Yeah, spiders. Spiders are tricky.
I have a friend who’s so terrified of spiders she probably won’t be able to read this post.
So why on earth would I put them in a story?
Hey, I’m no loony spider fan. I felt a tickle on my neck when I was drawing last week. I looked down to see a spider disappearing down my top. Brave move, pal. The jumper came off and the little fella was shaken out of the window in seconds.
When a spider appears out of the blue, you have to pay attention. It’s so tiny, compared to a person – well, in Britain at least – but it gets a big reaction. Something deep in our brain knows. The shape, the scuttle. Death on legs. Look out!
A spider popped into my head in a writing class in 2014. We had to start a story about a character having a bad day.
In my head, I saw a girl opening her lunchbox at school, and a big red spider crawling over her crisp packet. Screams break out across the room. But the girl just sighs. Takes the spider outside. And tells it off for being so embarrassing.
That’s when the spider talks back. Sorry, Boss. But we need your help.
I called the girl Petrel, and the story of Petrel’s Spinacle took shape.
Petrel’s having a terrible summer, when spiders start talking to her. And before long she realises that she has to listen. Not just because spiders sound a bit like gruff taxi drivers. (But of course). A spider tells Petrel that her Dad’s accident wasn’t all it seemed. And maybe that means there’s a way to wake him from his coma…
As the story goes on, Petrel realises spiders are only ever being – spiders. Yes, they’re rowdy. Yes, they always think they’re right. And their webs are their castles. But if it comes to it, they want a fair fight. Not like Beckett, the boy in her class who hurts things for fun. Or someone Petrel thinks she can trust, who betrays her, and her Dad. And when a real monster starts hunting Petrel and her spider friends, it’s learnt everything it knows from humans.
So spiders are tricky. They scare us. But it’s how we handle that fear that’s important. Blindly smash the thing we’re afraid of? Or watch it, and learn…
I don’t think we’ll ever find it easy, being around spiders. But one popped up, talking, and I had to listen.