Six years into my career as a children’s novelist, I was in need of a big story. My 100 Cupboards trilogy was off wandering the world in various translations, and I was hoping to wrap up The Ashtown Burials series the following year. And then what? Nothing. The calendar was empty. The future was blank. A new and strange uncertainty hung over my notebooks and bulletin boards.
I caught a nasty virus and went down hard, sweating and helpless with fever. The experience was as miserable as such sicknesses tend to be, right up until the increased brain heat brought me the strangest dream. By the time the fever broke and I was able to join my family at the dining room table, I had a new story ready to be pitched to my offspring.
Kids, meet Sam Miracle. He lives in a ranch outside of Tucson and he’s traumatically disabled, both mentally and physically. Sam struggles constantly with memory loss, he has daydreams of adventures in which he always dies, and his arms are so badly damaged that his elbows won’t bend.
My horrified children stopped eating and began straightening their arms in curious sympathy. So far, so good. They were gripped, breathing the heat of the desert while Sam was hunted by a San Francisco banker turned time-hopping arch-outlaw. They felt Sam’s extreme pain when his rigid arms were brutally shattered and he wavered on the edge of death. And then, when I told them how his arms were not only saved, but became faster than any arms had ever been before, they were so rapt they were barely breathing.