Swanky Seventeener F.M. Boughan recently interviewed Sweet Sixteener Tobie Easton, author of the YA contemporary fantasy novel EMERGE, published April 19th, 2016 by Month9Books.
About the Book
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.
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 is a private writing instructor and 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.
F.M.: I absolutely adored how you gave Lia and your Mer a deep backstory that connected with the original story of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” What inspired you to take this famous tale and extend its reach into modern times?
Tobie: At first, all I knew was that I wanted to write about mermaids living on land. I had read the Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid when I was little, so I was familiar with the darker ending (in the original version, the Little Mermaid chooses to die rather than kill her Prince to get her tail back). So, when I was thinking about why the mermaids in my book would live on land, it occurred to me to make the danger in the ocean a consequence of the Little Mermaid’s decision.
F.M: What was your research process like for this book? Did you find yourself researching weird ocean things and looking up pictures of strange fish?
Tobie: Absolutely! While I was writing, I left blanks that said [type of fish], [type of seashell], [type of fish]. Then, once I had a draft, I spent several weeks filling those in with very deliberate choices that would make the world vivid and fun for readers. I also researched mermaid myths from many different cultures before I began writing—then I put all of that research aside and started to play!
F.M.: Your Mer speak their own language, Mermese, and many of their words and phrases—like siluess and udell—are peppered throughout EMERGE. Is Mermese based on an existing language or did you develop it from scratch?
Tobie: No one has asked me that yet! I wanted Mermese to be a melodic, musical language, so that led to soft, liquid letters and elongated vowel sounds, punctuated by a few harder vowels that would pierce the water. With those guidelines in mind, I built the language mostly from scratch. Since the original version of The Little Mermaid is from Denmark. I occasionally used Danish words as starting points then played with them to achieve the right sound and structure for Mermese.
F.M.: Finally, it’s always fun to hear about the process from the query to the call! How did you end up working with Month9Books, and how has the experience been so far?
Tobie: Once I had finished EMERGE and edited it (both on my own and with critique partners), I entered it in Pitch Wars, a contest run by the amazing Brenda Drake in which writers send a query letter and their first chapter to published authors. Each author chooses writers to mentor as the writers polish their pitches and manuscripts before presenting to agents in the contest’s agent round. I was fortunate enough to have EMERGE chosen by the talented Skylar Dorset (THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, Sourcebooks), which told me my query letter (that I’d worked like crazy on!) was working.
I didn’t find my agent in the Pitch Wars’ agent round, but Skylar convinced me EMERGE was ready to query. I queried for about two months (although it felt much longer) before my incredible agent, Jennifer Unter of the Unter Agency, offered representation. You can find out more about my Pitch Wars experience and my call with Jennifer here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/2014/06/another-pitch-wars-success-story-tobie-easton/. When Jennifer took the manuscript on submission, we heard a lot of feedback from editors who loved the writing and the story but who were hesitant to take on a mermaid book when their houses were currently focused on contemporary YA. Since Month9Books focuses on YA fantasy and sci-fi, my agent decided to try submitting there—and I’m so glad she did! Just three days after she submitted to Month9Books, they made an offer! I’ve had a truly wonderful experience working with Georgia McBride and the whole team at Month9Books. They’ve provided a lot of individual attention at each stage, and I feel like I have a voice in the process. Every day, I feel very fortunate that they’re doing so much to share EMERGE with readers!
Writing beverage of choice?
Favorite book when you were a teen?
A tie between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Pride and Prejudice
Favorite tropical fish?
I love Yellow Tang fish, which I saw while snorkeling on my honeymoon.
If you had to choose a theme song for your book it would be…
“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer for the happier, first-love moments and “The Old Ways” by Loreena McKennitt for the darker, more alluring moments.
Which sister would you be from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”?
Hmm…I don’t know enough about their personalities to answer this one, but I will say I relate a lot to Lia’s eldest sister, Em.
If you could hop on an airplane tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, you’d choose to visit…
In a castle in the U.K.!
About the Interviewer
F.M. Boughan is a bibliophile, a writer, and an unabashed parrot enthusiast. She can often be found writing in local coffee shops, namely because it’s hard to concentrate with a cat lying on the keyboard and a small, colorful parrot screaming into her ear. Her work is somewhat dark, somewhat violent, somewhat hopeful, and always contains a hint of magic.
F.M. Boughan’s debut YA fantasy, CINDERELLA, NECROMANCER, will be published Fall 2017 from Month9Books.