For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 21st. 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.
BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY, set to be published on October 25th, 2011. Isn’t that cover beautiful? I recently featured it on Cover Crazy and reviewed the novel.
Today, not only has author Jaclyn Dolamore, author of the MAGIC UNDER series stopped by to answer a few questions about her novel, she’s also given us mermaid-lovers a sneak peek at Chapter One. You also have a chance to win an autographed ARC with a cute hand-drawn illustration. Whoever wins, you should know that I’m already jealous of you! Enjoy!
What can you tell us about your upcoming mermaid novel, BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY?
Esmerine is a bit of an odd mermaid. As a child, her best friend was a winged boy named Alan who used to come to the islands near her waters and gather seaweed. He always had a book with him and he taught her to read, but books don't last long underwater, so when he stopped visiting, books went with him. Esmerine has been madly curious about the surface world ever since, so when her sister runs off with a human, she follows in an attempt to rescue her, and runs into Alan again after years apart.
How did you go about creating the mythology in the novel? Did you use traditional examples of mermaids? You also have winged characters; are they similar to angels?
The story was inspired by various mermaid mythology. For example, many traditional mermaid stories involve a mermaid having a magical cap, cape, belt, comb, or other object that a man can steal to trap her in human form and marry her. I worked this into the book. I also incorporated some nods to Hans Christian Andersen, such as the fact that mermaids can take on a legged form, but every step shoots pain through their legs and feet.
The winged folk in the book aren't really a thing like angels. I actually once wrote a story about humans with feathered wings, and it was always very hard for me to imagine them actually taking off and flying. Scientifically, it's basically impossible! Mermaids aren't very scientific either, but I did try to make the winged folk semi-believable. I read a lot about how hang gliders work, as well as large birds of prey. These winged folk are built more like bats, with wings in lieu of arms, although they have a thumb and finger so they can grasp things. They use some magic to manipulate the wind for lift, but once in the air they can often just glide. Their physical makeup required a lot of unexpected thought, like, how do you fit clothes around bat wings? (It's explained in the book!) Plus their wingspan has to be huge. Their houses would probably be rather uncluttered so they could actually move without keeping their wings so close to their bodies all the time.
How did you go about putting together the elements that bring your underwater world to life?
It wasn't that easy to research. I read as many other mermaid novels as I could find to see what considerations other authors thought of that might have slipped my mind, for starters, and also to see what had been done. And of course I looked at books with ocean photography to try to get a good visual of the mermaid world. On a less technical level, the races of this world are based loosely on the elements in astrology. Water is the element of emotion and intuition. I also realized the merfolk probably wouldn't have a writing system, so storytelling, singing and oration would be very important to them. This influenced their society, while the winged folk are intellectual sometimes to the point of coldness and quite obsessed with the written word.
What made you fall in love with mermaids? Did you grow up reading/watching tales about them?
I was crazy for mermaids as a kid. The movie Splash was my favorite. I loved how her mermaid identity was a secret in the human world, and then the wrenching tragedy of exposure! The scene where Madison the mermaid has been captured by scientists and is in the tank, and they throw her human love in there with her and she swims toward him and he shies back? It broke my heart as a kid! But deliciously so. Other favorites included, of course, Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID and the cartoon Saban's ADVENTURES OF THE LITTLE MERMAID. There was also an episode of PETER PAN AND THE PIRATES (god, I'm really dating myself) where the mermaids tried to turn Wendy into a mermaid. The 80s and early 90s seemed to be all about the mermaids. And I was always writing stories about mermaids that read like terrible 80s comedies. Let's not think of it anymore.
Ariel gave up her voice to become a human. What would you give up if offered the opportunity to be a mermaid?
Honestly? Not much, because the sea sounds pretty dangerous when you think about it! But if there were mermaids underwater living in magical palaces like in books...well, I'd certainly pay a pretty high vacation price to see it, at least. In some ways I think I'd rather have a mermaid friend to talk to than actually to be a mermaid myself. At least these days. At age 8 I was more keen on it.
If you could be a mermaid for a day, what would you do?
I would just want to see what mer culture was like. Research, you know! What they eat, what they do for fun, what their homes look like... I'd just want to soak up (oh god, pardon the pun, they're so easy to unintentionally do) all I could.
[There is no indentation before each line. Blogger, unfortunately, won't allow it. There will be better spacing in the final version of BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY! You can also have a physical teaser of your own when buying the recent paperback release of MAGIC UNDER GLASS, in stores now!]
“Well, you’re a true siren now, Esmerine,” her father said proudly. Her parents and Dosia were waiting for her when she left the center of the great room. The crowd was already beginning to disperse and resume conversations. “How does it feel?”
“Good.” Esmerine didn’t know what else she could say. Maybe it was impossible to achieve a great honor without feeling numb.
“Two sirens in the family,” her mother said. “I would never have guessed it. Not a single siren in our entire family history, and now two. You girls are truly treasures.” Not only did sirens bring prestige to a family, but even after death, a siren’s belt was passed down through generations and used in times of need to create strong healing spells or even defend the village. The status of Esmerine’s family would be forever elevated from mere fishermen.
When Esmerine, Dosia, and their parents arrived home, Esmerine’s youngest sister, Merramyn, was swimming to and fro adorning the cave walls with flower chains. Tormaline, usually the most serious, was moving the magic lights to find the best position. Esmerine’s mother swept in to interfere.
“Tormy, what are you doing? I said, put one in the middle of the room and—wait, where is the fourth?”
“Mother, we don’t have a fourth.” Tormy was thirteen, and lately she had taken to saying ‘Mother’ in a particularly irritated way.
“We should have four. This one is ours, and I rented three.”
“You rented two. You decided to save the rest to buy sea bass, remember?”
Merramyn twirled through the water, draping the last flower chain around her shoulders. Dosia tried to take it from her. “Merry, don’t be silly with that, you’re going to damage it.”
A flower broke free from the garland and swished around Merry’s hair. She snatched it. “Dosia, look! Now you broke it! Mother, Dosia broke the flowers!”
As Esmerine swam out of the main room she made a silent prayer to the sea gods that her family could make it through the evening without embarrassing her. Through the narrow door to the kitchens, her poor aunts were preparing food for a crowd with only one magic light to see by. The cave was old and had few windows, just small holes to keep water flowing in and big fish out. In wealthier homes, window nets kept out the fish and let in light.
Fragments of seaweed drifted through the water from the salad Aunt Celwyn was making, while Aunt Lia tucked bits of neatly sliced raw fish into empty seashells for presentation.
“Can I help?” Esmerine asked.
“Chase out this silly fish that keeps bothering me.” Aunt Lia waved her hand as a slender fish darted past her face and into the shadowy corners. Just as Esmerine chased the fish out with the net, Dosia hooted a summons from the main room.
“The guests must be arriving,” Aunt Celwyn said. “Go on and greet them! This is your day.”
Esmerine raked her fingers through her hair, checking that her beads were still in place before she returned to the main room for hugs and congratulations. The guests arrived in a steady stream: her mother’s friends, the fishermen who worked alongside her father, friends she and Dosia had made in school and in their neighborhood singing group.
She knew the routine from when Dosia had become a siren, and although she blushed and said humble things she was pleased to have a little piece of the attention Dosia had gotten for so long.
At dinner, her aunts brought the food around. Esmerine wished they had servants, particularly since her mother had invited Lalia Tembel and her family. Esmerine and Lalia had been casual friends for years now, but Esmerine had never forgotten how Lalia teased her about her preference for playing on the islands and her lack of bracelets when they were little. She used to tell Esmerine that if she spent too much time in human form she’d get stuck that way, and even when Esmerine had Dosia tell her off, Lalia had never apologized.
Still, her mother had not skimped on the food. They had the freshest fish, rare sea fruits sent from the Balla Sea, almonds and hazelnuts, enough olives that Esmerine had her fill for the first time in her life, and sea potatoes filled with minced shrimp.
They sang the Siren’s Hymn in her honor, her mother’s eyes growing red and wistful.
Come and hear the siren’s call
Keep mankind in fearful thrall
As long as sirens guard the sea
All the waters shall be free!
Dosia, sitting beside Esmerine, squeezed her hand tight, and Esmerine knew she was thinking how wonderful it would be, to be sirens together.