If you were wondering where I get my ideas, I thought I’d share a blog I wrote for Quercus Books about the origin of The League of Sharks.
Well, I guess it started in a field somewhere in northern France, with a cow, let’s call her Claudette. Sounds like a decent enough name for a French cow. Never met her. There she was munching on some grass, chewing the cud. That’s what cows do isn’t it? Wait, let me look that up…
Just looked up ‘chewing the cud’ and now I wish I hadn’t. Yucky cows. Anyway skipping ahead, so Claudette eats grass, grass becomes milk, milk becomes cheese (a really very stinky Camembert). The type that makes my youngest, Gabe, run screaming from the room and the type I particularly love. So one night, a fair few years ago now, I had a lovely meal with my wife, Lisa, finished with the aforementioned really very stinky Camembert, and then that night had an extremely surreal dream. Usually I don’t remember dreams, they slip out of my ear as I wake and dissolve into the ether, but this one was different. After I woke, I lay there in bed playing it over in my mind and I remembered it perfectly.
In the dream I was strapped to some sort of operating table, tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, and I was being
administered to by a goat doctor. He was bipedal, had the head of a goat but walked and talked like a man. He wore a white coat and a dainty pair of pince-nez spectacles balanced on the end of his snout. I don’t know what he was doing to me in the dream but I didn’t like it whatever it was.
Fortunately I was rescued by an elephant man. Not an elephant man in the sense of John Merrick, the Victorian man who was so cruelly deformed that he was treated as a monster. No, my elephant was a giant of a man. From now on I shall refer to him as ‘elephant dude’ so there’s no confusion. The elephant dude smashed through the wall and snatched me from the goat doctor’s operating table. He shoved me under his arm and smashed out through a different part of the wall. Why he didn’t use the hole he had made on entry I do not know. That’s imaginary elephant dudes for you.
Once saved from the clutches of the goat doctor we were reunited with bunny girl who was the elephant dude’s somewhat combative girlfriend. Can’t remember what she was annoyed about but I don’t think it was my fault.
Over breakfast the next day I mentioned it to my other two kids (Joe & Grace) and they loved the sound of it. They started throwing their own ideas around about who these people were and what else could happen. Talk turned to parallel worlds, which led on to the idea of the Room of Doors, which initially was a gateway to other fantasy dimensions. I seem to remember one where everything was made of iron, including the people. That idea hung around and kind of crops up in book two, The Nine Emperors.
I told a friend of mine about the dream I had. His name’s Jason Cramer and he’s an illustrator with a fierce imagination. He’s done all sorts of artwork for projects I’ve worked on over the years. Jason liked the idea of the goat doctor, the elephant dude and the bunny girl too and he went off to do some drawings.
The dream, Jason’s drawings and the ideas it had generated that morning stayed with me and the more I thought about it the more I moved away from different worlds. I kept thinking about the elephant dude. Who was he? How could he exist? Where could he exist? I love all those programmes about evolution with Dr Alice Roberts and I remember watching something where she explained what happened to apes on their journey towards becoming man and the idea grew from that. What would happen if an elephant evolved? What would happen if other creatures evolved? What creatures would I want to see? Sharks. Definitely sharks.
So in the dream the goat doctor and the elephant dude looked like a goat and an elephant but as they developed in the story they changed. In The League of Sharks, Dr Otravinicus and Garvan don’t look like the animals they’ve evolved from any more than the hero, Junk, looks like an ape.
I won’t pretend that any of it is based on anything but my ridiculously vague grasp of evolutionary science and mostly my slightly excitable imagination. Dr Alice Roberts would probably have one or two (possibly more) very cross words for me about the liberties I’ve taken but that’s the fun of being a writer.