The reason for the Peter Pan theme in Nora & Kettle
The idea for the Peter Pan theme came about accidentally. This often happens when I’m writing. I type away, almost mindlessly, starting with one idea and then the story reaches out like tree roots desperate for water, turning in directions I never see coming.
As I delved into the murky terrain of domestic violence and racial prejudice I think my brain needed relief. And I started to think the reader might need some relief too. These subjects are certainly serious and deserve weight but when reading about it, I thought there needed to be some light, some hope shining out from behind the dark shadows.
Nora’s character was always very Wendy-ish, dreamy and escapist with this resistance to being a ‘real grown-up’. It was interesting to twist the original story to make her into a character who needed that escape, not just because she didn’t want to ‘grow-up’ and leave the nursery but because she needed something to cling to stop herself from falling apart. So Nora was inspired by the idea of a teenage Wendy with a much darker back-story.
Once I had settled on the Peter Pan motif, Kettle’s character became clearer. He would be the leader. He would be the ever hopeful, crowing, homeless kid with a more responsible edge to him than the mischievous Peter Pan. Again, his tendency toward fantasizing, his want to help other kids struggling like him, is part of a coping mechanism to deal with his past.
When describing the setting and the events I kept the language very lyrical and song-like to maintain that pixie dust and magic feel. It was quite a challenge, given the subject matter, to make some of the more violent and distressing scenes feel devastating and yet sound kind of pretty.
Other characters to look out for who are inspired by Peter Pan are Princess Tiger Lily, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook.
I didn’t want the Peter Pan theme to dominate though. Rather, I wanted it to alleviate. I intended it to be subtle and I wouldn’t call Nora & Kettle a Peter Pan retelling. When you read the story with the Peter Pan twist in mind, hopefully you will pick out tiny details that are inspired by the fairytale, changed to fit into 1950s New York.