Kara LaReau

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS: Big Lou

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fourth day of the INFAMOUS RATSOS Kindness Contest!

The winners of Friday’s Kindness Contest are (drumroll, please)…Robin Arehart and Michelle Perron! Email me (karalareau@me.com) your mailing addresses as soon as you can, ladies, so I can send each of you a signed copy of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, along with some fun swag!

The Kindness Contest will continue to run today and tomorrow, so you still have two more chances to win! As previously mentioned, feel free to share how you’ve been nice or thoughtful or generous or helpful (or all of the above!) in the comments section here. I’ll choose a name at random at the end of the day; the winner will get a signed book, a bookmark, and some INFAMOUS RATSOS “Hang Tough” tattoos (aka “rattoos”). Of course, you’re all winners just for playing (and being awesome), but even if you don’t snag a signed book, you’ll be eligible for some nifty Ratsos swag (more on this later). I’ll announce today’s winners tomorrow. NB: One post per entrant per day, please!

So, I’ve been telling you about some of the experiences and people that inspired me to write THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. Over the past few days, I ‘ve told you all about the people who inspired Mrs. Porcupini, Mr. O’Hare, Miss Beavers, Tiny, Chad, and Fluffy. Today, I thought I’d talk about my inspiration for Louie and Ralphie’s dad, Big Lou.

As you’ll learn tomorrow in greater detail, my grandfather was named Ralph and his older brother was named Louie. Their father was named Carmen. Sadly, Carmen was the OPPOSITE of the character I created for Big Lou — to put it mildly, he was not a nice man. Carmen died when my grandfather was pretty young, so my great-grandmother, Frances (whom I called “Nonnie”) raised my grandfather and my Uncle Louie and their two younger sisters by herself. It was the Depression, and they were very, very poor; honestly, I don’t know how Nonnie did it, but she did. I suppose I borrowed some of Big Lou’s surface toughness from my great-grandfather (who, it turned out, was tough on every level), and then combined it with what I know of my great-grandmother, who did what she could to hold her family together through some very tough circumstances.

My great-grandfather Carmen (center), with my grandfather (Ralph) on the right and his older brother, Louie, on the left. My great-grandfather’s expression tells you all you need to know about his personality.

I’m so thrilled with Matt Myers’ depiction of Big Lou. I love his buzz cut and his rolled shirtsleeves (complete with embroidered “LOU”), and his trucker hat and his gruff expression — well, gruff to a certain point! The image of Big Lou and the boys crying next to the photo of Mama Ratso gets me teary every time.

Tomorrow, look forward to my final story about the people and things that inspired me as I wrote THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. In the meantime, hope you’ll enter my Kindness Contest — and spread the word about it to others!