When I began writing fiction many years (decades) ago, I didn’t put a lot of thought into the sex of the main character. My early novels usually had male leads even if the main characters were chimpanzees as in PANDORA ISLAND. I think the first novel I wrote with a woman as the protagonist was RED ROSA, but this was a fictional account of an historic person, Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-Jewish revolutionary at the turn of the 20th century. Subsequently, most of my novels have had female leads.
LIGEIA is the story of Ligeia Taylor, a slave in the White House in 1850. This novel was intended to be the initial saga of a new and distinctive pair of detectives. In the premier story, Ligeia must find out who poisoned her master, President Zachary Taylor.
In ALBERTVILLE, Alma Jesse Westcott is a young black woman who grows up in the segregated Alabama of the 1940s and 1950s. She experiences the horror of racism before going onto a Harvard degree and n assignment by the State Department to the Congo upon its independence from Belgium. Here she bonds with the new nation’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, only to learn that her government is planning to assassinate him.
At this point in my career, I went with young adult and wrote a new adaptation of PANDORA ISLAND. Here trhe female lead was a 16-year-old girl named Chiku Flynn whose father disappears in the Congo. She must return after years in civilization, having been raised alongside to uncover what happened to her father and she must do so with the help of the chimpanzees he has been studying. Chiku can communicate with them through sign language.
BECAUSE I CAN is about another tough and tumble teenager, named Jemma Dalembert, who is 21st century Eponine, a kid raised in a dysfunctional family, who helps them make it by using her fists. Her hero is Gina Carano the renowned MMA fighter and actress who starred in FAST AND FURIOUS.
Finally, DEVOLUTION with Chiku Flynn. Why do females make stronger lead characters in all of these stories. Because, by nature, they have greater barriers to overcome than their male counterparts. Greater barriers make for higher drama. The goals for these characters are harder to attain and so more powerful once reached. In my GOSPEL OF HANNANIAH, the main character is the illegitimate daughter of Jesus of Nazareth. The greatest story ever told would have been even more dramatic had the reluctant messiah been female.
What does it truly mean to be ‘Human’?
Chiku Flynn wasn’t raised to be human. Born in the Congolese rainforest, she spends her first eleven years as part of an experiment. For her, the aboriginal—the primitive—is ‘normal.’
Just after her eleventh birthday, Chiku witnesses the horrifying death of her mother, and her father sends her ‘home’ to the United States, to a normal teenager’s life. But she can’t adapt. She is the proverbial wild child—obstinate and defiant.
When her father disappears, sixteen-year-old Chiku heads back to the primordial jungle, where she uncovers her own dark past and puts to use her greatest skill: she can communicate via sign language with the wild chimpanzees of Chimp Island.
But there is turmoil in the rainforest—civil war, environmental upheaval…and murder. The lives of the chimps and the safety of the people she loves depend upon one teenaged girl who refuses to be messed with—Chiku Flynn.
“Peter Clenott’s story of a troubled teen searching for her father in the African jungle skillfully combines the breakneck pace of a thriller with the emotional tug of a coming of age novel while providing a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between people and chimpanzees that will leave readers questioning which species is more humane. A thought-provoking read.” —Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of Behind the Shattered Glass
“Devolution is an enthralling, action-packed and fast-paced jungle thriller from beginning to end. The story is set in modern day Africa and is centered on the book’s heroine, Chiku, a firecracker of a girl full of energy and spirit. She can also talk to chimpanzees! The backdrops to the story are as old as time itself—war, racism, hunger and greed. Can a strong-willed sixteen-year-old girl and a band of chimpanzees survive in war-torn Africa? Or will death find its way into this strange yet wonderful family! This book is an interesting coming of age tale full of intrigue, wonder, romance and danger. A truly exciting and original read! This is not your grandparent’s Tarzan tale!” —Christopher P. Obert, founder of the New England Authors Expo
“If it takes a bipolar teenager and some chimpanzees to save their piece of the Congo, then Chiku and her primate friends are the ones to do it. Label them superheroes. Peter Clenott has captured diverse characters in a vibrant setting and added snappy dialogue for this unique and interesting novel.” —Shirley Ann Howard, author of the Tales series
Genre - Young Adult
Rating – PG
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