The Storm Bottle
Swimming with dolphins is said to be the number one thing to do before you die. For 12-year-old Michael, it very nearly is. A secret boat trip has gone tragically wrong, and now he lies unconscious in hospital.
But when Michael finally wakes up, he seems different. His step sister Bibi is soon convinced that he is not who he appears to be. Meanwhile, in the ocean beyond Bermuda’s reefs, a group of bottlenose dolphins are astonished to discover a stranger in their midst – a boy lost and desperate to return home.
Bermuda is a place of mysteries. Some believe its seas are enchanted, and the sun-drenched islands conceal a darker past, haunted with tales of lost ships. Now Bibi and Michael are finding themselves in the most extraordinary tale of all.
‘I loved it… An absolute winner.’
– LA Weatherly, author of the Angel Burn trilogy
‘A writer who knows how to grip the imagination, make you sit on the edge of your chair, and make you laugh out loud.’
– Michelle Lovric, author of The Undrowned Child, The Mourning Emporium and The Book of Human Skin
‘If you only ever buy one Kindle book in your life (although that sounds a bit unlikely, now that I stop and think) this has to be it.’
– The Bookwitch blog.
Author Nick Green
Nick Green is a UK children’s and YA author, best known for his trilogy The Cat Kin, published in the UK by Strident Publishing and in Germany by Ravensburger, and also as a BBC audiobook. He has appeared on BBC radio talking about his books, and has been shortlisted for two UK children’s book awards. He regularly does school visits and other children’s literary events. The Storm Bottle is his first straight-to-Kindle novel.
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
My great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side. I own a rather beautiful wooden box, reminiscent of The Box of Delights in John Masefield’s book, and my great-great-grandfather made it. That is the only thing I know about the man – I don’t even know his name, though I could find out. I would love to be able to show him that I still have it, that it has been cherished by so many people over the years. I wonder what he’d make of our lives now.
If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
Hermes. I used to read a lot of Greek mythology as a kid (I had a child’s version of the stories, no doubt with all the ‘adult’ material expunged) and for some reason Hermes (or Mercury) was the one that I identified with. This might have been the fact that Hermes is a little brother, and was always getting on the nerves of his elder sibling, Apollo – a bit like the way my big brother and I squabbled. Also, Hermes is always rushing around, and I’m a bit like that. Generally everyone respects Hermes because he’s the messenger, and so probably has something useful to impart. But he himself remains above the action, observing from a distance.
If you could choose only one time period and place to live, when and where would you live and why?
My own. Visiting the past is all very well if it’s a tourist trip – but it’s like going on holiday. You can visit Africa for the safaris or India for the ancient culture – or Tudor times to see Henry the Eighth – but in the end, if you live there, you’ve got to deal with the violence, the poverty, the squalor, and Henry the Eighth. The present is hugely under-rated as a time in which to live. We’ve got advanced healthcare, gadgets for everything, governments that for all their flaws are better than most governments in the past, global transport… the list goes on. I would never want to live in an antibiotic-free era in which a thorn in your finger could ultimately kill you. (Unfortunately, I think we may be headed that way!).
How did you know you should become an author?
When I was a kid, I used to play with a small group of like-minded friends, and what we played wasn’t football [soccer!] but make-believe. Some days we’d be vampires and werewolves (this was long before the modern-day craze for them, so we want royalties, by the way), some days we would be superheroes, or aliens, or characters from the latest TV show. Eventually, one by one, my friends grew out of this, but I never quite did. And there’s a real problem with being an almost-grown man with a penchant for living inside his imagination. Most people call that ‘crazy’. So what you have to do, is start writing all that stuff down, and suddenly you’re not longer called crazy, you’re called a writer instead. So writing is just a way to stay loopy and be respected for it.
Then, as a teenager, I found a book in my school library: ‘Writing A Novel’ by John Braine. Although I’d often liked the thought of ‘being an author’ when I ‘grew up’, it had never really struck me as an achievable aim – any more than my previous ambitions of being a knight, an astronaut, or a time-travelling scientist. Suddenly, here was a book that would tell me exactly how to do it! Of course these days you can’t move for ‘how to write’ books, but that was the first one I ever found. I don’t know what I was expecting – lots of arcane wisdom probably, like the secrets of the Masonic Lodge – but it turned out that Braine’s advice was surprisingly simply: it was basically, begin at the beginning, go on until the end, and then do it again until the book is good. That was the kind of advice I could understand. But it was another ten years at least before I actually had any success with it.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
When my first book (The Cat Kin) was published, I was interviewed on BBC Radio about it, for the only radio show that was specifically for kids. That was awesome, going to the famous Broadcasting House and being treated as a special guest. Sadly they’ve stopped doing that show since.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
It might reveal to you the meaning of life (but then again it might not).
Who or what inspired your last book?
The idea for ‘The Storm Bottle’ came from one single incident that happened to me. I was walking along a beach in Lyme Regis, Dorset (on the south coast of England) when I saw a dolphin in the water, playing with a group of swimmers. Instantly I knew that I might never have this chance again, so despite not having any towel or swimming things, I took off my shirt and shoes and socks and ran into the sea. It was pretty amazing – you hardly ever see dolphins so close to shore in England, and this one was as playful as a Labrador.
Later I wondered: why did I do that? I’m not given to impulsive behaviour. What is it about dolphins that makes us so eager to go and swim with them? Why is it that some people even claim it’s ‘the number one thing to do before you die?’ That’s why I wrote The Storm Bottle – to try and find out why.
Which scene or characters were the most difficult for you to write and why?
Writing all the dolphin parts was particularly challenging, because I had to throw out everything we normally take for granted – even things like where people are when they converse with each other. Dolphins can have a chat from half a mile away, they can see in two ways (eyesight and sonar), they only sleep with half their brain at a time, and of course they have no hands or material possessions. So what do they even talk about? And how do you transcribe their click-based speech as words? I had to take all this into account whenever the dolphins were around. Some of my solutions were plucked out of thin air: for instance, I made my three main dolphin characters have Spanish names and accents, to suggest a culture that was ‘foreign’ but still quite similar to our own. This is how Michael (who becomes a dolphin) perceives them; they’re not really Spanish of course, but his brain interprets their ‘foreignness’ that way. Furthermore, all dolphins within a particular pod have similar or themed names. This was inspired by scientific research which found that dolphins in social groups develop similar name-whistles to emphasise their bond.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Michael in The Storm Bottle bears a passing resemblance to me in some ways, but he’s more stuck-up than me (I hope) and ends up being far more heroic than I ever would be. Fictional characters do tend to favour the extremes – real people are far too subtle and complex to transfer easily to the page. What generally happens is that writers write about what they know, and so some of their characters will inevitably share their own interests, and perhaps some biographical details. But this is not a way of saying ‘This is me! This is me on the page in a thin disguise!’ It’s just easier, because you know for instance what it’s like to sing in a choir, or play rugby, or to have divorced parents. The interesting thing is that the other protagonist, Bibi, was far easier to write, and yet she has almost nothing in common with me.
What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?
It’s in The Storm Bottle. Trying to portray a human being who is inhabited by the mind of a dolphin. What would he be like? The thought of attempting that initially put me off the idea of writing this book, till I figured out a way to do it.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I’m currently at work on a trilogy called Firebird. The world as we know it is coming to an end, and a band of teenagers have been specially chosen to keep the flame of humanity burning. I know – who in their right minds would trust the future of civilisation to a bunch of kids? Well, there is a very good reason, but you’ll have to wait to find that out. Suffice to say that the younger generation is always underestimated…
Meanwhile I’ve got another trilogy out there at the moment. The Cat Kin trilogy is published by Strident, and is worth checking out if you like action, adventure, cats, or all three.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Take your time. Develop a routine, write and rewrite and rewrite again, polishing and improving. You never stop learning and you can never be perfect, but you can always be a lot better than you are. Don’t be afraid to sit on a book for years before trying to publish it. Publish in haste and regret for a lifetime.
How long do you generally let a story idea ‘marinate’ in your brain before you start the book?
Depends. Often I’ll have an idea that goes nowhere, and forget about it for a year. Then I’ll have another idea, which somehow links to the first, and that linking of ideas is what gets me writing. ‘The Cat Kin’ started that way. Two separate ideas: a martial art based on cat movements, and the mistreatment of tigers to produce bogus medicines. Suddenly I had a superhero story on my hands.
If you weren’t a human, what would you be?
Not a dolphin! A domestic cat. They’ve got it sorted out, haven’t they?
Write a Haiku about your book
A dolphin in the shallows
I have no towel
(This is a haiku I had already written, actually – and not about the book as such, but about the event that inspired it.)