Before I could begin writing Unspoken, I had to research several areas. First, gorillas. Second, sign language–or the special sign language “Glee” develops for “Sema,” because a gorilla’s hand is different from a human’s. Third, I had to dig into the scriptures to learn about animals and how they fit into God’s plan . . . and I was delighted by what I learned. I also had to learn a bit about zoos, and proper primate habitats, and how humans interact with gorillas.

I rented “Gorillas in the Mist” even though Fossey studied mountain gorillas. I was partial to mountain gorillas (they’re lovely, and they’re endangered), but there are no mountain gorillas in captivity. So Sema would need to be a lowland gorilla, like Koko.

Of course, I also had to learn about how much a gorilla could actually learn of language, so I used Koko for a model. I bought several videos featuring Koko, and based all of Sema’s activities upon things that Koko has either done or can do. (I read a review or two that accused me of making Sema “too human.” I hate to disagree, but her behavior was realistic.)

I tried several times to find a zoo with a gorilla group that would let me visit “behind the scenes.” I called several zoos and begged, but was never granted permission . . . “for liability reasons,” I was told. Sigh. I would have LOVED to have firsthand experience, but had to work with books and my imagination.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with a character. People always ask me if I have a favorite book, and my answer is no. But Sema is definitely one of my favorite characters. I just LOVE that little (ha!) gorilla girl!

Tomorrow: the writing



  1. Laurie

    Angela, UNSPOKEN sounds very exciting and I love your pics of gorillas! Gorillas and all things primate are my favourite creatures.

    I tagged you today with the “Thinking Bloggers Award”. You can link back to my post to see what it’s all about.

    I blogged about “THE IMMORTAL” awhile ago…I enjoyed it very much!

  2. Melissa

    Angie,I loved the book so much the first time,I’m reading it again to follow along with the blog. I remember bawling my eyes out at the end because both Glee and Sema seemed so real.

  3. Kay

    Our zoo had a baby gorilla last year. We were able to stand about 3 feet away while they carried him out from his private quarters to his public viewing area. He was adorable. He had to be raised by a human because his mommy didn’t know how. He has since moved on to another zoo.
    I love those critters!
    It would have been awesome if you could have gone behind the scenes.

  4. Anonymous

    It’s the incredible amount of research that goes into your books that have made them my favorites. For many months after reading “Unspoken” I was drawn to every article and TV reference to the Gs. I wanted to know more about Sema. Also, your bibliographies at the end of the books are a terrific source of info for readers who want to continue their pursuit on the subject. Thanks for your diligence! Clyde


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