- I’m delighted to have Yaba Badoe, author of The Secret of the Purple Lakehere on my blog today. Could you tell me a little about your book?
The Secret of the Purple Lake is a collection of five interlinked stories that takes us from Ghana to Orkney, and from Spain to Norway and Thailand. As a minor character from one story assumes a major role in the next, we meet a fascinating cast, including Imoro the magic elephant, Leo the Walrus Prince, and the Wild Princesses of Rousay. The protagonist of the opening tale, The Fisherman’s Daughter, has to retrieve her dead father’s bones from the bottom of the sea, in order to bring harmony back to her seaside village. In fulfilling her task, she must evade the clutches of The Fish-man of the Purple Lake. The Fish-man, a monstrous creature with the body of a man and the head of a fish, was once a beautiful boy from the Sahel, and has his own story about how he became the Fish-man.
- One of the things I love most about this collection of stories is that they are all intertwined in some way. Why did you decide to do this?
I really enjoyed writing these stories. So much so, that after I finished the first – The Fisherman’s Daughter – I realized that I wanted to know more about the Fish-man of the Purple Lake. Where did he come from? How did he end up as a Fish-man? Would he always be a Fish-man or would fate take pity on him? I felt the same way after I’d written The Wild Princesses of Rousay. What was going to happen to Jael’s suitor, Leo of the Norselands who ended up as a walrus? Would he always be a walrus? And what of Jael’s mother, Romilly, after she’d thrown herself from a turret of Trumland Castle was transformed into a golden eagle? I wanted to find out more about these characters, so eventually I gave them their own stories.
- Many of the stories also celebrate powerful women. Is that an important message for you? Why include this in a children’s book?
I see powerful women wherever I look, so it’s not surprising that I occasionally write about them. I think that all my characters are courageous, even if they don’t fit any particular stereotype of what a brave person should be. Ajuba – who isn’t more than eight or nine, is extremely brave to take up the challenge of trying to find her father’s bones. Musa is fearless as well. He may be misguided, but it takes considerable courage to attempt to kill a magic elephant!
- What inspired the book?
I wrote the stories at a time when I was trying to find out what I really wanted to achieve with my life. I was searching for answers. Maybe that’s why I wrote a story about a Ghanaian girl’s quest to find her dead father’s bones. Some of the characters that I created – for example the Fishman of the Purple Lake – first appeared to me in a dream. Interesting, I thought. So I decided to write him into Ajuba’s story.
- What’s your favorite folk/fairy tale?
I’m a great fan of all of Grimm’s fairy tales! I’m particularly fond of Hansel and Gretel. The story is terrifying and very macabre. It still gives me a frisson every time I read it because it exposes a painful truth that some parents when times are hard are negligent. It also exposes a reality that runs through Roald Dahl’s work: there are many adults who loathe children.
- Finally, are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes – I’m working on Wolf-light, a YA novel for Zephyr an imprint of Head of Zeus. Wolf-light tells the story of three young women, sisters of the heart, born within hours of each other in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall. Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of sacred sites and belong to a secret order whose task is to protect and conserve the landscapes they inhabit. When copper miners begin to plunder Zula’s desert home in Gobi Altai, and Adoma’s forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy. How far will Zula, Adoma and Linet go to defend the well being of their homes? And when all else fails, will they have the courage to use the ancient power of their order to make the landscape speak in a way that everyone will hear?
You can purchase The Secret of the Purple Lake here.