Even when I was little, I was short. By this I mean, shorter than just about everyone else. Children are vicious little beasts and teased me constantly. My pet hate was to be shoved to the front of photographed groups – even in the senior sixth form (and Deputy Head Girl, to boot) I was seated with the ‘ickle’ first years. They also called me ‘snitch’. I explained that it should really be ‘titch’ as snitch meant something quite different. That went down like a hot air balloon out of gas.
Back in the real world, I
finally retaliated, discovering as most of us do, that bullies are dolts
and that a well-placed word (or preferably insult) will work wonders.
Just because you’re five feet one and three-quarter inches doesn’t mean
you’re insignificant, does it?
sounds all well and good, but in all honesty, I still struggle. People
of all ages can be so patronising. It doesn’t help that I feel as if I’m
shrinking, because the rest of the population is getting taller, which I
feel is a bit unfair.
It’s extraordinary how often I have to ask for
someone to reach for goods in supermarkets. Do they want me to buy the
stuff or not?It’s a conundrum. I have to imagine
what it’s like to be tall. Most tall people I know were once shorter,
so why is it so hard for them to empathise?
Ah well, at least I don’t
bump my head on beams and I never struggle with lack of leg-room on
planes. I digress.
I came up with True Haven,
a Regency-inspired YA fantasy (out on 3 October on Crooked Cat). The
book has a strange beginning, in that it started as a dream about a
world within a world. I daren’t give too much away, but I came up with a
story that explored what happens when differently proportioned worlds
When I started, I never imagined how complicated things could
get. Yes, it’s fantasy, on a crazy scale, but it still has to be
pseudo-plausible. I spent hours looking up the relative proportions of
humans, animals, buildings and even insects, before drawing all manner
of weird diagrams to make sure it all worked.
The heroine is Miss
Claramina Dart. She’s ‘Mina’ for short, as it were, and small for her
age, but she is no minor, being the linchpin of the whole, fantastical
tale. This Miss Dart is resilient, full of ingenuity and determination.
One of my favourite Shakespearian quotations sums her up: “Though she be
but little, she is fierce!” I wish she’d been in my class at school.
She would have stuck up for me. Her travelling companion is named Max,
of course, and at first they don’t see eye to eye (on so many levels).
growth, literally and figuratively, is a huge part of True Haven. Her
actual size correlates with the more intangible parts of her
For example, when she’s dwarfed by the normal world, after a
few moments of reorientation, she must adjust speedily or face certain
doom. The sudden transition serves to reveal her inner strengths. (I
only realised this when my editor, Bella Book, suggested as much.)
with the concepts of different-sized beings inhabiting the same world
was quite a challenge. It’s an intriguing vehicle to explore all manner
of concepts in (I hope) a humorous and exciting fashion. Best of all,
it’s mind-boggling fun because for once, I was the giant puppeteer in
I knew I’d get my own back one day.
By Pamela Kelt
Alice by Tenniel
Gulliver under the microscope
Jack and the Beanstalk - chased by the giant