Much of the ocean remains unexplored – so who can say mermaids don’t exist? So when Jennifer Donnelly set out to write her Waterfire saga, she knew that creating a world for the mythological creatures that ensnared our collective imagination would require research.
“Like any people, their history and mythology tell us who they are.”
Deep Blue followed Serafina, haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil – and the upcoming Rogue Wave follows takes Serafina’s friend and ally Neela, who must fight to save her realm of the ocean from the ancient evil. For the oceans realms of the Waterfire Saga, Donnelly drew the story of Atlantis and wove human influence into each of the mermaid’s realms.
“Serafina’s [realm], in the Mediterranean, shows influences of the Renaissance in its art and architecture, and its court intrigue. Neela’s realm, Matali, in the Indian Ocean, borrows much of its aesthetic from its neighbors India and Africa.”
Donnelly’s previous young adult novels were historical fiction. Revolution follows Andi and Alexandrine, whose diary Andi read – and who lived in the catacombs of Paris two centuries earlier. A Northern Light followed Mattie Gokey’s job at a summer resort on Big Moose Lake in 1906.
Thanks to the research required for those, weaving in art and culture of different time periods was nothing new. But the shift to fantasy was daunting.
“I went from historical fiction, a genre that doesn’t allow you to take many liberties, to fantasy, where you can do almost anything you want,” said Donnelly. “There are still rules in any fantasy universe, but in Deep Blue, I got to establish those rules.”
Despite changes from real world to fantastical settings, the rules of story-telling barely changed.
“No matter what the genre, I want to cook up a plot with twists and surprises, I want the world to be full and rich, and I want readers to care deeply about the characters.”
All of Donnelly’s heroines come up against some great forces in their journey, many of which challenge them and knock them down. But for Donnelly, the ability to overcome them is a driving force. To her, characters don’t need to be perfect or have all the answers. Instead, her ladies have to have game – a little toughness, optimism, grit, and the inability to kept down.
“Sera and her friends suffer deep losses and face huge challenges. They lose confidence, get frustrated and angry, make mistakes, and get scared. But they don’t back down.”
Deep Blue is available now and the sequel, Rogue Wave, will be released on January 6th. To learn more about the Waterfire Saga, visit the official website. For more on Jennifer Donnelly, visit her website or follow her on Facebook.