It is really gratifying to be contacted by so many readers (many are fellow writers) requesting the background story on Almost Human. As a writer, it is a humbling experience to realize your work is reaching out beyond the private and often lonely effort of putting the words on the page.
Recently, I received an email from a reader in Russia (Russia!) who asked where I got the inspiration for Chapter 3, Lester and Girlie. That chapter is based on someone I knew years ago when I worked in the motion picture business who had a unique relationship with an aging chimp. He was an animal trainer in his late seventies or so. The old man and chimp were a real odd couple, who I enjoyed visiting from time to time.
The trainer was old Hollywood and claimed to have worked on many classic movies of the 30’s and 40’s. Also, he claimed that his chimp was Cheetah. Unfortunately, most of us in the animal world questioned the validity of that, but it made for a great story just the same.
Putting his claims aside, their actual relationship was touching. The chimp had the run of the trailer including her own room. Very often she even brought the old trainer coffee, pouring from the pot into a mug and slopping it down the hallway.
The old man had the endearing habit of talking to her continuously. Their relationship was tender and loving. Clearly, they cared for each other in a way that blurred the line between what seemingly should separate them. He saw his chimp as a non-human being, but a being never-the-less.
I based Chapter 3 on this relationship. We, as writers, are hunters and gathers of experiences. We gather and store what we live, waiting for a time when we can re-work and insert those experiences into one of our stories. Simply, I believe a writer must live in a way that gives him material to gather, with the purpose of using it later. We always want to tell, “just one more story.”
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The sequel to Almost Human is near completion. It goes to the editor on April 30, 2017. It’s working title is More Than Human.