Where did The Missing One come from?

4 Nov 2013

The Missing One began when I was staying at a friend’s cabin on Whidbey Island in Washington State (http://www.visitwhidbey.com).

We lived in Seattle for four years, my second child was born there, and we used to take regular trips north, to the islands, and also up to Canada – the landscape of the Pacific Northwest was (and still is) mysterious and intriguing to me. At my friend’s cabin one rainy day I picked up a magazine and read about a pioneering marine biologist called Alexandra Morton.

Morton was one of the first scientists to study the language of killer whales. She was also a young mother, who would take her baby out with her on the ocean, following killer whales, getting to know them, listening to their interactions. She lived in a tiny floating house on a remote British Columbian Island so that she could immerse herself in her research. It was from this magazine article that the Missing One was born.

First, I wrote a short story about a whale researcher, Elena. This then expanded into a novel draft written from Elena’s perspective. It didn’t work. I abandoned it in despair. Then, nine months later, I went back to it, and rewrote it, this time from the perspective of a daughter, Kal, looking into her mother’s past. It was a long process – about four years in all – but it eventually became The Missing One.

My Elena, of course, is nothing like the real Alexandra Morton. But what’s interesting is that a character, or a set up, or a setting, can cling inside the mind and not let go, for years and years, until it finally takes shape as a novel.

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