For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.
Today, Kit Whitfield has come to join Splash into Summer all the way from England! Don’t forget to check out my review!
IN GREAT WATERS is now available for purchase wherever books are sold!
To find out more about Kit, please visit her website.
IN GREAT WATERS reads like a historical novel despite the fact that it takes place in an alternate reality where merfolk are real. Did you set out to write a novel that had a lot of political intrigue when you first began writing?
That was one of the starting ideas, yes. I was interested in the idea that if you were royal, the people you had to intrigue against, or at least be highly cautious around, would be your own family members. It struck me as an idea with some potential for drama.
Your deepsmen (merfolk) are much more animalistic than so many of the carefree mermaids we so often read about. To me, the primal tendencies felt very natural. What led you to take this direction when writing?
It's not a very good answer, but it just seemed right. I like to be naturalistic when I'm being unreal, and I just don't think that living in the sea is a carefree existence. If there were such creatures as mermaids, I thought they'd be more akin to dolphins or wolves: social, intelligent animals that are predators at the top of the food chain - much like land-dwelling humans. Besides, carefree characters are boring to write about; if they don't have any cares, you don't have any plot.
I never really know how to answer questions like this. I just write things the way I can: if it feels interesting and exciting to me, I write it that way, and once I've started writing something a certain way, I carry on in whatever way seems consistent. Writing is a very practical business in my experience; the answer to 'why' is either very, very simple or very, very complicated, and in either case it's hard to explain.
What made you decide to make your characters so deformed? I was fascinated with the way land dwellers with deepsmen blood running through their veins such as England’s royal family were forced to walk with crutches and may be born with uncommon characteristics such as blue faces and tails instead of legs.
Another difficult question! I have a tendency to body horror, I guess. I'm actually not much of a fantasy reader; when I use imaginary creatures, it's usually because they can act both as physical beings and beings whose physical state expresses their condition metaphorically. We are our bodies, and how we look, feel and move has a tremendous impact on who we are. I'm not very interested in power fantasies, so physical disempowerment is the natural way for me to go.
What is it about transformation that fascinates you? You also wrote a book entitled BENIGHTED, about transforming lycanthropes. Will you continue to write about shapeshifters in the future?
It's not so much transformation that fascinates me as extremity. I like to write about extreme states of mind; since our minds are embodied, that often involves extreme physical situations. Human beings are animals, so animalistic humans can be interesting, but I also like writing traumatized people, I like writing children - basically I like writing states that feel different and intense. Magic is in the mind, in our perceptions, and to me, the more different the eyes I'm looking through, the more new the world looks and the more magical it becomes. It's about making the world magic, and the best way to see it afresh is to see it through someone estranged from it.
What are you working on now? Will you ever return to England or to another tribe of deepsmen?
England? Very probably; it's my home, so I'm likely to keep writing about it. Another tribe of deepsmen? Almost certainly not. I don't have a serial-writer's mind. I think it's important to keep stretching and challenging yourself if you're going to keep from going stale, and for me, I need the challenge of new scenarios. As far as my imagination goes, books are self-contained: when they end, it's because I've said all I needed to say on the subject. Unless I come up with a new idea that absolutely has to be expressed by writing about deepsmen, I think I'm done there.
As to what I'm working on now - I'm working on a third novel that doesn't include any magical beasties but hopefully will appeal to readers of the first two books. It's going slowly, since I had a baby in the middle of it, but it's coming along. I don't want to say too much about it, though; talking about work I haven't finished fills me with superstitious dread.
Did you do any research or read any particular books before creating the world of the deepsmen and your alternative version of England?
I read up on the history of Venice and the English monarchy a certain amount. Apparently a lot of people have theorized that my Henry is based on Henry VIII, but that's actually not true: the monarch he's most based on is Henry VII, Henry VIII's father. He made a grab for the throne that was a pretty outside chance, succeeded surprisingly well, cemented his position through marriage, and ruled with great suspicion and caution - not to make too silly a joke of it, he's generally regarded as rather a cold fish. (Though that said, my Henry's not based too heavily on anyone; portraiture is not one of my specialties.) But most of my research was nature documentaries: I studied up on dolphins in particular, and a lot of the deepsmen material is based on what we know about dolphin behaviour. I've always loved nature documentaries, so it was an opportunity to think about something that's long fascinated me.
As a final piece of research, I decided to throw it open to my blog readers. If BENIGHTED taught me anything, it's that if you write a book with a high concept, everybody will come along and ask 'What about this situation? Or that one? Or this one?' And a lot of the time it's something you really never thought to wonder about. Most of the time I've been able to make up an answer on the fly that seems consistent with the book as it stands - it's a good professional challenge, in fact - but I decided that there was no way I could possibly anticipate everybody's questions, so I should try to invite as many as I could while the book was still at a stage where I could change things about it. Well, I asked, and a terrifying wave of intelligence and expertise hit me: I knew my blog readers were clever, but I had no idea they knew that much about that many different subjects. I spent a day reeling and crying, 'What have I done?!' Then I just put my head down and worked in as much as I could. It was a very valuable experience, but rather a daunting one!
What writing advice do you have for fellow writers, especially when it comes to balancing your family life with writing?
Out of interest, is that a question you ask of male writers? (It isn't a question I've asked before. I asked because I have a friend who, like you, has a new baby and is struggling to start writing again. ^_^)
Because the simple answer is, you balance your family life with writing the same way anybody balances family with a job: you just do the best you can.
There's a limit to how much advice I can give about it, to be honest. Every family has to work out within itself how to balance everyone's needs; time and support for writing is one of those needs, but I don't think it's my place to tell people how to do things within their own family. The main advice I'd give is that you should try to keep your home life as emotionally healthy as possible; art is a form of psychological health and it's a good idea to have as much of that as you can. (There are writers who aren't very happy, of course, but in those cases usually their art is the healthiest thing about their lives.) Negotiate some time to yourself and live with nice people is about the size of it.
The one thing I'd say to writers is that it's very possible the people you're emotionally closest to won't be your biggest literary fans. My husband thinks my books are good, but he doesn't enjoy them because they're just not to his taste, and that's fine; he supports the act of writing and that's all I need. If someone isn't in favour of you writing at all, that can be a problem, but writing isn't the whole of you, so if someone doesn't click with your stuff it may just mean that they respond to parts of you that don't come out in the writing. Try not to make it any more personal than it has to be.
Ariel gave up her voice to become a human. What would you give up if offered the opportunity to be a mermaid?
I don't think I'd want to be a mermaid; I'm pretty happy as I am. And if I were a mermaid, I'd have to eat fish. Ugh.
If you could be a mermaid for a day, what would you do?
Sightsee, I suppose. And race. I definitely wouldn't try to beguile any sailors; I'm a married woman. :-)