Imagine That

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about that quality all authors and readers have in abundance—imagination.

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, will be released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

I’ve been going through some old computer files, deleting those that are years out of date, and came across a piece I’d written about my youngest son and his friend, Helen.

Eric was four, not yet old enough for kindergarten when his brother and sisters started back to school that year. He had been playing in the back yard the morning Helen came into our lives. I called him in for lunch. He looked up and asked, “can Helen have some lunch, too? He’s real hungry.” Startled, I looked around but there was no little girl in the yard, no little boy, dog, cat, turtle or anything else that I could see. But he stood in front of me, eyes expectant, and I nodded. Not sure what my next step should be, I watched as he pulled out his brother’s usual chair, climbed up on his own, and looked at me. Hurriedly, I took down another plate, cut the sandwich I had prepared in half, poured two small glasses of milk and put half the sliced apple on each plate. One plate went in front of Eric, the other in front of the empty chair. I went off to fold laundry. When I returned both plates and glasses were empty. “Can we have a cookie now?” I was asked. Silently I handed him two cookies and watched as he went outside, holding the door open for his friend. Mid-afternoon he came inside, alone. I asked where Helen was. He’d gone home, I was told. Was it time for the school bus?

Helen stayed with us all that school year, showing up after breakfast, staying for lunch, going with us to the store, but always leaving before the school bus arrived in the afternoon. He didn’t go on summer vacation with us and then it was fall and time for the new school year. I stood with all of them waiting for the school that first morning of school, consumed with curiosity. Finally, I asked if Helen was also going to kindergarten. I was informed, in scathing tones, that no, he was just a little kid. Then, following his brother and sisters, my no longer a little kid son climbed on the bus.

Imagination. How do you define it? It’s what got my child through what could have been a very lonely year. But it’s good for a lot more than conjuring up an imaginary playmate. Michelangelo imagined what it might look like when God created Adam and painted his vision on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Bell had to have an image in his mind of what the phone could do, and Edison must have envisioned what his light bulb was capable of. We use our imaginations in much more down to earth ways all the time. When we go to the nursery, we imagine what our yard will look like when those new bushes grow a little or how the color you liked on the paint chip will look on the living room walls. When we are young we imagine what it will be like to be an adult with excitement, when we get older we imagine life when we retire. Our imagination influences more of our decisions than we realize.

And then there are writers. We are probably more aware of our imaginations than most people but then, we spend most of our lives letting ours run wild. We invent lots of imaginary friends, only we call them characters. We conjure up landscapes, build towns, weave stories out of thin air, hoping we can transport our readers to our imaginary worlds for a few hours, and that they enjoy their journeys there.

Imagination. I’m not sure where exactly it’s located in our brains but am sure it would be a lonely old world if we didn’t have it.