Monkey Arkwright is an important character; after all, my debut novel is named after him. He is one of two main protagonists in the book.
The idea for the character came from my youngest daughter. As soon as she could walk, Rachel would be forever climbing on the furniture, the tables and chairs, as well as anything else that she could get a grip on. When we went outside, she couldn’t resist a children’s play area, fences, stone steps or anything else where she could expend her boundless energy. We used to call her a little monkey. So, putting the name and the actions together, this is where Monkey’s character came from, but for some reason, I felt that he should be a boy.
In my earliest ideas for the story, I was going to cover Monkey’s life; documenting all the climbs that he made growing up. I’d have a secondary character (who became the book’s narrator, Lorna) who Monkey would tell these tall tales to. One of the scenes that I dreamed up was the time that three-year-old Monkey climbed on top of an ice cream van, whilst his dad was waiting in the queue. The scene would climax with Monkey hanging onto a giant plastic ice cream on top of the van as it sped off.
Whilst dreaming up this type of scene made me laugh, I began to feel that any book that I would write in this vein would come across as a child’s story, which was not the tone that I was aiming for. So, I began to dream up ever more daring climbs for the teenaged Monkey. I drew inspiration from stories from the world of urban exploration, where daring everyday young people would risk life and limb (illegally I should point out!), getting into scrapes in sewers, abandoned buildings and perched on precarious towers.
As the plot unfolds, Monkey gets to use his climbing skills to drive the narrative. He has a special skillset that puts him front and centre as the mysteries at the heart of the story are revealed. But whilst this is a significant part of what happens in the book, he’s not without a few secrets of his own.