Welcome to Friday, folks. Bit of a departure today. I've invited friend and colleague David Jinks to be my guest blogger to talk about his new novel: The Dodo Tree.
D: Thank you for having me inside your blog. I do like the bookshelves.
J: What was your inspiration for the book?
D: Oh, I’m obsessed with rare and vanished things: coins made with Edward VIII’s head on that couldn’t be used because he abdicated, for example, or lost works by Shakespeare that we know once existed. The dodo is the ultimate in extinction, because it’s the first creature mankind ever realised had become extinct. It was shocking. No one could believe God would go to the trouble of creating a creature and be careless enough to let it die. Now the tree that the dodo fed on looks like it might be going the same way.
J: How would you categorise your book – a historical romance?
D: Almost yes and almost exactly no. It’s about relationships, but not necessarily healthy ones! The dodo and the dodo tree had a symbiotic relationship. The dodo needed the tree: it depended on its fruit, partly because it didn’t have much competition for it; nothing else could eat it as the fruit’s pit was hard as stone. The tree needed the dodo to eat its fruit, because only the dodo’s gizzard was tough enough to split the seed and let it germinate. But what happened to the dodo tree when the dodo died out? Loads of scope for metaphors about fatal over-dependent relationships. Add the fact that both species only lived on the so-called ‘honeymoon island’ of Mauritius and you’ve loads of scope for irony.
J: Did it take you long to research?
D: Well, I started it in my 20s and now I’m in my late 40s! There’s a very good bit of advice to authors that I ignored: stick to what you know. I foolishly made the hero of the modern day strand of my novel a scientist working on genetically modified crops who turns his hand to saving the tree. Happily I eventually changed him into the PR guy who’s going to tell the story of the attempt to save the tree… Stick to what you know. [David currently runs the public relations team and publishes the journal of a long-established membership organisation.] In the meantime, I’d got married, moved from London and had a son, and my novel itself nearly became extinct.
J: What galvanised you to finish it?
D: Too much cheese! I got a bit out of shape and unhealthy and stressy at work last year and had a stroke. I wasn’t up to talking or walking much for a while, but I watched one hour of daytime TV and I knew it would finish me off. Time to dust off the old novel.
J: Why did you take the indie route to publishing?
D: I fired the finished story off to a few agents - who didn’t exactly form an orderly queue. Their feedback was that it was imaginative and entertaining, but very niche for conventional publishing. I do have a sneaking desire to see a lavish hardback in Waterstones, but I took their point. Kindle Direct Publishing’s wonderful in enabling niche books of all descriptions find an audience.
J: What’s next? Do you have another book in the pipeline?
D: Maybe another outing for my deeply shallow PR guy – again, with some kind of historical bent. If I do start another, though, I’d really like to find a less drastic way to find the time to complete it!
The Dodo Tree is available from the Kindle Store here.