I love to include wildness in my books. Thick jungles teeming with wildlife and vast oceans full of sea creatures are some favourites. But when I began to write my third book a wild girl began to prod at me. She’s seen as a little bit different, a little bit strange by her peers. Someone who lives outside of the norm and who would rather spend all her time outside on the mountains running with a leopard she’s befriended. This girl kept tugging at me until I was ready to tell her story.
I wanted to explore the relationship between a wild girl and a wild leopard. One is seen as normal and one as not. But in this story both are under threat – the leopard from poachers and the girl from an overbearing family member who wants to tame the wildness out of her. Both these characters have their own and combined journeys to make, to help each other and to be free of their oppressors.
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One of the first things that struck me as I was writing Selvi’s and Lokka’s story was how their lives mirrored each other at every stage. This wasn’t intentional on my part – not at first anyway. But as I wrote my way into the story the connections became clearer. Both girl and animal wanted to be left alone, to live as they wanted to live, and neither could shake off the powerful enemies coming after them.
I fell in love with both characters very early on in the story. Wild, sure of themselves, happy with their own company, compassionate to others; what was not to love? I knew then that this child-animal duo was the most similar to each other of all the pairings I’ve ever written, and their fates should be tied together too.
I had a lot of fun planning out the middle of the story so that their arcs went in parallel with each other. In the beginning both girl and leopard were free and left to their own devices as they wanted to be. But then the enemies came, and both were under threat at the same time, both fighting their enemies off at the same time.
In the climax of the story the leopard is caught and imprisoned. So too is the girl. The leopard is trapped; caught up in a net and ready to be transported, while the girl falls into a trap of a different sort. She is tricked by the villain into going home, then shut up in a cart and taken away to be made a proper young lady of. This scene made me so angry, for both these characters. Without spoiling it too much, their stories get enmeshed at that point, and from then on we see them growing into who they want to be.
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The book was a joy to write – possibly the easiest one I’ve written so far. And it all came from the central idea of embracing the wildness within a girl.
Meet the author
Nizrana Farook is the author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant and The Boy Who Met a Whale. She was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and now writes tropical adventure stories inspired by her home country. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire, England.
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok: @nizrite
About The Girl Who Lost a Leopard
From the author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant comes another thrilling escapade set in fictional Sri Lanka.
Selvi is a free spirit who loves climbing in the beautiful mountains behind her home. There, she befriended Lokka, a leopard with a beautiful coat and huge golden eyes. Together, they roam the wilderness as they please.
But when hunters come with bows and arrows, Selvi knows she must stop them before they hurt Lokka. But what can she do against such powerful enemies, especially when the friends and family she turns to for help are not all they seem to be? To rescue her leopard friend, first Selvi must outwit the poachers and expose the mastermind behind it all.
With breezy chapters and lush, atmospheric settings, this action-adventure is a superb pick for young readers who enjoy stories with peril, friendship, and close encounters with the natural wild.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 05/09/2023
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post