Search results for 'Brenda Peterson'

Brenda Peterson’s The Drowning World

4 Sep

So Brenda Peterson is a very accomplished and fancy National Geographic (and otherwise) writer who’s written 17 books, most of them having to do with the natural and usually aquatic world and even with cool oceanic characters like the gray whale and the dolphin and, more recently, the glamorous, shimmering mermaid. In fact Brenda has a spanking-new mermaid novel called The Drowning World, which comes out this month and also has one day left of a Kickstarter campaign, the supporting of which will get you perks like a signed book, a character named after you (in the sequel), or even a manuscript critique for all you aspiring mermaid authors. Here’s a preview of the first two chapters. Brenda also attended MerPalooza and wrote about it for The Huffington Post, generously advising regular humans everywhere on how to attain mermaidly allure.

Below, I talk to Brenda about The Drowning World, sea creatures in need, and fancy author things generally.

What made you decide to write about mermaids?
My fourth novel, the environmental thriller Animal Heart, was reviewed by a book critic from Library Journal who wrote, “one can hardly imagine a more heartfelt work or a more unusual love story than this one.” Hmmmm, I thought, “unusual love story.”

What would be more unusual than two people from an underwater cosmos and our world trying to find love together? Mermaid and human. Every taboo or prejudice that we experience in inter-racial or interfaith love would be magnified. My own decades studying dolphins had left me feeling half-human, so why not explore this hybrid or mixed relationships in a love story? The Drowning World is set both in Aquantis, an underwater advanced civilization of merpeople, and in a future Florida, called SkyeWorld, circa 2020 and 2030. Marina, a highly trained mermaid, is on her first spy mission to SkyeWorld. On the beach she meets Lukas, a proud Cuban refugee who is helping his father rescue sea turtle eggs from an oil spill. Marina saves Lukas’s life with her magical skills, but can she save herself from a life-long nemesis from her own world?

So can you tell us a little about yourself and your books? What draws you to the oceans?
I’ve published 17 books—novels, memoirs, essays—and almost all of them have something to do with our blue planet’s underwater realms. In fact, I’ve drowned twice. Those near-death experiences left me with a profound devotion to our seas. “Maybe fathoms deep in the sea is where all the old and the new souls are dreaming and changing and being born again,” I conclude my 1990 essay “On Drowning” from Living by Water.

As a National Geographic author, I’ve also spent two decades underwater studying whales and dolphins. Cetaceans are my inspiration for The Drowning World because my merpeople are really half-dolphin and half-human. So there is a real animal nature and intelligence to my amphibious hybrids, called Aquantans. They are Shape Shifters and Go Betweens in many worlds. I’ve been working on building my underwater cosmos in The Drowning World since 2003. In fact, my address since email was first invented was always “Mermaid Ink.” Imagine my surprise and delight when suddenly all these mermaid books surface, just as I finally finish my own novel!

Can you talk about Seal Sitters and any other marine-related activism you’re involved in?
It’s never been enough for me to just be an artist. My five years in the editorial department of The New Yorker magazine when I was in my twenties taught me that “art for art’s” sake was not my path. I am grateful for the literary apprenticeship to writing from those New York years; but I knew I wanted to connect my work to the natural world. So I returned to my native West Coast and have lived in Seattle since 1981. My first memoir, Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, was my way of engaging with other animals as an activist-writer. So all of my journalism and non-fiction is always in service to something greater than art. I’ve lived on water for so long that the tides, birds, marine mammals, all seem a part of my own body.

My co-founding of the grassroots volunteer Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network began as just a few neighbors sitting on our backyard beach keeping watch over the seal pups while their mothers fished far out in the Salish Sea. Call it day care for Seal Pups. My first children’s book, Leopard and Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups, is just out from Henry Holt for Young Readers. [Here’s a link to an ABC News interview on Seal Sitters.]

You recently attended MerPalooza and wrote about it for the Huffington Post. What did you think? What kind of reaction have you gotten?
My brother lives in Tampa where this summer’s MerPalooza was held. So I had a perfect excuse to attend. When I told my literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, about the mermaid convention Sarah Jane said, “I’m there!” I call her my WaveMate because we travel on book tours together and always take time out to swim in the nearest ocean together. When my brother, and Sarah Jane and I attended Merpalooza we were amazed at the professional mermaids. Those elegant tail flukes and the commitment to marine conservation won me over. My Huffington Post article focused on Mermaid Enakai, a young mermaid who is devoted to shark conservation and also beautiful mermaid design. I also was very moved by Stephanie’s story of her grandmother, who ran away from home in the 1940s to become a real mermaid in the Weeki Wachee roadside shows.

Brenda encountering a mermaid at MerPalooza

Why do you think mermaids are so appealing to us, anyway?
Mermaids swim through all of our myths and folklore. Like you, Carolyn, I much prefer the powerful, sexy, soulful, and darkly complex mermaids that authors are creating for the 21st century. The psychologist C. G. Jung always asked, “Why this dream now?” So I wonder: Why this mermaid trend now?

Is it because we intuit that we are all bound for a MerWorld as seas rise and coastlines sink? Is mermaiding a way of adapting, first in our imaginations, before we finally face the facts of climate change? Maybe it’s simply time for women to make and reclaim their own mythology. We no longer believe the prince will save us or give us a soul. We realize that, like Venus rising from the sea, women must find our own destiny—even if it means running away from home.

Can you talk about The Drowning World, your campaign, and how people can join in/order the book?
I turned down a publisher’s offer for The Drowning World because I wanted complete artistic control—from cover design to choosing my own professional editors, some of whom worked with me on other traditionally published books. It’s a ton of editorial work but also an exhilarating experience to produce an indie book. I’m so grateful to my many Kickstarter bakers who are part of my Publishing Pod. They will receive special rewards this month, including signed copies of the book, characters named after them, having their name in my Acknowledgments, private Book Club visits via Skype or FaceTime. The book is now finished and at the e-book conversion lab and my designers for the paperback. Both editions are due out this month!

Anyone who wants to join our Kickstarter publishing project has until September 5th at 8 p.m. ET to back The Drowning World. We are already 103% fully funded but there is still time for more backers to dive in with us and swim with the Publishing Pod!

Newsworthy mermaids, MerPalooza, plus my new book

7 Aug

Many, many mermaidly things have been happening of late. The New York Times Magazine, for instance, ran a big story about Weeki Wachee by super-smart Virginia Sole-Smith (who quoted yours truly in the article, as well as Eric Ducharme, Barbara Wynns, and other glamorous Weeki folk). The Los Angeles Times published a roundtable on The Little Mermaid. At The Huffington Post, Brenda Peterson posted an interview with Hannah Fraser. And I wrote an article on mermaids for The New Inquiry that then inspired this article on the The Atlantic Wire, this article on Jezebel, this grouchy piece on Slate, this summary of the mermaid/vampire debate on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, and possibly more things but I don’t know about them. Meanwhile, the government has denied the existence of mermaids, the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is about to turn 100, and photographer Andrew Brusso delivered the 2014 Weeki Wachee calendars (interview and images to come!).

EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, the second annual MerPalooza “International Mermaid Convention and Party” takes place this weekend in Tampa, at the Bay Harbor Hotel. I’m flying down on Friday and will be reading and signing my new book, The Fairest of Them All, on Saturday at 2pm (there will also be copies of Mermaid and my novel Godmother, provided by Tampa’s Inkwood Books). I know that Eric Ducharme will be there with plenty of mermaids, that several Weeki ladies will be in attendance, that Stephanie Sims will be hosting another mermaid pageant, and that all kinds of other delights will be in store. You should obviously start heading to Tampa right now.

Speaking of my new book, which just came out yesterday and which I have to tell you about this one time, The Fairest of Them All is a fairy-tale mash-up about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White’s stepmother (it’s okay for teenagers but not for kids!). Eleanor Brown calls it “intricate, inventive, and charged with magic.” Jamie Ford says he “loved this unexpected spin on the story of Rapunzel, this strong-willed devourer of hearts.” Caroline Leavitt says that it “unfolds like a waking dream, with prose that shimmers like cut diamonds.” You can read more praise for it here. And here’s an excerpt.


Because of an ongoing battle between Simon & Schuster (my publisher) and Barnes & Noble (a fight that has nothing to do with me), The Fairest of Them All will not be in brick-and-mortar Barnes & Nobles. So please, if you’re inclined, tell your friends, share the link for my book, write a song about it, get the cover tattooed on your chest, or show up at MerPalooza (or your local indie) this weekend and buy five copies… I will be eternally, eternally grateful if you do. Thank you!

More mermaids to come!

Mermaids in the News

15 Apr

So there have been a lot of mermaids in the news of late. Far more, I’m sure, than I will list here, but:

© Jeff Koons, 2013, Pastel on Paper.

© Jeff Koons, 2013, Pastel on Paper.

Did you see Matthea Harvey’s new mermaid poem in the NY Times Magazine the other day, with accompanying illustration (left) by Jeff Koons?

Did you see this article in Publisher’s Weekly about Brenda Peterson’s self-publishing mermaid venture (achieved with her pod-mates’ help)? While you’re at it, check out Brenda’s Huffington Post blog; she recently wrote about the U.S. Navy’s acoustic war on the world’s oceans, and today’s post features a conversation between her and yours truly.

I also helpfully provided a list of ten mermaid destinations, including Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto, last week for the Hairpin, where I’ve lovingly and generously written about mermaids before.

And then there’s been a ton of press about both Linden Wolbert and Eric “The Mertailor” Ducharme:

Here’s the Yahoo article on Linden. And the Huffington Post interview with Linden about being a “mermaid to the stars.” Here she is in the NY Daily News.

Photo: Carter's News Agency

Photo: Carter’s News Agency

Eric Ducharme just appeared on TLC’s My Crazy Obsession, and there have been about 50000 articles on him since. Here’s a promo for the show:

Here’s the big story from the UK’s Daily Mail, an article from Yahoo , a story on Laughing Squid, and even one on Perez Hilton. I recently asked Eric about all this hoopla now and will post that interview tomorrow, or even tonight if you’re lucky.

There are many more stories that those, and I’m sure there are reporters plotting as we speak, reality show producers scheming, and probably entire film crews down at Weeki Wachee if not your local creek or pool, all of them trying (and most assuredly failing) to figure out the secrets of those glamorous, glittering half-fish we all know and love.

Mermaid Paper Dolls by Rachel Smith, plus suspicious other mermaid happenings

25 Feb

So for a while I’ve been meaning to post these cool paper dolls made by head Dive Bar mermaid and illustrator Rachel Smith, based on my very own novel Mermaid. Check them out below. You can buy some of Rachel’s paper dolls and other mermaidia here. And speaking of Mermaid, I should let you know that the book’s film optioned was renewed a few months back, there’s a revised script by writer/director Shana Feste, and supposedly things look good for this actually coming to screen (though it is by no means guaranteed). Also, I’m not sure if I posted that Mermaid is now out in Spain. Isn’t it pretty? Tragically, no one is flying me to Spain, which is obviously very wrong on multiple levels.


In other news, I would like to point out that Jennifer Lawrence’s mermaid gown and fall-walking-up-to-the-stage last night at the Oscars makes me extremely suspicious about her ratio of mermaidliness to humanness generally….


And in other, other news, check out the Academy of American Poets’ poem of the day today, by mermaid poetess Matthea Harvey!

In other, other news, I should share this mermaidly post by Brenda Peterson on the Huffington Post last month. I was actually in Seattle last week and got to meet her and hang out at her studio on the Salish Sea. Obviously, that is a sea-faring sea-loving woman–look at those baby blues!


And so you may expect some more mermaidly Huffington Post articles soon, possibly involving Ms. Peterson and yours truly. Plus I might have to go hang out with some gray whales down in Mexico because of her.

And now those cool paper dolls. Time to break out the scissors!





More later!

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