A: BLEAK HARBOR opens with a scene of 15-year-old, autistic Danny Peters standing at the end of a dock, following a dragonfly: “It skitters up as if on a wire and takes the first mosquito without slowing. Danny pictures the cruelly efficient jaws and serrated teeth tearing the prey into a gooey black mash while the dragonfly plots the geometric path to its next target.”
Making Danny obsessed with dragonflies was one of the semi-random choices I make as I conjure up characters. The choice was influenced by a story I had read in The New York Times in April 2013. The story said dragonflies are often listed with ladybugs and butterflies on lists of insects people like. Yet dragonflies are also “voracious aerial predators” that “may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom.”
This dichotomy fascinated me, perhaps because I find dragonflies to be creepy even though I know they cannot harm me. Danny sings a song his mother made up about dragonflies:
Their wings are sparkly gossamer
They wear diamonds on their eyes
Pretty pretty pretty pretty
Yet Danny recognizes how dangerous they are in their world and indulges this recognition by counting the number of mosquitoes the dragonflies on Bleak Harbor Bay consume. The duality also serves as a metaphor underlying the tale in BLEAK HARBOR.
At my urging, my publisher, Thomas & Mercer, prepared a few covers that included dragonflies. They didn’t really work. But then T&M included a single dragonfly on the spine of the book between the title and my name. I can’t wait to see it when the hardcovers show up.