Kit de Waal's reimagining of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—Becoming Dinah—is the launch title for Orion Children’s Books’ new YA feminist series, Bellatrix. It tells the story of a teenage girl who is determined to find a life for herself away from her unconventional upbringing. She talks to us about writing it here.
How did you become involved with the Bellatrix list?
I was asked if I would like to part of this new imprint by reimagining a classic for our times, for a young feminist audience. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? I jumped at the chance.
What attracted you to writing YA?
It’s not a million miles away from what I had already written with My Name is Leon. I imagined what he would be thinking as a nine year old boy and then wrote from his point of view. For a YA audience I simply had to remember what it was to be a teenager although young people now are far more sophisticated than I ever was.
How has writing for young adults been different from writing your previous adult books?
The world is a different place to the one that I grew up in the 70’s. I’ve had to think my way into the importance of social media and the online world, the availability of the web and the ability to constantly interact with one another. It’s been a joy and a challenge.
Why did you want to reimagine the story of Moby Dick, and how did you go about doing this?
I wanted to tackle Moby Dick because there are literally no women characters in there. Two women are mentioned by name but they have no role at all in the book and I wanted to imagine this book as if it was written now. Instead of a ship I chose a vintage VW Campervan in Whale White and instead of a sailor called Ishmael I chose Dinah, a young woman on the cusp of independence, trying to escape her life.
What do you want readers to take away from Dinah’s journey?
That we are who we are and no matter what size, shape, colour, gender, sexual identity, ability or age that our true selves are worthy of celebration, that we if we can find our tribe (and sometimes that tribe is scattered all over the place), we can find our way home.
Becoming Dinah will be published by Orion Children's Books on 11th July 2019.