Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why mermaids? Why fantasy?

Mermaids and fantasy often go hand in hand. One can’t exist without the other. As much as the Discovery Channel may try to convince us otherwise, mermaids are creatures of legend, of myth, as captivating and mystifying as the waters they call home. Before writing this blog post, I struggled to remember where the idea for Into the Deep even came from. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies, always has been, but like so many of those stories, Ariel’s motivations were all rooted in romance, true love. I didn’t want to do anything like that. I wanted a true coming of age story, a glimpse at a girl who has a legitimate reason to fear the sea and to experience the realization that it can make her whole again. Of course there’s a boy, as well as complications. He hates humans, despises what they’ve done to the ocean.

That’s another subject I wanted to bring to the surface…no pun intended…humankind’s constant, uncaring neglect on the thing that gives us life. Whether unintentional or not, no one can deny what we’ve done. Whales hunted to the brink of extinction, fish populations decimated by overfishing, poisoned fish finding their way onto our dinner plates. Fukisima, in Japan, the nuclear reactor affected by the tsunami and earthquake, is dumping tons of radioactive water into the sea every day. Who knows what effect that will have on us in future generations? But I’m NOT going to get preachy! I promise. My point here is what if the ocean one day decides to rise against us? What if the creatures we’ve harmed decide to turn against us? And what if the only one who can save both worlds is a brand new mermaid princess?

So why fantasy? Why do I enjoy writing about things and places that don’t exist? The same reason I like reading about them…escapism. Not to mention, I find it easier to set my stories in a made up land. To date, I have five completed novels—all young/new adult and every single one of them either fantasy or paranormal or science fiction. For some reason, every time I sit down to try and finish one of my contemporary romances or women’s fiction, I fail. Writing about the real world? Not as exciting! Diving into a post-apocalyptic world where demons rule? Yes please! I don’t think I’m alone either. Why else have vampires and werewolves, fairy tale retellings, become so popular?

I have a trick I learned from a writing partner of mine. Look at your plot. What can you do to make it unique, different from every other fantasy/vampire/mermaid book out there? See. That’s the best part of writing fantasy. It’s okay to go a little overboard. You cares if you mess with a typical myth, give it tweaks to fit your story. Fantasy gives a writer true creative flexibility. When I first started thinking I might probably give this author thing a shot, I saw fantasy as this unattainable genre. So I stuck to what I knew, the real world. I thought I’d never be able to write about goblins, demons, aliens, or mermaid princesses. The first young adult novel I wrote was published earlier this year. It’s about a girl who’s a sensitive, who sees ghosts, and has some terrifying encounters with them, kind of a ghost version of Cinderella. That book was the test, dipping my toes into genres that I’d never considered. And guess what? It worked! Into the Deep will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first book I ever colored outside the lines with, the first of many.

Now I say, “Lines? Who needs lines?”