‘Nothing much. Loose change, tubes of face cream, a few photos of me when I was little, and a silver locket. It looked really old and didn’t have a chain. It didn’t look like anything much. I tried looking inside, but the hinges wouldn’t open. I put it inside an old crisp packet and buried it in the garden.’
Chapter 9 of Chimera Book 1 is a very important one to me. I took the decision at the outset of the very first draft of Chimera that the reader’s first experience of the novel should mirror Kyp Finnegan’s – a head-long rush down the rabbit hole, breathless, panicked, sensorially intense – a boy on the run, a boy out-running perils and predators, but also a boy outrunning something else – his shame. But then we get to the ‘locked room’ of Chapter 9, and Kyp and Atticus are forced to confront the secrets they’ve been keeping and we come to understand Kyp is carrying much more weight around with him than just his rag-bag collection of remembering treasures. When I first heard actor Dan Snelgrove’s reading of this chapter just a few hours before it went live, I cried. I couldn’t help it, and if that sounds a bit naff, so be it. I wrote the words obviously, but to hear Kyp going through it in the gloom of the ankle-snatchers’ hoarding cell, to hear Dan pushing all that feeling through it – well, it broke my heart. Bravo, Dan! But I had a similar reaction too when Berlin-based artist, Phil Cooper, sent through this week’s painting, for there was the old silver locket, moments before being forgotten, all those earthy colours a million miles away from the vivid hues of Chimera. You can even see Kyp’s finger marks in the mud, which gave me a strange thrill. Here is an image beamed from the Elsewhere world, the world from which Kyp Finnegan has so totally lost his way.
“Following on from the Chapter 8, where we learnt a bit more about the world of Chimera, in Chapter 9 we learn more about Kyp’s backstory in the mundane world. We find out about why the silver locket is such an important object, possibly the most important object in the book, so I had to paint it. Abandonment comes up again, as well as the idea of burying things, sometimes because they are precious treasures, and sometimes because they are too painful to look at in the light of day; either way, the consequences can be profound!“
Phil Cooper’s old silver locket painting on his art table in his Berlin studio, October 2020