Sunday, July 31, 2011
Interview With LOST VOICES Author Sarah Porter
I recently caught up with Sarah Porter to talk about Lost Voices, the first in a trilogy about girls who transform into mermaids as a result of trauma. Read on to learn more about Sarah's world, and why she chose to write about the darker side of the mermaid legend.
Where did you get the inspiration for Lost Voices?
There were a few different sources. I used to have recurring dreams where I was a mermaid swimming very fast under these gritty, industrial docks; you’ll see the influence of those dreams on the third volume of the trilogy! And there was an earlier, very strange mermaid story I wrote, where the mermaids could swim through earth as well as water. When they started burrowing near your house, you’d know they were coming to steal your daughters away. Then there was the time when I took a walk on the beach with a friend and we improvised a story about a punk mermaid who lived apart from the others. All of those ideas kind of came together in Lost Voices.
What drew you to writing about the darker aspects of mermaid lore?
Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about how fluffy and cheery the portrayal of mermaids had become. I wanted to restore some of that missing darkness and power and give my mermaids an emotional charge that went beyond just romance and escapism. Mermaids offer such an intense image of being trapped between two worlds, maybe even torn between two different personalities. They can express so much, and it seems like a shame to waste that potential by making them completely cute and bubbly.
Which character do you relate to most? Do you have a character that is most fun to write about?
Oh, definitely Luce—though of course I also love my other characters, especially Catarina, even if she tends to be difficult and temperamental. But you haven’t met the character who’s the most fun yet: that would be Nausicaa, who appears in the second volume of the trilogy, Waking Storms. I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s been around for a very long time, and she’s somewhere between wise and jaded, loving and abrasive, and since she’s way past caring what anyone thinks she’s always extremely honest.
How do you feel about this rise in popularity mermaids have recently gotten?
I’ll admit the mermaid craze took me by surprise. In some ways I would have liked it if there weren’t so many other mermaid books out there all at once, but I do think the Lost Voices Trilogy offers a pretty original take on the mythology. And then Lost Voices has received some publicity that it definitely wouldn’t have if mermaids weren’t a trend, like the photo of the cover that appeared in USA Today. And the image of the mermaid is open to so many different interpretations that there’s room for a lot of artists to explore different aspects and ideas, so bring it on!
What do you hope readers will take away from Lost Voices after reading it?
I don’t want to say what anyone else should think or feel. But I’d like it if it left some readers with an acceptance of the darkness and mystery and magic in themselves and in everyone—even if that magic is sometimes angry or frightening. The more we can feel tenderness for all the dark, wild aspects of ourselves, I think the less those aspects can control us. In a way, the parts of the mermaids that stay hidden under the water represent the parts of ourselves that are secret or strange or hard to understand. The mermaids have to come to terms with their humanity, but maybe we should come to terms with our mer-ness, too.
Lost Voices is the first in a trilogy. What can we expect to come in the next installment?
It’s hard to answer that without giving away the story of the second installment, Waking Storms. But Luce finds both love and a truly close friendship for the first time, and she starts learning to open up and stand up for herself and her ideas. The mermaids have been extremely naïve in believing they can just get away with sinking ships indefinitely, and now terrible trouble is brewing—and because Luce is in love with a human, she’s caught in the middle.
And lastly, what other projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on the third volume in the Lost Voices Trilogy; it’s probably going to be titled The Twice Lost Army. It’s due in the fall, and it’s turning out to be quite epic, so I really can’t think about anything else until it’s finished! After that I’m dying to get back to a half-completed adult novel that I set aside a few years ago, called Boudoir. It’s dreamy and surreal and sort of horrorish—not mermaidy, though it does include a very significant swimming pool!