I'd been living overseas (England and Switzerland) for about ten years, and I was very much missing my family back in the States. I thought I'd write a story about normal family chaos, and that's how this began, with me trying to remember what it was like growing up in my family. Writing the story was a way for me to feel as if my family were with me, right there in our little cottage in England. My family is a lot like the Finney family — noisy, wacky. The brothers in Absolutely Normal Chaos share my own brothers' names (Dennis, Doug, and Tom), but the characters are fictional. And my older sister, Sandy, is definitely not like Mary Lou's older sister (my own sister is much nicer and far more intelligent). We did have a cousin who came to live with us when I was Mary Lou's age, and he was quite like the character Carl Ray is, but the things that happen to Carl Ray in this book did not happen to my real cousin.
Some Other Tidbits
Mary Lou gives her address in this book as 4059 Buxton Road — and that was my real address. There's a photo of my house on the photo page of my Web site, and if you look closely, you can see the address. People often ask if there was a "real" Beth Ann and a "real" Alex Cheevey. The answer is yes and no. I did have a close friend who lived in a tidy house, like Beth Ann's, but my real friend was not quite so goony as Beth Ann. And I did know a pink-cheeked boy like Alex, and I did, for a time, think he was "divine." Although I think my brothers were pleased to see characters share their names, my youngest brother, Tom, was a bit puzzled as to why I gave his best ("real life") line ("I'm just a poor little slob") to the character of Doug in the book. Oh, well. It happens like that sometimes. Note: Mary Lou Finney and her summer journal reappear in Walk Two Moons. In Walk Two Moons, you find out what happened after she turned in that "secret" summer journal to her English teacher.
Reprinted by permission