Big thank you to Alice for finding me and my blog, and inviting me on this blog tour! I am rather excited about this blog post because I LOVE penguins. Right, stop frowning at the screen! I know you’re probably wondering what a penguin called Turbo has to do with this book, yes? I think I will leave it to the expert, author Midge Raymond, welcome to TWG, and thank you for writing the post for TWG!
Turbo the Penguin: The inspiration behind the character of “Admiral Byrd”
By Midge Raymond
While My Last Continent is set in Antarctica, one of my inspirations for the novel — and for one of my favorite characters, “Admiral Byrd” — was a penguin from Argentina.
When I volunteered to help with a penguin census at the Punta Tombo colony in Patagonia, among the thousands of birds I counted, one of them stood out — and I still think of him ten years later. His name is Turbo — so named because he’d inexplicably built a nest under a turbo truck instead of within a burrow, like the other penguins of his species — and instead of looking for a mate, he preferred to hang out with the researchers.
Turbo has been tagged with a metal band by scientists, along with thousands of other birds in the colony.
In the decade since my time at Punta Tombo, whenever I receive updates on the colony, I look first for Turbo’s name, for confirmation of his return from his months at sea. While all of the research data from this colony is important, I can’t help but be drawn to Turbo as a representative of the species.
Similarly, as readers, we can relate more to individual characters than to numbers in the hundreds of thousands — and this is why I wanted to have a penguin character in My Last Continent: to give a name and a face to all Antarctic penguins. For me, the character of Admiral Byrd — a gentoo penguin named after an explorer by the human who admires him — represents all the penguins in my fictional world, who in turn represent all the penguins in the real one. By connecting with just one bird, perhaps we can feel closer to them all; by getting to know one, we can understand many more.
While Admiral Byrd may be fictional, he has real-world counterparts — oddly friendly penguins of all species, including other Magellanics. There’s Jinjing, the penguin who returns each year to the Brazilian man who saved him from an oil spill. There’s Juan Salvado, another Magellanic who lived with his rescuer in a suburb of Buenos Aires after refusing to return to the sea.
And, of course, there’s Turbo, who is now eleven years old. He’s still single, preferring the company of humans to his own species. This fall, I’ll eagerly await news of his return to the colony — where he might choose to build his nest, whether he’ll still be a bachelor or will finally settle down. The data will tell us one story — but as long as Turbo shows up, I feel as though there is hope for all of these birds.
About the author.
Midge Raymond is an award-winning short-story writer who worked in publishingin New York before moving to Boston, where she taught creative writing. She has published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing. Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press. My Last Continent is her first novel.
About the book.
‘Antarctica provides solace from life for two scientists who spend a few weeks a year there studying penguin habits – but their romance can only ever be fleeting.
It is only at the end of the world – among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica – where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of Emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperilled by the world to the north.
A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.
As Deb and Keller’s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond’s phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. MY LAST CONTINENT is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes – a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences.’
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond, published by Text Publishing, is available to buy on the 28th July 2016 from Amazon UK