Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One-humped inspiration

by: Joelle Charbonneau

During the last few months of 2012, I got a bunch of e-mails asking me about Elwood the camel from my Rebecca Robbins mysteries.  So to start 2013, I thought I'd explain where the inspiration for Elwood came from. 

Until my mother heard me speak at a signing, she assumed I put a dromedary smack dab of a rollerskating mystery set in small town Illinois because there is a popular skating spin known as a camel.  You've all seen it.  The skater has one leg on the ground.  The other is stretched out behind them while they go round and round and round. 

Yes!  My mother was (and probably still is) capable of preforming this move.  Me...not so much.

But alas.  Sorry, Mom!  I was not being quite that clever when I decided to feature a one-humped mammal into the middle of this story. 

So, why a camel you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  As you all probably know, in additional to writing books, I teach voice lessons.  Over the years my student roster has included middle school, high school, college age and adult students.  One of my incredibly talented singers happened to own and jump horses.  A few years ago, just before I started writing SKATING AROUND THE LAW, she came into her lesson, said hello and mentioned that she wouldn't be able to make her lesson the following week. 

"One of my horses has to go to the University of Illinois" she said.

Unable to resist, I responded, "Wow. Smart horse."

She laughed and explained that she was taking the horse to the large animal vet clinic at the university and that she was looking forward to the experience since the last time she was there she met a guy with a camel.

Yep, the whole camel thing caught me off guard, too.  She then went on to say that the guy who brought the camel to the vet wasn't even the camel's owner.  Turns out the guy in the waiting room was the next door neighbor of the farmer who owned the camel.  While the camel lived with the farmer, the two didn't have the best relationship.  The last time the farmer tried to bring the camel to the vet without the neighbor's help, the camel broke out of the carrier and raced down Route 57.

Okay--if you haven't been to the middle of Illinois, that stretch of road is flat and filled with soybean farms and corn fields.  Just imaging a camel racing down the pavement along an endless sea of corn made me giggle. 

A lot.

A few days after that conversation, I began writing SKATING AROUND THE LAW, the first of the Rebecca Robbins mystery novels, and suddenly there was an ex-circus camel named Elwood smack in the middle of the story.   It just goes to show that sometimes you never know where you are going to find inspiration.

May 2013 bring you your own one-humped inspiration.  I can't wait to see what this year is going to hold.

1 comment:

  1. I had assumed, like your mother, that Elwood was there because of the camel maneuver. I'm not even sure how I know about it, because I'm no skater--probably seen on TV sometime and tucked away into the messy overflowing portmanteau that is my brain.

    Regardless of where the inspiration came from, Elwood was a brilliant idea and creation. May you have many more in 2013 (and, please, may I also.)

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