About the author: I spent the first thirteen years of my life on a slow-motion tour of the United States, following my father’s work in the telecommunication business, with a brief side trip to Jamaica. Settling down at last in Upstate New York when my parents purchased an inn, I spent a difficult year attempting to adapt to the small local school and the company of my agemates. Ultimately, my family made the decision to educate me at home. Some of my time came to revolve around the business, which grew to include a bookstore and restaurant; some of my attention went to the school textbooks from which I learned. Mostly, I read and wrote.
Fantasy, science fiction, myth, folklore—I favored the unreal in reading and told the same sort of stories as soon as I could articulate those ideas in words. This became an important tool when I developed several chronic health problems in my adolescence. Rather than using the world of fantasy to escape from these, I normalized them by creating disabled characters within the familiar landscapes of the fantastic. One o’ clock in the morning with an unruly mind and aching joints was best faced with characters whose hallucinations and missing limbs were oversized projections of my own difficulties.
I flew out of Upstate to California for college with one suitcase of clothes and ten boxes of books. I am now living with family while attending the University of San Diego, where I am pursuing an English degree, a Classics minor, and all excuses to write fiction.
Can you tell us a little about your new novel, Sea Change?
Sea Change is about a woman, her friend the kraken, and the terrible things that happen when he is abducted. Its roots are in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and its thematic concerns are friendship, gender, and sexuality. Depending on who you ask, it is YA lit or an adult fairytale. I gather a few people have cried over it, which catches me between pride and abashment.
I read that you used Grimms’ Fairy Tales as research, what in particular inspired you from that?
Oh, my. I could run on forever about this topic.
Shortly, all of it. I was so excited to enter this world that was bizarre, that ran on character archetypes drawn with incredible boldness, where magic was matter-of-fact and illogical and brutal acts are the norm.
It lent itself to a concept I explore regularly, body-horror—that sense of one’s body not being one’s own, being disfigured or mutilated, or elsewise repugnant. This involves becoming bestial or even literally transforming into an animal, on occasion, but not always. To run through a few specifics, in “The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest”, the protagonist is killed and manifests as a duck; in “Bearskin”, a man is forced to leave himself unwashed and wear a bear’s skin as a cloak; there’s “The Maiden Without Hands”, the mutilation in which is evident in the title.
Then there are the people: robbers, tailors, noblemen raised from the common ranks. The Troll has a more Scandinavian air to her, but so does Octavius. Lilly borrows quite a lot personality-wise from the protagonist of “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was”, which is the Grimm tale with which I identify most strongly, too. Some magical objects are taken nigh directly from the tales.
There are also a couple that I credit as having an indirect effect. “The Three Snake Leaves” and “The Hand With The Knife” are in this category.
Sea Change contains an unlikely pair, a woman, Lilly, and a kraken, Octavius. How did you come up with that dynamic?
Insofar as “come up” is meant as the original moment of creation, then answer is the contrast between Lilly’s facial birthmark (more accurately a congenital melanocytic nevus sans hypertrichosis, but who’s counting?) and Octavius’ smooth-slippery skin. I have gotten this question a few times over the course of my blog tour, though, in the sense of what made me continue with that dynamic. That isn’t an easy matter at all to get a grasp on, though I can speak somewhat on what binds them together. Everything that the sea stands for—fickleness, danger, change, strong emotion, mystery—are traits that are in contrast to Lilly. Much, that is, like the original tactile inspiration. While Octavius is strongly influenced by her personality and reaches out to meet her halfway, his world is nonetheless the water and that shows through.
That exchange across strange worlds is attractive to work with, as a writer. I hope it is equally compelling for readers.
If you could have a childhood fantastical friend, what kind of creature would it be and why?
The impractical answer to this question is a kraken, an idea I sold myself on by writing Sea Change. We would go on seaside adventures and I could swim as far out as I wanted without worrying about drowning and he could introduce me to all sorts of talking animals. I am not sure I could help him mature into as polite a beast as Octavius, but I also don’t think it would matter as much to me as it does to Lilly.
On the practical side, a talking magic dog. Those who know me closely are arching their eyebrows, because while I like dogs I don’t get along with mammals in the long-term. Also, how uncreative can I be? But I have my reasons, like so: the understanding between a domestic animal and a human will far excel that of one with a wild animal. While this cuts down on the opportunity for an expanded worldview, it also reduces the risk of unfortunate events down the line (I am thinking of parrots—a wild animal who can communicate with us and makes for an absolutely horrible pet on accounts of the psychological trauma inflicted by captivity and resultant tendency to violence).
Besides, a dog doesn’t require so much subterfuge. To be clear, “magic” also includes flight, because if we are speaking about fantastical companions I will imbue them with whatever skills I wish to.
About the book: The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price.
Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly’s quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way.
A powerfully written debut from a young fantasy author, Sea Change is an exhilarating tale of adventure, resilience, and selflessness in the name of friendship.