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Interview with James Jeffrey Paul, author of Wonder of Ness

James Jeffrey Paul photo

NG: Have you seen Nessie?

JJP: No, but I have seen plenty of phenomena in the loch—ducks, rocks, floating sticks, boat wakes, etc.—that look so like the traditional images of Nessie that they gave me the shudders.

NG: What impressed you when you visited Loch Ness?

JJP: The incredibly changing moods of the place and the diverse locales. Expansive Urquhart Bay, the fairy-like pools of the River Moriston, the sweep of Borlum Bay at the southern end of the loch, and quaint little Inchnacardoch Bay with its sailing boats at anchor and the little wrecked boat among the reeds. Those are just a few of the beautiful treasures you’ll find when you visit the loch. And the incredible juxtaposition of weather and climates! 
Read the Prologue to my book for a description of that.

NG: Did you see the shadow of a swan looking like Nessie, as you describe in your novel?

JJP: No, but I thought how much the famous faked photograph of Nessie from 1934 looked like the shadow cast by a swan. 

NG: Did you see any seals on Loch Ness?

JJP: No, unfortunately.

NG: Are all the sightings you mention in your novel historical, or did you invent some of them?

JJP: If the sighting was not “granted” to one of the characters, then it is drawn from the historical record. If the sighting was “granted” to one of the characters, then it is fictional.

NG: Did you talk to any psychics about Nessie? Is the psychic character based on someone you've met?

JJP: No, but in my life I have done much research into psychic phenomena and have spoken with many psychics. The psychic in my novel is not based on any actual person—she is just how I imagine a Nessie-obsessed psychic might be like.

NG: Is the cook, Greg, based on someone you've met?

JJP: No, but his situation is. In August of 1952, a Mrs. Greta Finlay and her 12-year-old son Harry saw Nessie at close quarters near Aldourie. They were both appalled by the ugly sight, and young Harry gave up fishing after that so he wouldn’t have to go near the loch and run the risk of seeing that awful thing again. I have no idea about Mr. Finlay’s life, character, or psychological state. The cook character is just based on the idea of a young boy seeing Nessie and being traumatized by it. I hope that young Mr. Finlay didn’t become quite such a basket case as my character does.

NG: Is the Russian priest based on someone you've met?

JJP: He is what I would like all priests to be.

NG: Is the French rap musician based on someone you've met?

JJPS No. I once ate at a restaurant and a young woman who looked very much like how I described the rap musician sat me—I don’t believe she waited on me. I built a fictional character around the actual physical image of this young woman, about whom I knew (and know) nothing.

NG: Are any of the other characters based on people you've met?

JJP: Just the two skeptical American cyclists, who are caricatures of my old friends Bruce Northcutt and John Swope (two of the book’s dedicatees). They are great friends and love to joke about my interest in Nessie. They and their families and friends seem to have gone on cycling tours everywhere in Europe, except for the Highlands of Scotland—until now.

NG: In plotting your novel, why did you wait until page 207 to have the monster appear? Was the movie Jaws one of your models?

JJPS In quest stories, the questers must wait a long time to find the object of their quest. The true literary models for WONDER OF NESS were two of my all-time favorite literary works, Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK and Lewis Carroll’s THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK.

NG: Does the Fishery Board in Scotland really shoot the seals on Loch Ness?

JJP: Yes, because seals eat fish, and the Fishery Board wants to protect the relatively small fish population in Loch Ness. My old friend Dick Raynor, a veteran Nessie-Hunter (and another of the book’s dedicatees), mentions this fact on his website and his discussed it with me in several e-mails. Whenever the wind creates a ripple across the surface of the loch, Dick knows about it.

NG: What first interested you in Nessie?

JJP: As I explain in the dedication, when I was seven, a family friend, Mrs. Estelle Reistad, bought me a copy of Ted Holliday’s book THE GREAT ORM OF LOCH NESS. I’ve been hooked since then.

NG: Do you think Nessie is real?

JJP: Most of the sightings are mistakes, but several detailed, protracted sightings are very hard to dismiss. It’s quite likely that Nessie is a giant eel, perhaps a giant fish or seal.

NG: Why do you think Nobody has ever taken a good photo of Nessie?

JJP: Sightings are rare, sometimes take place under bad conditions for photography, and—above all—at least until the advent of mobile phones, one can’t guarantee that everyone will be walking around with a camera all the time.

NG: Why do you think people all over the world are curious about Nessie?

JJP: One word—mystery. Several other words—fear, enchantment, intellectual curiosity.

NG: What fascinates you about Nessie?

JJP: I wrote my novel to figure that out. I still don't know the answer to that question, but I'm sure the answer is in my novel somewhere.



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