A photo of the young Beatrix Potter holding her pet mouse, or: WHERE DID ALMA COME FROM?
Sweet friends —
As I've been touring for "The Signature of All Things", I am often asked where I got inspiration for the character of Alma. Was she based on anyone in particular, or did I invent her out of whole cloth?
Alma, like most fictional creations, is an amalgam of many things, ideas and people. She is partially based on women in my family. She is partially based on me (probably more than I originally realized, but novels tend to reveal more about their novelists than we might intend!) She is partially based on bits and pieces of the lives of the many 19th century female botanists I studied while writing this book. And she is a very tiny bit based on the young Beatrix Potter (shown here in an adolescent photo taken LONG before Peter Rabbit was ever imagined.)
Many of you may not know this, but our beloved Beatrix Potter (whose name I borrowed for Alma's mother) was a quite brilliant young amateur naturalist, with a particular fascination for fungi and lichens. She very much wanted to be a scientist, but the field was not exactly welcoming to women, and so her life took another course. But she wrote funny, passionate diaries as a young girl about her forays into nature, and I drew inspiration from her enthusiasms and frustrations when I was creating the young Alma Whittaker.
Also, I love this photo with all my heart. Such a strange, beautiful, curious-looking and odd child! There is much of yoùng Alma in that face!
Thought you all might enjoy!