They say don’t put anything on the Internet unless you’re willing for the world to know. Okay, I’m gonna confess. In our house, the stuffed animals talk to us. I could claim writer’s license—if our characters can talk to us, why shouldn’t the plush wolves and teddy bears? But my husband’s not a writer, and they talk to him too.
They tend to reveal their dark side to my husband. If you tell the wolves something (or someone) is venison, they’ll eat it in a heartbeat. So no jokes about my little granddaughters, please. With me, they’re soothing. The bears especially understand my need for validation. They think I’m smarter than the average bear. They never think my manuscripts suck. And they know the perfect cure for writer’s block: Put a salmon in it.
I guess we kind of channel them. It’s a lot like the way fictional characters say and do what they want to, rather than what the author has planned. We used to attempt periodically to end these infantile, if not actually dysfunctional, relationships with the little guys. And gals—there’s Noelle the book bear, who’s quite the intellectual, and Elfie, who wears a red dress from the Build-A-Bear store, except at Xmas, when she puts her elf outfit on. But I digress. Like any other addicts, we couldn’t just say no to the animals’ demands for our attention and desire for conversation. So we said the hell with it and stopped trying to refrain.
They’re good company, our bears and wolves and moose (who hail from Minnesota and Sweden as well as the usual zoo gift shops). Their conversation is a little limited: the wolves are always talking about venison, the bears about salmon and honey and berries. The moose go wild over green carpet or anything that resembles moss. But they’re fun, and they’re extremely plausible. I, for one, believe every word they say.
So here’s how the animals got me in trouble. I’ve been telling this story since Death Will Help You Leave Him came out, but I don’t think I’ve told it in print before. (If I have, blame my aging memory.) When I left for Bouchercon in Indianapolis in October, on the eve of the new book’s official publication date, I left my husband at home with strict instructions to read the book. My cell phone rang in my hotel room at the Hyatt one evening. It was my hubby, and he was laughing so hard that it took me a while to understand what was cracking him up. He’d just read the passage where Bruce is talking about how he hasn’t accumulated a lot of possessions. “I’m not a moose,” Bruce says. “I don’t need moss.”
I finally made out what my husband was saying between howls of laughter.
“Moose don’t eat moss!” he said.
“They don’t?” I said. “What do you mean? The moose are always talking about eating moss.”
“It was a joke!” he said. “I can’t believe you believed me!”
It had nothing to do with him. I’d believed the moose. Who would know better what a moose eats?
“What do they eat?”
“So where did the moose moss come from?”
“I got it from Dr. Seuss!” he said.
Since I was at Bouchercon, I got to tell this story to a lot of writers. One of them suggested the perfect comeback if I get any reader emails pointing out I’ve committed an error of fact regarding what moose eat.
“It’s an hommage to Dr. Seuss,” I’ll say.