The dreamers of this world are the visionaries, the free thinkers with imagination. They’re individual, enormously brave and (almost) unstoppable. Look at Martin Luther King and hear that speech again. He had a dream. So did Mandela, in jail on Robbin Island. So does Polly Higgins, the barrister who wants the United Nations to identify another crime against humanity: ecocide. These dreamers don’t lie around wishing the world was kinder. They change it.
I’ve been wearing a gorilla mask a lot lately – in Waterstone’s, at shows and in school halls. And this morning in my living room, to see how practical it is to do an on-the-spot gorilla dance without falling on my large rubbery nostrils. The GORILLA DREAMS promo tour has been crazy, hectic fun, and with a competition encouraging kids to be creative, it’s not over yet.
I haven’t created animal characters before – unless you count Oops the ongalong and Nimmo the mobe along with a small dragon called Mayerling (“Maya, Maya, can’t breathe fire!”). They’re complete fantasy; sometimes reality and magic intersect. Of course I did research on gorillas.
Did you know a male gorilla has an arm span of up to 2.6 metres?!! They have unique fingerprints like us and they’re desperately endangered. It was all really fascinating background but I knew my gorillas at gorilla school would be at least a little like kids. So there’s Gertie the Scrabble champion who uses long words like finesse but doesn’t actually have any.
Not long ago I went to a London exhibition about identity and it was a mind-boggling cross-science mix. I was especially interested in the twin studies and the nature/nurture question. How alike are twins who aren’t raised together? Is blood really thicker than water – or thinner?
In my new YA novel published by Candy Jar, Fizzy and Kim aren’t twins but by the end that’s how they feel. The starting point of this story was a news item I saw a few years ago about a mistake in a Russian hospital, and that’s why I’ve dedicated the book to those real-life girls who have bonded through the melodrama. My characters are fictional of course, and the idea was to create two girls whose lives have been completely different up to the point when the truth is uncovered – and whose personalities and attitudes are very different too. Yet their growing bond has to hold the narrative together in the midst of a series of emotional earthquakes!