Exchanging emails with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, she commented that she’d recently finished reading my novel, Song of the Sea Goddess, which I’m pleased to say she enjoyed. Knowing this part of the world, she commented that she could see how my trips up the west coast of South Africa had inspired me. She also said she found it interesting that a monkey should appear again. Was there a reason for this?
Good question! I had to think about that.
Fingers and Toti, my two monkey characters are very different creatures and have different roles and functions in the stories in which they appear.
Fingers provides some of the comedy in my earlier novel, You’ll Never Walk Alone. He also helps to reflect wheeler-dealer, Bob’s character, showing a softer side to a character who might not otherwise be perceived as such. Through Fingers we are shown elements of Bob’s relationship with his Nan and learn about her character, since we never actually meet her. Right from the first time Fingers is introduced we are shown his naughty side and his thieving tendencies (scouser-trope alert!) although he’s never malicious, in fact he turns out to be quite the hero thanks to his light-fingered antics.
Toti, who appears in both Song of the Sea Goddess and Spirit of the Shell Man, provides a means of reflecting some of her fellow cast members’ characteristics and personalities by the way that they react to her and interact with her. But mainly she’s the bookish Professor’s little companion; in particular, she provides a foil for his thoughts so that he isn’t talking to himself all the time. Toti actually crept into the book as a male monkey called Felix, but he didn’t fit. The gender switch and the African name worked so much better. Now in her second novel outing, Toti’s character has developed and she’s becoming a player in her own right.
Subconsciously though, I think there might be another reason for the appearance of monkey characters in my novels. Meet ‘Monkey’ (and Luna, of course).