As to what inspired me for Adicia’s story, there are several answers. The first and foremost inspiration was the famous Four Seasons’ song “Rag Doll,” of course. I couldn’t forget that story behind the song once I’d heard it, and I suppose you could say I became obsessed, at thirteen years old, with creating a happy ending for that poor little girl in hand-me-down clothes. And the book is indeed based loosely around the lyrics of the song: She’s a poor girl who wears hand-me-down rags, is mocked by the people from the better parts of town, is compared to a ragdoll because of her ragged clothes and petite stature (her full adult height is four feet ten inches on a very petite frame, with a ring size of only four, and she doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds soaking wet until she gets pregnant), and eventually catches the eye of a rich boy whose parents think she’s no good and who disapprove of a potential relationship.
Everything else, besides of course the scene that inspired the song, came from my own imagination. But I wanted her to have a happy ending, and so I made it so she and the rich boy could be together in spite of coming from such different worlds and having such opposition on both sides. Though before she can have her happy ending, she’s going to have to learn that sometimes the strongest, most lasting love bonds come when one grows instead of falls in love. She also doesn’t have her happy ending handed to her on a silver platter, and she has to learn to stand on her own two feet instead of relying on a man who initially did rescue her. She’s growing as a modern, empowered, self-sufficient woman and realizing she loves her husband the way a woman loves a man while Ricky is off in Vietnam.
Secondly, it was inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit, which is frequently referred to during the course of the book. When someone loves you enough, no matter what you look like or where you’ve been, you are Real, and you can never be ugly or unloved ever again, only to people who don’t understand. Only people who are strong and tough have what it takes to be Real, because by the time you’re Real, you’re no longer as picture-perfect as you were in the beginning. Toys who are Real have had their fur rubbed thin and their edges rubbed down, but it doesn’t matter to the person who made them Real, because they’ll always be beautiful to that person. And once you’re Real, it lasts for always, even if the person who made you Real goes away. The Skin Horse was made Real by the Boy’s uncle, and he’s still Real, even if the uncle is grown up and doesn’t play with him anymore.
Thirdly, it was inspired by the old Five Little Peppers series. Yes, there are numerous flaws in Margaret Sidney’s writing, some pertaining to her historical era, some pertaining to her limitations as a writer, but overall, I enjoy the series as a snapshot of a long-vanished era in time. The series is also frequently referenced in my book. It’s a rags to riches story of the most unlikely kind, but the Peppers (esp. the boys) never forget their class origins and where they came from, even after they’ve come up in society. Justine is also similar to Phronsie, except Justine isn’t spoilt, coddled, and shielded from real life. And Ricky is similar to Jasper King, the rich boy who takes a chance and befriends these poor kids, a friendship that changes their lives forever.
Fourthly, it was inspired by The Divine Comedy, which is also referred to frequently. Dante has to sink to the lowest, saddest point possible before he can begin moving up to happier, prettier, more hopeful places and get back on track with his life and faith. Sometimes it makes you appreciate your happy ending more if you’ve been through the worst and had to earn it. (There’s also at least one reference to the story of the righteous Pandava brothers of Indian mythohistory, but it wasn’t an informing point of reference. At the end of their days, near the beginning of the age of Kali Yuga, the five brothers are walking along and a dog tags along with them. One by one, the brothers and their wife Draupadi drop dead, but oldest brother Yudhisthira keeps going. When he’s asked by one of the gods why he’s staying with this strange dog but not getting upset over his own brothers’ deaths, he says it was their time to go anyway, and it’s important to show kindness even to lowly creatures. Then it’s revealed the dog is his father the sun god, and it was to test his righteousness. Then he’s shown a vision of his brothers and Draupadi being tortured in Hell, while their enemies and cousins the Kauravas are in Paradise. Yudhisthira elects to join his brothers and wife in Hell, and it’s revealed it was all one final test to show his righteousness. The Pandavas are rewarded with Paradise. Adicia feels perhaps this is the case for her too, one final trial before she finally gets to enjoy a happy ending.)
Fifthly, it was inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, also frequently mentioned during the book. In the world Adicia is from, life is more like a Grimm’s fairytale than a Disney fairytale. She knows life isn’t all pretty and happy. She and her sisters aren’t even scared when Sarah tells them one of the stories, “The Story of the Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” When you’ve already lived through some tough stuff, you can become numb to scary stories.