by Tui Allen
When I was young I sailed the South Pacific in a little wooden yacht with no working motor. I met many cetaceans out there and wondered what they thought about with those large brains of theirs. At night it was obvious they must think about stars since there is little else to see but water and those stars which all blaze more brightly on the deep ocean where no human light pollution can dilute their brilliance.
Two important facts led me to the ideas behind the story of Ripple. First, whales and dolphins evolved tens of millions of years before humans came down from the trees and secondly, dolphin brains have ten times the human brain’s capacity for processing sound. Consequently, the book for a long time held the working title, “Ripple of Sound.”
It must have been about eighteen years ago when quite suddenly as if by magic, a strange and simple story arrived in my mind, about a single achievement by one female dolphin living twenty million years ago. She was inspired by love.
Her achievement was first described in a short poem, then became a 1500 word short story. I submitted that story to a literary assessor for comment and was told it was only the “skeleton” of something bigger. I let it brew for about fifteen years and started on the novel version in early 2009. The final draft was completed in the 2011 and it was published, first as a kindle e-book in September of that year. Later I created a print version at the request of friends and relatives and was surprised to find it selling well beyond that immediate circle. The original poem is included at the end of the book.
My main literary influence for this story was The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a poem I learned by heart as a young woman and recited often while sailing at night to pass the time during long solitary tricks on the helm. Ripple has three things in common with that great poem; its ocean setting, a mind/body/spirit theme and a theme of respect for the creatures of the sea.
However, Ripple has a completely different plot, is not from the human viewpoint and is far more accessible to a modern reader. Ripple is an adult story but teens also enjoy it and it has much to say to them. And Ripple is a novel, not a poem, though its language has often been described by readers as being lyrical, which is possibly something else we can thank Coleridge’s influence for. While writing I was certainly not aiming for blank verse, but I was aiming for fluidity and wave-like rhythms to the language.
My understanding that this story held the seeds of a powerful environmental lesson for modern humans came late in the process of its creation.
I have been previously published by several New Zealand publishers and some of my children’s stories have been internationally distributed and been successful. For Ripple, I was offered a publishing contract by an American Publisher but was discouraged by what I saw as being unfair terms in the contract. It seemed weighted too much in favour of the publisher. This discouraged me from further efforts to find a publisher. I decided to Indie publish which also gave me the freedom to choose where the money from the story went. Consequently, all proceeds for the first 5½ months after publication went to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. I intend to continue donating proceeds to them although I also intend to keep a proportion for myself, since I have not earned since I began writing the book.