cute little baby and then awkwardly hasten away when they saw her face. Those people weren’t trying to be mean, they simply didn’t know how to address us without focusing on her absent eye.
She’d never respond to people’s questions and comments which were frequently directed toward me anyway and often phrased something like “What’s wrong with her?” Can you imagine a child growing through early years of life and hearing and seeing those comments over and over? She’s learning about herself from the expressions on the faces of the people around her. So what if her parents always focused on her strengths and lovingly accepted her as a beautiful and strong young child. The larger world around her saw her differently. She noticed.
I noticed, too. She was still an infant, with two toddler siblings when it sank in much deeper, what an important role her mother and I should play in our children’s lives. We had to find that correct balance of sheltering, nurturing and supporting that each of our children required to grow into confident and capable individuals. When my first three children were very young, I began telling them, “It’s more important how you act, than how you look.” I still remind my children that.
In crafting Declan, I did not so much create him as I tried to hear him. And I tried to hear him through the experiences and emotions of my own children.
When I began writing the first draft, Declan was too shy and defensive. Although that was a necessary portion of his personality, its significance diminished as the story evolved. While this did fit his age and attitude, I began to see that it was only a small part of him.
As the book evolved through the revision stages, I heard more clearly Declan’s sense of humor, intelligence, and fortitude. I recognized his family devotion and fierce loyalty to his siblings in my own children, in particular, my third child. Declan was becoming more multidimensional, and I was seeing moments of stubborn strength and courage in the face of adversity.
I hope everyone who reads OPERATION TREE ROPER will have opportunities to consider that the value of other people might just be how they act, rather than how they look.
Welcome to your new favorite book…
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