In December of 2014, my wife and I took a South Seas cruise.
We boarded our boat in Valparaiso, Chile, heading for Tahiti. I was looking forward to the many stops along the way—Easter Island, Pitcairn’s Island—but the stop that changed my life was a tiny island called Robinson Crusoe Island.
It was on this island that a sailor named Alexander Selkirk was marooned in 1704. He lived here alone for four years, and was finally rescued and returned to England, where his story of survival became the talk of the land. Years later Daniel Defoe fictionalized the tale and called it Robinson Crusoe.
Today the island consists of one tiny port-town and a lot of wonderful hiking trails. My wife and I took one of these trails to the top of the mountainous ridge dividing the island, a spot where Selkirk would daily light a bonfire hoping for rescue. The hike was wonderfully rigorous, and at one point I stopped to catch my breath and gaze out at our cruise ship lying in the mouth of the bay to the east.
There was something weirdly familiar about this sight, and suddenly it dawned on me that 1) Selkirk had probably described the island to a London reporter who created a rough map; 2) the map thus created had in turn inspired Defoe; 3) the map that Defoe created in turn inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in drawing the map of Treasure Island; and 4) Stevenson’s map had in turn inspired J.M. Barrie when he was creating Peter Pan. This was pure speculation on my part, except that the proof lay before me: there in the mouth of the bay lay Hook’s ship, and later, when we topped the ridge of mountains, we could easily spot Mermaid’s Lagoon to the west and the promontory holding Tiger Lily’s village far to the north. I was walking through Neverland.
Robinson Crusoe Island is part of a small archipelago called the Juan Fernandez Islands, and the next thing that occurred to me was that Neverland too might be one of several islands in its own archipelago. I then began to wonder where Hook sailed when he wasn’t anchored off of Neverland. For that matter, how did he get to Neverland? I knew that he was a graduate of Eton, but beyond that his life in England was a mystery. What was his story?
And the seeds for Hook’s Tale were planted. This book, my first novel, is being published by Scribner, arriving in stores on July 18, 2017.