Pat Schmatz shares the story behind her story …
One winter when I was living in Minnesota, I saw a news story about a toddler who went outside in a snowstorm in the middle of the night. His family found him in the morning, outside in his pajamas, several hundred feet from the house and nearly frozen to death. This story caught my attention. Within a month, I saw three separate news stories about babies outside in the night. All three were toddlers, old enough to walk but not old enough to talk, and they all went out in subzero weather. One died, and the others were hospitalized with hypothermia.
I could not let go of those stories. Where were those babies going? And why? It must have felt cold to them. Did they know something we don’t? Was there some regional baby conference happening in the wee hours? Perhaps an interplanetary baby convention? A communication network that required freezing temperatures? I cut out newspaper articles and researched on line. I visited the local hospital and asked them to show me what they do when a freezing baby comes in—how do they warm the child up again? I wanted to write a story about babies gathering on winter nights beneath a frozen sky, but all of my ideas fell flat. Then, one night, I had a very vivid dream. At the time, I was living in a house with a wooden spiral staircase. In my dream, I got up and walked to the top of the stairs, and it wasn’t wooden. Instead, the stairs were wide and carpeted, and went straight down into darkness. When I woke in the morning, that dream felt so real.
I began to wonder…what would I have found if I’d gone down those stairs? Would they lead to a different room? A different world? And at some point in my wondering, the questions about the stairs collided with my questions about the babies. From the shards of that collision, an idea emerged.
I created a character to go down the shifting stairs and find some answers for me. The character became Rith, the protagonist in Circle the Truth. He had a baby sister named Emma, and he went down those stairs to see what was at the bottom. Rith and Emma took me on the ride I was looking for—a ride with shifting stairs and a blizzard in the night—and they taught me some things along the way about truth and reality, and how those concepts are and are not the same.
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