Poet Tim Sinclair
tagged me to go in this Next Big Thing chain-meme-promotional-thingy, so here I am. Unfortunately, at the moment my next big thing is so far off it'd be unwise for me to talk about it for fear of talking it away, and by the time it came around you would have well forgotten about it, so I'm just going to talk about the selkie book, which came out in Australia and the UK in February 2012, and in the US in September.
(Allen & Unwin,
Also, I know I'm supposed to tag 5 other people, but I've only managed to organise one—but she's an excellent taggee! It's Elizabeth Knox
, author of the stunning The Vintner's Luck
and the completely absorbing and wonderful Dreamhunter Duet—and she'll be answering these ten questions about her brilliant new book in mid-January.
|US cover (Knopf, photo|
by Lara Jade)
But in the meantime, it's wall-to-wall selkies here:
What is the working title of your book?
In the US and the UK, it’s called The Brides of Rollrock Island
, but in Australia, it’s known as Sea Hearts
, after the creatures the boys of Rollrock Island collect on the beach, to give their selkie mothers a taste of home.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’d always thought I would write a version of a traditional selkie story one day. It’s just my kind of thing: animal transformations, bad weather, misery and betrayal, all wrapped up in a seaweed blanket and tied with a magical bow.
What genre does your book fall under?
|UK cover |
(David Fickling Books,
photo by Lara Jade)
It’s literary fantasy, and it’s published as Young Adult, but it sits pretty high in the YA age range. A smart worldly-wise twelve year old could probably still get something out of it, but I’d recommend it for readers aged 15+.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
|Elly Jackson—the young|
Misskaella? Or Lory Severner?
Oh gee, this is really hard. I’m thinking Pauline Collins would do an excellent Misskaella in her prime and old age. Elly Jackson could either be the young Misskaella or Lory Severner—I know she’s a musician, but she’s the daughter of an actor; she could pull it off. For the male leads, Gerard Butler for Dominic Mallett and James McAvoy for Daniel, I reckon. This is going entirely on the looks; I haven’t seen either of these fellows in anything. Can they do moody and understated, do you think?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Unhappy witch-let Misskaella taps into her family’s ancient powers to beguile every man in the village with beautiful women from the sea—who will break the spell?
I know, it’s strictly two sentences…
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent Jill Grinberg sold Sea Hearts/The Brides of Rollrock Island to Allen & Unwin in Australia, Knopf in the US and David Fickling Books in the UK. Also to Rowohlt in Germany, where I think it will come out in 2015.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
|Misskaella in her prime?|
Actor Pauline Collins
The first draft was a novella, published in Keith Stevenson’s X6 anthology of novellas at the end of 2008. I wrote it in about eight weeks.
I suppose the first draft of the entire novel took me about 18 months? But we’re not talking full-time writing; it had to fit in with my day job, and some travel and festivalising and such.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
|Gerard Butler as Dominic Mallett?|
—well, no, of course he wouldn't
wear a collar and tie...
In YA, I would snuggle it up next to The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater. In fantasy, it would sit pretty comfortably on the same shelf as Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber
stories, and I’d like to think it wouldn’t look too ’umble and embarrassed to be cheek-by-jowl with Michael Crummey’s fabulous (in the most grounded, fishy-smelling way) Newfoundland epic, Galore
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
|So, does James McAvoy|
look sufficiently unhappy
to play Daniel Mallett?
Oh, those selkies and their terrible unending yearning. Who can resist people who emerge from the sea but can never quite shed their sea-ishness? And I had questions: what did it feel like to transform from seal to person or vice versa? What did it look and smell like? Why are selkie women always so hopeless at rescuing themselves, when the solution to their miseries is so straightforward? What kind of creature prompts instantaneous love and devotion? What happens during those years that are always glossed over in the selkie stories—how do human men and selkie women rattle along together from day to day? And what about the children, an uncomfortable mixture of two creatures—what’s life like for them?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The six starred reviews it’s earned in the US might dazzle them. Its inclusion on Mock-Printz reading lists might make them wonder. The longlisting for the Carnegie Medal in the UK? Well, I’m impressed. The interesting mix of ratings on Goodreads might make people want to see what they think of the book.
But apart from all this, everyone’s crazy about mermaids at the moment, aren’t they? Selkie women are just to one side of mermaids. I would even argue that their marine mystique is stronger than those fish-tailed femmes'. Pick up a sea heart and see.