While RUBY LEE AND ME is fiction, it's inspired by events from my life. Mrs. Pauline Porter, my elementary school's first African-American teacher, taught me to read. Her gentle dignity influenced the character who became Mrs. Smyre in my book.
I also modeled the characters George, Maybelle, and Robin Willis on my grandparents and on my sister. While the characters are inspired by real people, they took on lives of their own in the story. For instance, the character George Willis drives a beat-up red truck, loves to sing, and has a dog named Rowdy. I borrowed all those characteristics from my grandpa, but my grandpa wasn't as talkative as George Willis. George morphed into the character I needed to tell the story.