I never set out to write a novel about ferrets, yet from the moment an idea popped into my head about an animal that changed into a Scottish lad in the moonlight (with fireflies) I knew I had to write the story down.
But initially, the pet was a rat and not a ferret.
This idea lasted only a short time, before another animal took the rat’s place in my mind. A ferret.
Rats can make fabulous pets - but as I was playing with the ideas, I knew rats couldn’t excite me and make me laugh the way a ferret could.
I also felt I’d have an uphill battle giving a rat enough personality. And they’d been used in popular fiction plenty of times already. Templeton from Charlotte’s Web, Reepacheep in Prince Caspian, along with plenty of rats in the movies Ratatouille, and Ben. Rats are loyal and intelligent animals, but they are often used as the bad guys. I didn’t feel a rat could become a romantic hero. Other than to another rat. And this was not a rat book.
But then when the animal became a ferret, it felt so right. A few weeks earlier I’d seen a tv show about ferrets and they were so lively, rambunctious and full of personality. It’s as if they were designed for comedy. Racing down drainpipes, leaping about, chasing food, snuggling their owners. Oh they are sooooooo cute! I’d never had a ferret as a pet - which probably helped because if I’d known what they were really like I might never have written the book! Ferrets spend most of their days sleeping! How could a sleepyhead become a hero?
Ignorance, in my case, was complete bliss.
My mind raced to think of all the cheeky things ferrets could do. Because they were small and agile, they could sneak up under the eaves and spy on people. A talking ferret would be perfect for espionage.
I had another idea that Shambles could talk to other animals, like mice and rats, and bribe them with cheese. I can remember thinking Shambles would say, ‘they’re mad for gorgonzola.’ That storyline didn’t end up happening, but it was fun playing around with the idea.
Here’s another thing. I had no idea, when I was daydreaming about the girl in the night with an animal on her shoulder, that the animal would turn into a man. It was one of those strange things that played out in a daydream. The fact he changed, and was naked in the moonlight, made me grin from ear to ear.
But when he spoke? That got my attention! His Scottish accent made me smile even more. I love the people, the wicked humour and the country. My family heritage goes back to Scotland, which is handy. They have the funniest insults in the world. Plus, at the time I started writing Ondine, the delicious Scot David Tennant had just taken over the TV role of Dr Who.
OK, so now I had my ferret hero, but to be a true hero he had to be heroic. There were a few times when he was heroically stupid, and he made me laughed out loud. But he also shares a deep and abiding bond with Ondine. And as all heroes do, he makes some mistakes but he comes good in the end because his heart is pure.
As he grows to love Ondine, he also understands that he needs to be good enough for her. He steps up, he’s responsible not just for saving Ondine but her whole family - and by doing that he is the only one worthy of Ondine’s love (and I think Ondine is the only girl worthy of him too. I swear, if I were 20 years younger, I’d be so jealous of Ondine!)
The mind does strange things - and the mind of a writer can be a very strange place. I have never been able to explain how I get ideas, only that I do get plenty of them, often when I’m least expecting them and they surprise me with how bizarre they are.
Reading the book in published state, it might seem as if all the ideas sprang forth, fully formed. But there were many ideas that were left out in the process, and some didn’t come along until many revisions later.
But I am so very grateful that a kooky furball, bursting with personality, jumped out of my brain that day and won my heart. I hope he wins yours as well.
ABOUT EBONY MCKENNA
Ebony McKenna lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and young son.
She has worked as an award winning journalist, market researcher, waitress, website contributor, accounts manager and company director.
In high school McKenna excelled in English and Literature, earning herself a place in the journalism course at Melbourne's RMIT University.
In the 1990s she worked as a journalist on many leading Melbourne newspapers. She won many awards - including scooping first and second place in the one night for best news report. By day she wrote other people's stories, but by night she plotted epic adventures.
Now she writes novels for a living.
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ONDINE by Ebony Mckenna
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Published: April 5th, 2010
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd
This is a brilliantly witty story with a furry tail ending. One girl. One boy. One spell to be broken. Ondine de Groot is a normal fifteen-year-old who lives with her family in the European country of Brugel. She has a pet ferret called Shambles. But Shambles is no ordinary ferret...He's Hamish McPhee, a boy cursed by a witch. A witch who happens to be related to Ondine. When Shambles turns back into Hamish temporarily, Ondine knows that she has to help him break the spell. He is the most gorgeous boy she has ever met and her one true love! He just can't remain a ferret forever. Can he?
Ebony has kindly provided me with an extra copy of ONDINE to giveaway to one luck winner!
Rules are simple!
*Leave a comment below telling me what your favorite animal is.*
-Winner will be chosen using Random.org
-Ends September 10th, 11:59 p.m. EST
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