The Stories Behind My Story: A brief look behind the scenes of The City and Barks and Roars by J T Bird as part of #damppebblesblogtours
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a story when I was eight years old about a penguin detective – including illustrations with various blunt crayons. Nearly thirty years later, when it came to writing a novel, I felt obliged to visit the penguin once more – and unleash him upon the world.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I dabbled with the idea of another ‘animal’ story – but actually for my next novel, I’m telling the tale of a twelve year old school-girl who is whisked into a mysterious guild – and helping to protect the country from peculiar threats. It’s a bit like a young spy novel, but there’s going to be a fantasy element as well, and possibly a flying unicorn…
Do you have any ‘side stories’ about the characters?
Eliana Panther gets her name from my daughter. Whether my daughter will be happy that I named a feisty panther after her – is yet to be seen!!
I also tried to picture famous actors providing the voices for various characters. That helped me to write their dialogue – because I could imagine these stars, and how they would talk and sound. So for Frank Penguin I pictured Al Pacino, Chico was Ryan Reynolds, and Chief Vulture was of course Helen Mirren!! For Salvatore Bulldog I pictured an actor called Armand Assante who was in Judge Dredd – a ‘dredd-ful’ movie, but I love the tone of his voice!!
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I won’t give away any spoilers – but it did take a few years before I was happy enough with the plot to sit down and write the darn thing. I refused to write a novel until I felt like I had an interesting story, with a satisfying conclusion – and ample amount of twists. I knew it was going to involve a detective penguin – but initially I wasn’t sure of an era or setting. Eventually I settled on the idea that there was mutiny aboard Noah’s Ark – and this led to a world ruled by animals, to put it simply. I loved this idea and that sparked the rest of the story. And being a huge fan of film noir I decided to set the story in 1952 – so my penguin could wear a fedora, and I could have some fun with animals placed into the genre!!
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
One of my favorite things about writing a novel, is coming up with character names or place names!! I spent a week mulling over the name for a jazz band in the book – even though they are only mentioned once!! Miles Skunk and The Zebras I think was the final decision before you ask!! One of my main characters is Frank Penguin, and I think being a kinda noir story the name just fit, even though it’s a bit cliché. His partner, Chico Monkey, was named after a character in The Magnificent Seven!! Ruben Rat and Mason Gator were named after players for Chelsea Football/Soccer Team!!
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved building the world – and having that freedom as a writer to create everything. That’s one of the joys of being a writer: You Are God. This was such a fun world to write about as well, and I’m sure I’ll visit there again one day as there’s scope for plenty more stories. It was enjoyable tweaking the world to cater for a society of animals and trying to work out how it would differ. I probably could have gone much deeper into ‘world building’ and looked more closely at how all these animals lived etc – but there just wasn’t enough space. Maybe if I write a sequel I will explore the world in a bit more detail.