Nim's Island

A site for readers of the book Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr

Friday, July 27, 2007

How Nim was Born

I'm often asked how I came up with the idea for Nim's Island.

There are really two parts to her creation. I started playing with the idea of a girl writing to an author after I received two letters one week from girls who wanted me to write a book about them. I had to tell them that I simply can't work like that – the ideas for a book have to spring from my own imagination, but that they should think about writing their own stories. However, the letters started me on a writer's favourite game: what if. So... what if an arrogant author brushed off a little girl whose life was in fact much more interesting than anything the author could invent?

I played with this idea for quite a while, several months or a year, and it became clear to me that the reason the girl's life was so interesting was that she lived on an island.

It still took ages to come to life, until on about the tenth draft, I suddenly remembered and really relived a story I wrote when I was 8 – about a little girl who ran away from her orphanage to live alone on Spring Island.

That story was inspired by my fascination with two tiny islands we used to pass on the ferry going to visit my grandparents on Vancouver Island. I absolutely longed to live on one of them! But maybe because I knew it wasn't going to happen, or maybe because I've always been a story teller, the girl I saw living there wasn't me, in my family; she was an extraordinarily brave, capable and inventive girl. And, probably because I had just read and loved Anne of Green Gables, it was obvious to me that she was an orphan.

And so, finally, when I put myself back into the story I'd written when I was 8, Nim came to life and appeared on the page pretty much as you see her now.

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