Hello everybody! Today, I’m thrilled to be bringing you my first blog tour of 2023, with a guest post from Lucy Ann Unwin on why she wrote her debut the Octopus, Dadu and Me. Onto the post!
There are two very distinct threads in The Octopus, Dadu and Me. The story of my main character Sashi losing her dadu to dementia, and the story of the octopus she befriends in the aquarium — Ian — and her plan to set him free. In the end, I really hope the two threads intertwine and mirror each other in a meaningful way, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. In the meantime, the reason I wrote the book is split into two as well…
When I started the first draft back in November 2019 it had a very simple inspiration. I just wanted to write a fun adventure story… a heist. I’d been re-watching lots of 80s kids films and I was trying to channel the classic Free Willy (which gets a name check in the book). I’d also recently bought season tickets to our local aquarium for my family.
On a trip there, I blasted around the familiar exhibits with my daughters and then we flopped down at the little colouring table, opposite the octopus tank. My 4 yr old took full advantage of the provided felt tips and drew this picture:
I had the animal for my heist, the idea for octopus-inspired drawing being key to the plot and the setting for my opening…that little table features in the first few pages:
Puffer fish. I’d just passed one of those. I had not been ready for how deep-down strange they looked all un-puffed. Now I was stranded at this little colouring-in table while the lights flashed from blue to red to green, making my tummy do flips. I needed to move.
So, the octopus thread was present from the start. That first draft did have Sashi worrying about her grandparent, but the Dadu thread was much more in the background.
Then covid hit.
As we went into lockdown and the death toll started to rise, I couldn’t stop thinking about all these children loosing grandparents. Not just grieving the grandparents they’d lost to the pandemic, but also those they were cut off from due to isolation. Care homes were in the news all the time, and I was heartbroken by residents being denied visits from their family, however necessary it was.
At the start of The Octopus, Dadu and Me, Sashi is told she can’t visit her dadu in his care home anymore. Sashi had always projected her pain and confusion about that onto Ian the octopus, but I wanted to spend more time showing her relationship with Dadu, as it was before — so I wove in some flashbacks.
I’m so glad I did. That inter-generational relationship is so beautiful and precious and fragile, I hope I’ve done it justice.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read Lucy’s book, or are you looking forward to it, like I am? I’d love to chat in the comments!