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My Inspiration for INTO THE ATTIC

Well, it’s not all because of our late, great, dog Jane—at least not exactly. Read on.

In the early spring of 1998, our elderly dog was ailing. Jane’s back legs were failing, and she could no longer make it through the night without a few visits to the yard.

My husband and I took turns carrying her downstairs, and I remember how crisp the air felt when I opened the front door and how full of stars was the sky because everything else was in blackness. Often, I gazed upward and said a little prayer, “Please let Jane be with us a little longer.”

On one of these nightly forays, as I passed by our living room on my way back to the stairs, I saw a large white blur in my peripheral vision. Here’s the thing: I didn’t look. I couldn’t bring myself to look, even though I felt excited, my heart pounding, and was immediately convinced that this was my father, come back to check on me, to make sure I was all right.

I had adored my father, who had died suddenly while playing tennis 11 years earlier, when I was 30 and my first child eight months old. But I have always run scared, and although I liked the idea that, somehow, he was near, I shied away from an encounter, grabbing Jane and bounding up the stairs to bed again.

In the remaining few months of Jane’s life, I never saw the blur again, even though, a few times, I looked for it. Then, several years later, my husband Chris and I were sitting at a bar in New York City when, out of the blue (which is how Chris claims I get all my ideas) I said, “What if this woman is up in her attic going through lots of stuff, steeped in memories of a tragic past, when the ghost of her dead father appears?”

Chris liked the idea, but that was as far as I took it at the time. The next book I would write was Just the Facts, about a fearful rookie reporter who uncovers a major scandal. It was only when we decided to sell our house of 23 years, and I was forced to spend hours and hours in the attic, that I returned to the ghost plot line. Soon it expanded to a story about an aging writer named Caroline whose parents and first husband had died together in a car accident when her two children were small.

Into the Attic has that sad storyline as its backdrop, but the novel is set 19 years after the accident when Caroline has long since remarried and her children are college-age. As it evolved, the novel became more comic than tragic because, as they reacquaint themselves, Caroline and her ghosts have such different versions of their shared experiences in the past.

While Caroline, like me, is someone who might be inclined to elude a white blur in her living room, she has no choice but to engage with her three deceased loved ones once they show up in her attic.

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