February 27, 2012 by Heidi
Today I am lucky enough to be kicking off the blog tour for one of my favorite books of the year so far–The Humming Room by Ellen Potter! Ellen has be lovely enough to drop by and answer one of my burning questions about the book, namely, I wanted to know more about her romantic mythological reimagining of the The Secret Garden character “Dickon” through Jack and the mythology of the Faigne.
Who doesn’t love the character of Dickon from The Secret Garden? The guy has a wicked cute accent, is patient with cranky girls, and can tell you what a robin says. Before I typed a single sentence of my middle-grade novel The Humming Room, a re-imagining of The Secret Garden, I knew that creating a new, yet equally dreamy Dickon wasn’t going to be easy.
I agonized over this new Dickon, mentally auditioning all sorts of characters. It was only when I decided on the setting of The Humming Room—the wild and beautiful St Lawrence River in The Thousand Islands region of New York—that my Dickon emerged.
Just as the original Dickon was a child of the moors, my Dickon—named Jack—was a child of the river. I wrote about him gliding between the islands in a small canoe, a great blue heron always flying above him, like a Familiar. The more I wrote, the more I began to wonder if he was a real boy at all. He seemed so elusive and mysterious. He reminded me of the Selkie, a mythological creature who can transform from a seal to a human. That didn’t quite fit Jack, so I started to research myths of sea creatures from around the world. Nearly all of them were nasty, flesh-eating creatures. They wouldn’t do either. That was when I decided to create my own mythological creature—The Faigne. I placed the source of the legend on the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel. Why Guernsey? I haven’t the foggiest idea. It might have been the spoils of a procrastination session. I tend to Google places that I’d like to visit some day. You know . . . when I have some free time. Which is never. Anyway, I came upon a web site that said that the people of Guernsey loved a good ghost story and that tales of fairies and other supernatural creatures abounded. That was all the encouragement I needed.
In my version, the legend of the Faigne needed to be romantic. It would have to echo something that would happen between Jack and my main character, Roo, so I created a legend about a human girl who was an outcast. She was the sort of girl no one noticed. But the Faigne does notice her. He sees through her ordinariness and her bad moods and he falls for her. Falls hard. Then the two of them dive into the water and are never seen again.
Now I’ll be honest here. I’ve always had a quibble with the original Dickon. He never fell for Mary, not really. And I wanted him to. And excuse me if this is presumptuous, but I think Mary wanted him to. So in creating a new Dickon, I was also indulging in a bookworm’s ultimate fantasy: re-imagining a beloved book so that everything turns out the way you want it to.
Now if only I could re-imagine my life with a little more free time in it.
And maybe a trip to Guernsey.
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