The fertilisation of an idea

My debut novel was born many years ago, in an A level biology class. At the time, we were learning about sexual reproduction – specifically, how ova and sperm are unique in containing a single set of chromosomes, rather than the pair which is found in all other cells in the body.

At the moment of fertilisation, the genetic material of a single sperm cell pairs up with that of the ova creating a full genetic blueprint for a human. It’s a beautiful process: the marrying of half a mother’s DNA, with half of the father’s.

‘In theory then,’ I thought to myself, ‘you might be able to create babies from two women in the future.’

I’d always wanted to be an author, ever since age five when I read my first novel (Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree) and first understood what it is that an author does. Since then, I’ve been diligently filing away odd moments of inspiration, the strange facts, possibilities and conflicts that contain the germ of a story. In most cases, my enthusiasm will wane, but in a few lucky instances the initial excitement for an idea stays with me.

As in this case, I might not revisit it for years, but it’s still there, holding its promise in my mental filing cabinet.

Before XX, I’d written several – not very good – books, submitting them to agents, then feeling crushed by the slew of rejection letters, later emails, that followed. A good 15 years after that biology class, as I slowly came to recognise that my latest literary effort wasn’t of a publishable standard, I started casting around for a new project.

This was at a time where the phenomenon we call trolling was still fairly new and getting a lot of attention, with several high profile women subjected to virulent abuse on social media. I found myself questioning how far we’d really come as a society: was gender equality an illusion?

And so, I found myself asking: what would happen if the science evolved to allow human beings to be created from two egg cells? What if men were suddenly no longer essential for reproduction? Everything I was seeing in the media made plain that there would be a backlash of some kind. But would the opposition be limited to more fringe elements, or might the opposition become more widespread?

This process allowed me to recognise the ingredient missing from previous novelistic efforts: a fascination with the questions I was raising. I had found a premise which intrigued me on so many levels. A ‘what if’ that I was compelled to try and answer.