[NOTE: if you prefer Livejournal, please read the interview and enter the contest here.]
Today I am absolutely tickled to share my interview with the fabulous L.K. Madigan, author of the William C. Morris Award-winning Flash Burnout. Her latest novel, The Mermaid’s Mirror, features "highly imagistic descriptions and savvy dialogue" and "offers a rewarding and credible story that uses fantasy elements to bare truths about family ties" (this according to a starred review from Booklist!). And guess what? Lucky YOU will have a chance to win a copy of Mermaid’s Mirror at the end of this interview!
So without further ado, my questions for L.K.:
I know you’ve told this story before, but it delights me so. Please tell us about your very first mermaid book and explain how/if it influenced MERMAID’S MIRROR.
My very first mermaid book was an epic tale penned when I was in third grade … so it’s more accurate to say it was penciled. I took on the role of illustrator, too, which meant my characters sometimes had to suffer the indignity of noselessness. (The art world breathed a sigh of relief when I narrowed my focus to words instead of pictures.)
I’m not sure my early juvenilia influenced my current novel, but my desire to create a compelling world beneath the waves was as strong in childhood as it is now. My eight-year-old self and my current self both love to tell stories.
[Interviewer note: For more details on L.K.’s early love for mermaid stories, please see Jaclyn Dolamore’s captivating interview. Simply magical!]
MM combines contemporary realism with fantasy. You’ve written an award-winning contemporary novel already, so we’ll assume you’re comfortable with that genre. At what point on the comfort scale (let’s say “liberated to terrified”) did you fall when writing the fantasy components of MM?
I wrote an early draft of MM years before I switched to contemporary realism. In fact, it was my first serious attempt at writing for children. Back then I simply wrote … forging blithely ahead, creating my underwater fantasy world, free of any crippling fears about what constitutes authentic world-building. A few years later, when I decided to rewrite MM from a middle grade novel to YA, the fears found me … but they didn’t cripple me. I forged ahead with the writing, a little less blithely now, a lot more aware of all the things I might get wrong.
I went ahead and told my tale, anyway. If we writers become too paralyzed to tell our stories, then who will? I loved creating my fictional world, and I hope the book will find readers who love it, too. My goal was to describe beach scenes so vivid that a reader who’s never been out of her landlocked state will feel as if she can smell the salt air and feel the ocean’s power … and maybe even imagine a world beneath the waves.
Thank you for mentioning my “award-winning” novel, but I still feel like an apprentice in this profession, and I probably always will.
You write boys so well. (I ADORE Blake from Flash Burnout). However, your protagonist in MM is an equally complex and lovable girl. Was it a challenge or a relief to shift to a female perspective? Details, please!
Is it a cop-out if I say I truly love writing from the perspective of both genders?
In some ways, there’s a greater sense of freedom in writing from the male perspective. I didn’t feel the need to censor Blake’s salty language or his frank admiration of his girlfriend’s physical attributes. Even in our enlightened 21st century, some people will still judge a girl harshly for behavior that boys are permitted.
More and more, YA novels are slowly breaking down that double standard. I’ve read some terrific books with female protagonists who occasionally utter a swear word, and who explore the boundaries of love and lust.
I’ve never even touched a surfboard, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the surfing scenes in MM. Did you draw from personal experience in writing them?
I spent eighteen years in southern California, yet I never learned to surf. I guess it’s because we lived “inland,” so I wasn’t close to surf culture. I body-surfed and swam in the ocean, and I have happy memories of my university days, in which I would finish classes and head for the beach alone. I would go for a swim, then lay on my towel and read. I sometimes rode a boogie-board, but I never took the time to learn to surf. I wish I had!
My parents and sister moved to a beach town in northern California when I was in college, so she was close to surf culture, and became a surfer herself. I drew inspiration from her adventures. I also asked surfboard-maker Robbie Dick – who has over five decades of surfing experience under his belt – to read the book and make sure I got the surf scenes right.
Hawaii is one of my favorite vacation spots, because I can swim and snorkel in the warm sea, listening to the underwater music of shifting sands.
I know you created a lovely playlist for MERMAID’S MIRROR because I’ve had a chance to listen to it! Can you share two of your favorite songs from that list and explain how they helped put you in the mood for writing/revising?
Oooh, I love my Mermaid playlist, but I admit two of my favorites are “In the Deep,” by Bird York, and “Bright Glittering Gifts,”by Laura Veirs.
“In the Deep” is so dreamy and drifting and hypnotic, like floating in the sea. “Bright Glittering Gifts” is more upbeat; it opens with images of sand and sea and earth, then ends with a beautiful, repetitive refrain that rolls over and over, like waves.
[Interviewer note: You can watch a video of "In the Deep" here. Both it and "Bright Glittering Gifts" (from the Saltbreakers CD) are available from iTunes!]
Thanks so much, Lisa, for your eloquent answers to my questions!
NOW! I want to offer you, dear blog reader, the opportunity to win The Mermaid’s Mirror. PLUS, I am sweetening the pot with an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (due to be released October 12). Like Mermaid’s Mirror, Donnelly’s latest novel weaves a compelling fantastical element into a realistic contemporary story. So they pair nicely, right?
Comment below to enter. International entrants welcome! You may gain more entries by tweeting or facebooking this contest, but please tell me below under what name you’ve tweeted/FBed. The winner will be announced FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24.