Hi guys! Today I am taking the third of my AP exams, AP Biology, and I am ready for them to be over! Also, I am having the end-of-school blues, especially since many of the seniors — who I’ve gotten acquainted to over this past year — are going to leave. I’m very sad about that. On the bright side, next week I am off to the TN Boys’ State, which is going to be tiring but worthwhile. During that time, I will be offline for the whole week, but in the meantime, here is the LILbooKtalk for the month of Mer-May: “Mermaid Tales and Fairy Tales” with D. G. Driver and Tobie Easton!
About Cry of the Sea
Juniper Sawfeather is choosing which college to attend after graduation from West Olympia High School next year. She wants to go to San Diego to be far away from her environmental activist parents. They expect her to think the way they do, but having to be constantly fighting causes makes it difficult to be an average 17-year-old high school student. Why do her parents have to be so out there?
Everything changes when she and her father rush to the beach after a reported oil spill. As they document the damage, June discovers three humans washed up on the beach, struggling to breathe through the oil coating their skin. At first she thinks they must be surfers, but as she gets closer, she realizes these aren’t human at all. They’re mermaids!
Now begins a complex story of intrigue, conspiracy and manipulation as June, her parents, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, her best friend, the popular clique at school and the oil company fight over the fate of the mermaids.
Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. Ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality, war has ravaged the Seven Seas. Now Lia lives in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions and attends high school with humans. To protect everyone around her, she must limit her contact with non-Mer. No exceptions. But when the new girl sets her sights on Lia’s crush, she will risk exposing her deadly secret to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.
Questions are in bold
Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Tobie Easton, who I met last year at the SE-YA Book Fest! I loved the first two books in The Mer Chronicles and I cannot wait for the third installment in the series! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your novels?
Tobie: Hi! It was so wonderful meeting you, too, Kester! Your enthusiasm for the series has really meant a lot to me. The Mer Chronicles series follows the descendants of the Little Mermaid and offers a peek into a world where Mermaids aren’t just real but live among us on land.
As for me, I like to think I write modern fairy tales. I like books that feel magical whether that means they actually feature magic or just really immersive world- building. And, I’m a sucker for romance. 😉
Kester: That’s so awesome, Tobie!!! Thanks so much!
Today we also have the amazing D.G. Driver, who is a local Tennessee author living in Nashville! I devoured her Juniper Sawfeather series and loved the books! Would you like to share with us a bit about yourself and your books?
D. G.: Hi, Thank you for inviting me to be part of this chat. My series The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy is about a teen environmentalist who discovers mythical creatures tied to her American Indian heritage. In book one, Cry of the Sea, she finds real mermaids caught up in an oil spill. I mostly write young adult and middle grade. I tend to favor contemporary fantasy stories.
Tobie: That sounds so cool, Donna!
D. G.: Thanks. Yours sound great too.
Kester: Here’s my first question for both of y’all: The Mer Chronicles and the Juniper Sawfeather series paint two very different images of mermaids, along with their characteristics and their culture. What inspired you to display mermaids the way you presented them in your book? Could you describe your process as you created your own “spin” on a beloved mythical creature?
D. G.: In Cry of the Sea, I wanted to make the mermaids come across as real creatures that would exist in the ocean today. They are more like fish than the fairy tale creatures in other mermaid stories. It was important to the story, because June and her family feel like people would help their fight against oil pollution if they found out mermaids lived in the ocean.
Tobie: I used the original Hans Christian Andersen version of the Little Mermaid as a jumping off point, but was also very influenced by the Malibu, California setting I chose for the story.
D. G.: I used to live in L.A. Very familiar with Malibu.
Tobie: So, my series has a sparkling, sunlit, ocean mansion-y feel but also addresses some of the darker, more haunting aspects of the original story. With a healthy dose of siren mythology. ‘Cause you gotta have mythology.
D. G.: Mythology is key. My books take place in Washington State, and they use American Indian mythology from the Pacific Northwest.
Kester: I loved the mythology in yours, D. G.. It was all so mesmerizing!
Tobie: That sounds really fascinating!
D. G.: Thanks. The mythology becomes more involved in books 2 and 3. No mermaids in book two, though.
Tobie: Can you share which creatures will be in book 2, or is that hush-hush for now?
D. G.: No secret. The books are out. There’s and ancient tree spirit in book 2 that traps Juniper 170 feet up in an old growth tree. In book 3 the mermaids are back, along with shapeshifting orcas, and a monster made of stone.
Tobie: I love the idea of a tree spirit! So cool!
Kester: It definitely was! Since only less than five percent of the world’s oceans have been explored, do you believe that mermaids may exist? If you were a mermaid for a day, what would you do?
D. G.: Well, if mermaids do exist, I like to think they’d look like the ones in my novel. There’s that fake documentary from Discovery channel about real mermaids, and funnily enough, they look very similar to the ones of my imagination.
Tobie: I think it would be a little arrogant of us to assume they don’t. 😉
D. G.: If I was a mermaid for a day? I’d swim as fast as I could to Hawaii so that I could be there when the tail went away.
Tobie: I’d spend the whole day exploring. Kelp forests, coral reefs, caves, grottos, lagoons. Also a kiss under a waterfall=mandatory.
D. G.: Love it!
Kester: Ocean conservation is an important theme in both of your series. How can literature promote environmentalism and raise awareness for ocean conservation, and how can readers help save our beaches and our oceans?
Tobie: Books can really increase mindfulness, which is key. Also, it’s important to support ocean clean-up efforts and help spread the word and raise funds for new technologies.
D. G.: I’ve had two young readers tell me after reading my books that they want to be Marine Biologists. This makes me so happy. I guess, I hope that the books open up awareness to the problem. Maybe it will make them notice what’s happening and think more about their own pollution when at the beach or lake.
Tobie: On a daily basis, you can look at your own habits and make efforts to waste less and to think about where the items you’re using and throwing away are actually going.
D. G.: Exactly! Fewer straws, less plastic…
Tobie: Exactly. It can be little things that really add up over time.
Kester: Seeing how the oil rigs cause so much harm to the environment when a leak occurs in your book, D.G., is so heartbreaking.
D. G.: Damage from oil spills lasts for years. I actually minimalized it for the book. The story was inspired by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, and the Gulf spill had happened while I was writing it.
Kester: Wow! I’m glad that you were able to bring tragedies like that to light in your book.
Tobie, would you like to talk about Project Mermaid? I know you shared a video with me about it last year!
Tobie: Sure! Project Mermaid does photo shoots of celebrities and models dressed as mermaids to raise awareness for ocean conservation using the hashtag #saveourbeach. When Emerge (Book 1 in my series) was coming out, they invited me to do a photo shoot with them and it was kind of a dream moment to get to be a mermaid for a day while helping with such an important cause. 6-year-old Tobie is still squealing about it. You can check out my behind the scenes video of the shoot at the bottom of this page: www.TobieEaston.com/books. And Project Mermaids has some GORGEOUS photos on Facebook and IG that are definitely worth checking out!
D. G.: That’s so awesome. I follow Project Mermaid on Instagram.
Tobie: I really love their work! Those tails are HEAVY (the one I wore was 25 pounds). The result is so magical, though. And they designed my makeup to match the book cover, which still really makes me smile. 🙂
D. G.: That is such an amazing experience.
Kester: I bet it was! What were some of the challenges you both faced as you put a new twist on an old fairy tale or legend? What was it like infusing The Little Mermaid or Native American folklore with a modern yet magical setting?
D. G.: In the first book I had the idea of the mermaids in the oil spill and found and tweaked a myth to go with it. In books two and three, I found the myths first and tweaked my story to go with them. Making the existence of mermaids seem plausible was a goal of mine too. I wanted people to be looking for them like they do with Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.
Tobie: I wanted to create a world that made different mermaid myths and legends from around the world seem like they could all be plausible. I had a lot of fun interweaving them. Also, finding ways to explain the differences between, for instance, Greek siren myths and the Little Mermaid story so that the reality of the world in the book felt cohesive.
Kester: Were there any specific myths that both stood out to you during your research and drafting processes?
Tobie: I find a lot of the Celtic mythology surrounding mermaids really interesting. Also, the ending of the original Little Mermaid is much darker than a lot of people are familiar with, so it’s been really fun to delve into that.
D. G.: The real ending to Little Mermaid IS dark.
There aren’t many American Indian myths involving mermaids. There was one about a river mermaid I liked, but it was from a different nation than where I set the novel. I found several myths about killer whales, and I manipulated one to fit Cry of the Sea, and the others are in the final book Echo of the Cliffs.
Kester: I’m just wondering, since we’ve brought up the Little Mermaid, do you think that there is a glamorized version of mermaids in today’s society because of Disney, movies, etc.? What do you think mermaids will actually be like if we discovered them?
Tobie: D.G. probably has more to say on this than I do. I love the glamor and the fairy tale image. 😉
D. G.: I love the glamour too. I used to dream when I was little that I would grow a tail. Even as far back as Splash with Daryl Hannah and of course Peter Pan, mermaids have always been shown in movies as beautiful. Who doesn’t want to be beautiful like that? And the idea that some of these beautiful creatures draw men to their deaths makes it even more thrilling, doesn’t it?
That said, if mermaids had long pretty hair, and could talk, and lived in cities underwater, I feel like they would have made themselves known by now. They’d have to be awfully deep down to be hidden. So, I have to believe real mermaids would be more creature and less “human”.
Kester: I agree, the glamorous version of mermaids is very fascinating and interesting, but I really love your viewpoint, D.G. That seems very plausible. 😉
I have two questions before we go, the first one being: Why do you believe that fairy tales, legends, and myths hold great power and inspiration for readers and writers throughout the ages?
Tobie: Fairy tales, legends, and myths have remained as part of our culture for as long as they have because they touch on something universal in the human experience. We wouldn’t still be telling those stories if something in them didn’t deeply resonate. Modernizing aspects of them helps 21st century readers relate, but keeping them rooted in the older stories also really connects us to our past.
D. G.: These kinds of stories were originally told in front of fireplaces to teach lessons or a kind of morality. The hold our fascination to this day because of the themes of right vs. wrong, evil vs. good, heroism, or overcoming obstacles. Most fiction is based somehow on these original forms of story telling.
(I took a class on fairy tale literature in college, so these thoughts are not entirely my own.)
Kester: Haha that’s totally okay. Still, it would be very interesting to take a class on fairy tale literature! I’d definitely love it!
D. G.: It was my favorite class.
Kester: Before we end this LILbooKtalk, would you both like to share advice to young writers reading this discussion?
D. G.: My advice to young writers is to take your time creating and don’t worry if it’s not great at first. It takes times and lots of rewrites to make a full novel pull together and be ready for publishing. So many people think once they finish writing that they are done. They’re not. Keep on cleaning. And don’t throw it out if you don’t like it. Save it. An idea may come along at some point to help you fix it. That’s what happened for me.
Tobie: I would say to follow what fascinates you, whether that’s mermaids or sports or vampires or physics or supernatural phenomena or medieval literature. When you find something that you’re interested in, give yourself the time and freedom to read about it, learn about, explore it. Sometimes other people in your life might deem it silly or a waste of time, but if it interests you, there’s probably a reason why so don’t be afraid to go with it. You may learn something about yourself. I think that’s how a person can find the stories that only they can write.
Kester: That is some great advice! Thank you so much, both of you, for doing this LILbooKtalk with me! It was so fun and great to chat with you!
D. G.: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it.
Tobie: Thanks so much for hosting us, Kester! These were such great questions!
About D. G.
D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write books about young people who strive to make a difference in the world. From her teen environmentalist in The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, a young girl teaching her friends autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs in No One Needed to Know, a princess who desires to be more than a pampered prize for a prince in The Royal Deal, to a boy who learns that being genuine and chivalrous are the ways to win a girl’s heart in Passing Notes, Driver hopes to write characters that you’ll want to root for. When she’s not writing, she is a teacher in an inclusive child development center in Nashville, and she can often be found strutting the stage in a local musical theater production.
Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie hosts book clubs for tweens and teens (so she’s lucky enough to spend her days gabbing about books).
She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie loves chocolate chip cookies and Oxford commas. Tobie is a member of SCBWI and YARWA, the Young Adult chapter of RWA.
Thanks so much to D. G. Driver and Tobie Easton for coming on this month’s LILbooKtalk! Please check out their books, and I hope you enjoyed this discussion!
What are your thoughts on this LILbooKtalk? Let’s discuss!
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!