When my daughter Helen was eight or nine years old, she would say "tell me a Jack and Laura story," and we would lounge on a couch somewhere and I would make up a story about a brother and sister who went on fantastical adventures. It was Helen who came up with the names Jack and Laura, which she had already used for the little figures in her dollhouse.
In my extemporaneous tales, the adventures always started out when the children were in "the Playroom," which was a room between their bedrooms on the third floor of a peeling-yellow Victorian house. There was something magical about the Playroom that sent them to other worlds or times, and at the end of the story they always ended up back in the Playroom with no time having passed.
It did, of course, put a certain pressure on me to come up with new ideas on the spot whenever Helen ran up to me and said tell me a Jack and Laura story. I recalled an idea I developed in college and had tinkered with a little over the years. It was basically the setting of what the world was like, and a concept for the origin of a creature like the ruah (a word I did not come up with until much later).
And so, I came up with a Jack and Laura story in that world and this became a much longer version of the little stories I had told before. I decided it was such a good idea that I should write it down.
But it takes a long time to write a novel, and this one took several years. Helen got older and no longer asked for stories but I kept working on it.
One thing I struggled with was the name of the sentient species I had invented. I tried several things, but nothing seemed right. And then I came across the word "ruah" in an unlikely place. I was a big reader of books on alternative theologies and the historical Jesus, and along the way I came across a book called "The Lost Gospel of the Earth," by Tom Hayden -- a name I immediately recognized because in his youth he was a student activist who was put on trial as part of the "Chicago Seven." After becoming a household name in his early 20s, Hayden continued to be involved in public issues, including environmentalism. I was attracted to the central idea of the book, which is to focus theology on the Earth itself.
In it, Hayden references the Hebrew word "ruah," which he said means "wind, breath and life." This struck a chord with me because of the fundamental nature of the beings I was writing about. (Best not to describe that too much in this introduction).