Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts was inspired by my childhood in Hawaii, spent running wild in back hills and on beaches with my brothers and sister. All of us were mongrels, from many blended backgrounds, and not all of us had the same mother and father.
On days when it rained there were two places I loved to go: the Laundromat where I could eat chocolate bars from the vending machine and watch TV (we didn’t have one at home) and the library where I could escape into books. I loved books most of all, and it was strange to realize – as I became a more mature reader– that there were very few books that looked or felt like my world. They all seemed to take place in cities or suburbs and to involve families much more traditional than my own.
I wrote the Fitzgerald-Trouts because I wanted there to be such a book. A book for children who don’t grow up in a suburb or a city. Children who eat SPAM musubi for lunch and go to schools without walls. Children who walk barefoot and bathe in the ocean. Children whose step-siblings have other step-siblings they may never have met.
My other more secret hope was to introduce the world of the Fitzgerald-Trouts to children in suburbs and cities who were longing to read about a part of the world that they didn’t know.
These thoughts — about this kind of book — swirled around in my head for a very long time without getting much traction. But when I moved – for a few months— from Toronto, Canada to Venice, California, the book suddenly came to life. My family and I had rented a little wooden house much like the ones I’d known in Hawaii. It had sliding glass doors that looked out onto a garden wild with palm, plumeria, mango, bamboo, and bougainvillea. The house was a few blocks from the ocean and, for the first time in many years, I was living in a Tsunami warning zone. Childhood memories flooded back.
One morning I woke from a dream about a family of kids driving around in a car. Not many of the details of the dream were still there, only the image of the car and the childrens’ last name: Fitzgerald-Trout.
Around this same time, my daughter, Gemma, who was ten, began asking me questions about my childhood. I thought it would be more entertaining for her to hear answers in the guise of a story. A story about those children in the car.
I put myself into the story – as the narrator — because I knew Gemma would think it was amusing if I walked into the middle of my own book. And I wanted the narrator to be a TV writer because that is my day job.
Every afternoon for several weeks I wrote a chapter of the book, and every evening I read it to Gemma. She was a ruthless editor and I took all of her advice to heart. These are a couple of the things she advised: make the parents truly terrible, and every time something seems sad, have one of the kids tell a joke.
Her best advice of all was that even if the kids are having a hard time they should always have fun. If the Fitzgerald-Trouts aren’t having fun, then readers of the book won’t have fun, and more than anything else, I hope Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a lot of fun!
— Esta Spalding, Sept. 2015