Q & A
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA OF ISABEL AND JESSALOUP?
When my daughter was about ten or eleven years old, I saw how frustrated she was at being treated as a little girl. She wanted to change the world, to make an impact, but no one took her seriously. And that made me think: What would it be like for a young girl to suddenly find herself the biggest, most powerful animal on earth? What would it be like to find out you’d turned into an elephant?
That was my first idea. But then I remembered that the elephants aren’t the biggest creatures on earth. The biggest creatures on earth are…
Like so many children, I was always fascinated by whales and dolphins when I was young. Later on I loved Moby Dick, not so much for the violent, exciting story, but for the descriptions of the whales. One scene in particular stuck in my mind: when Ishmael looks down into the water and sees a dreamy, peaceful scene of mother whales and their calves.
BOTH ISABEL AND JESSALOUP MUST PASS ON A PIECE OF WISDOM FROM THEIR WORLD TO THE OPPOSITE SPECIES …
That way they can have an enormous impact and save lives. The message: You are more powerful than you think.
YOU MUST HAVE DONE A LOT OF RESEARCH ON WHALES.
Actually, I found out that there is so much we don’t know! The marine scientists who devote their lives to studying these huge mammals will be the first to tell you that there is much that’s still a mystery. It is clear that whales are intelligent beings with a sophisticated social structure. But they are elusive; it’s difficult to study them in the wild—you can’t exactly keep a forty- or sixty-ton whale captive for research purposes. And all a dead whale will reveal is its anatomy.
WAS THAT A PROBLEM FOR YOU?
For a writer, a lack of hard scientific facts is not only a challenge, but also a gift. You can let your imagination run wild. And the wonderful thing is that once you write down something that you’ve just made up, it often takes on its own startling truth. That’s the mystery, and the very essence, of fiction.