The idea of the homuni came at the very beginning when I dreamed it all up. I had an image of a pit full of genetically modified monkeys, sealed up because someone made a mistake.
The monkeys from the pit were escaping. And they were very, very angry.
So the big idea was that the future people made the monkeys immortal – to save on wear and tear – but then they realised the monkeys were adapting. They could speak, and they had human hands. Maybe I got traumatised by Planet of the Apes as a child, I don’t know. While I love monkeys (very cute), they are also eerily human-like. How scary would monkeys be if monkeys could talk?
In Superfreak, Mimi is one of the new, speechless, mortal monkeys, designed to be help the future-people in their work. Initially, she didn’t have much of a role. But then I came across the idea of her stealing Frank’s graphic novels. Sherbet came later.
This is probably one of my all time favourite Mimi quotes:
‘Why has that monkey got human hands?’
‘Better for gripping,’ Bobs said. ‘She’s not a monkey, she’s a homuni, aren’t you sweetheart. I made her myself.’ He ruffled her fur then leaned towards me ‘Just don’t give it sherbet. It’s a fiend on sugar and can’t stop weeing.’
This is the monkey I used for the front cover, which I also use when teaching students about sensory language. Because monkeys are cute!