Hi guys! We are continuing our special Summer of Authors event with an author whose book is the perfect summer read. Tobie Easton, whom I met at the SE-YA Book Fest and is really amazing, wrote Emerge, her first book that’s about mermaids and romance. If you want read it by the poolside pretending to be a mermaid, then this is the book for you!
Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia’s entire community at risk. So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right?
That is, until Lia finds out she isn’t the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. If Lia hopes to save him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay. Lia’s parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
I love the puzzles of writing. The challenge of writing—the part that really intrigues me—is how to make all the pieces fit. How to make all the words fit just right, how to make all the story pieces fit so the plot twists feel right, how to make sure all the characters’ decisions push that plot forward. Making those pieces fit is what brings me those wonderful moments of satisfaction when I’m writing.
Growing up, I always loved stories and getting swept up in fictional worlds, but I was a reader long before I ever thought about being a writer. Writing was always the subject I enjoyed most in school; I found it fun and gratifying to play with words and find just the right phrasing for a given thought. But even though I enjoyed it, writing felt like something I had to do for whichever teacher gave me the assignment. It wasn’t until a few years after I graduated college and stopped having anyone making me write that I realized I wanted to write. It was perfect timing because it gave me just enough distance to gain perspective on my teen years, and I feel like I now have something to say in YA.
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and you writing style the most?
As a writer, details are really important to me. My favorite fictional worlds are the ones in which every detail is thought through, and some that seem insignificant end up mattering in unexpected ways. That’s why I’ve been drawn to the vivid worlds of fantasy writers like J.K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce. I also learned a great deal about incorporating detail, building magic systems, and writing dialogue from watching and re-watching the works of Joss Whedon throughout high school and college. Romance is another element that’s at the top of my list. Getting my characters together is often what keeps me writing. And of course, I’ve always been intrigued by mythology and fairy tales—and by attempting to understand in what ways they’re still relevant in modern culture.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
Actually, I am SO excited to tell you that writing is about to become a full-time job for me! I still can’t believe it, and I can’t wait to have more time to write more books for you guys!
When I’m not writing, I’m reading, and when I’m not reading, I’m trying out a new restaurant or travelling. My favorite thing is exploring new worlds—whether on the page or off.
4. EMERGE is heavily inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s THE LITTLE MERMAID. What about the original fairy tale spoke to you the most? Why did you choose to base your book on it?
At first, all I knew was that I wanted to write about mermaids living on land. Once I had decided to tell that story, I couldn’t help thinking about the original version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, particularly the part that’s generally left out of more modern versions—that the Little Mermaid chose to die at the end instead of killing the prince and saving herself (yep, it’s a dark story!). My imagination started spinning and I began to think about what the consequences of that action might have been for modern mermaids.
5. Would you like to be a mermaid, why or not? If so, what would you do if you were one?
Absolutely! I hope anyone who’s read my book would like to try being a mermaid—at least for a day.
If I had a day to spend as I mermaid, I would go exploring! Okay, well, first I think I’d just spend a lot of time staring at my tail and doing backflips in the water. Then I would want to see everything. I’d start with the hidden mermaid grottos where Lia’s community lives in Emerge because I’d want to see their abalone walls and cave formations for myself. After that, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation anymore, and I’d dive right into the ocean. How incredible would it be to be able to breathe underwater and see everything in the ocean with crystal clear vision? Then, as the day was coming to an end, I’d break the surface right in time toshare a kiss with someone special in the waves at sunset.
6. You host book clubs for teens and tweens! What is that like? Why do you like the middle grade and young adult audiences as both a reader and writer?
Teaching book clubs is actually how I discovered—and fell in love with—YA. The bookclub members started bringing in books they were reading outside of the club to show me. One of them brought in Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and I read a few pages out of curiosity. I bought the book that night because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Once I started reading YA, I realized what a perfect fit it was for the voice in my own writing.
Books we read when we’re growing up are often the most meaningful to us. They’re the ones that stay with us and that we read over and over. When you write for MG and YA audiences, your words can really touch someone who is figuring out who they are and what they care about. Also, I love the exploration and discovery in YA, and, of course, the resonance of first love.
7. Since your book takes place over 200 years after the events of the Little Mermaid, how did you create the history and culture behind the Mermaid community in your book? What were some challenges you faced putting a new twist on an old tale?
For me, world-building starts with asking a series of questions and using logic to flesh out the world. The question that sparked this book for me was “What if Mermaids lived on land?” That led to, “Where would they live?” Well, in Malibu beach houses with secret, underground grottos where they could use their tails. “How would they keep their secret?”, “How would they get legs?”, “What would the rules of their Community be?”, “What would human school be like for them?”, “What language would they speak and what expressions wouldthey use?”, “What would their culture be like, from its history, to its food, to its thoughts on marriage and love?” Moving through those kinds of questions one by one helped me figure out what a Mer society in the human world would be like.
Mermaids, in one form or another, appear in so many cultures, so I also read mermaid myths and legends from all over the world and incorporated various elements that sparked my imagination. One of the most fun challenges was making those various pieces fit together into one cohesive Mermaid world.
8. What do you like the most about living in Los Angeles and having a great author community there? Although I’ve already visited LA a few years ago (it was really fun by the way), what would you recommend a visitor to do or to go in LA?
LA attracts a lot of really creative people. People you meet here are very passionate about their projects, whether those projects are books, songs, movies, television shows, web series, paintings, or anything else. As for where to visit, I’m sure you already know about Disneyland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so I’ll mention a few you may not have heard of; Huntington Gardens (especially the jaw-dropping rose garden), the Los Angeles Arboretum, and Greystone Mansion (the grounds of the estate are now a public park where I went to day camp as a kid. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, you’ll recognize Greystone as Chilton).
9. Did you ever surprise yourself as you wrote EMERGE?
This is a great question. No one has ever asked me this before. Nearly all of Emerge was a surprise because it’s the first book I wrote. When I had the initial idea (What if mermaids livedon land?), I thought, “I can’t write a book!” But the idea wouldn’t let go, and I felt like I had to write it. Reaching THE END and realizing I could really write a book—and that I immediately wanted to write another one!—was the biggest surprise of all.
10. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro,TN! What do you like most about being an author at book festivals? How was your experience at SE-YA?
I loved, loved, LOVED SE-YA! It was a blast. Going to book festivals is one of my favorite parts of being an author because I get to meet and talk to readers. Connecting with you guys is really the best part of being an author because you get to share the love you have of stories with others. Kester, seeing that you had put the signed book plate I’d sent you months before in your copy of Emerge, and then getting to talk to you in person meant so much to me. At SEYA, I also got to hang out and do panels with authors I admire so much. Plus, the festival organizers were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Not only did they plan an incredible book festival (librarians should run the world!), they took me out for my first real soul food and sweet tea. Also—IT SNOWED! Since I’m from Los Angeles, that was really exciting. All the other authors were teasing me and calling me, “California.” 😉
11. SUBMERGE, the second book in THE MER CHRONICLES, is coming out later this year! What can we look forward to in the next installment? Would you like to give us any secrets about what happens next?
It’s getting close now! I CAN’T WAIT for you guys to read it. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say Book 2 is finished now—and so much happens! It definitely has more romance and magic (my two favorite things), and there are more difficult choices ahead for Lia. We’ll learn more about the characters from Book 1 and we’ll see new, unexpected sides to them. There are also some new characters I just can’t wait for you to meet. Submerge really raises the stakes and the emotional tension of the series. If I had to sum up Submerge, I’d do it in two words: magical and heart-wrenching.
12. Do you have any tips or advice you would like to give to any aspiring authors or writers?
Write the book only you can write. By that I mean, follow what fascinates you—whetherthat’s mermaids or sports or vampires or music or scientific exploration or politics or horses. Letyourself fall down that rabbit hole no matter what anyone tells you because that’s where your story is waiting to be discovered.
Thanks so much, Tobie, for coming onto the blog! It was so fun having you!
Emerge Project Mermaids Promo Video
Tobie: “Here’s a link to a video I did for Project Mermaids to help raise awareness for ocean conservation.”
About the Author
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.
Do you have any thoughts or questions?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!