Hello and welcome to another get into bed author interview here at Love Romance Passion. Today’s pillow talk is with author Judi Fennell. Please join me in welcoming her to the blog.
Last time Judi was with us she discussed her chatty characters and we held a book giveaway for her latest release, In Over Her Head. The winner was drawn and the lucky commentator is… #4: Kat Sheridan! Congratulations Kat!
Now onto the interview!
For me In Over Her Head is like The Little Mermaid in reverse. Was that the inspiration for the book or was it something else?
That was it. Just a “how can I twist The Little Mermaid?” I had entered the story in the First Chapters Romance contest on Gather.com in August of 2007, where 250 of us posted our first chapter for the online community’s review. The first person to comment on the fact that it was like The Little Mermaid was one reader’s 12 year old son. I found that interesting. Then everyone else started chiming in.
I did tell the mom that she might not want her son to read past chapter 2.
If you only had a sentence, how would you sum up In Over Her Head?
He’s a merman and she’s terrified of the ocean.
Fisher, Reel, Rod, Chumley–how in the Zeus did you decide on these names?!
They all started with Reel’s. When I set out to write this story, I was working on a series of fairy tale twists. Cinda Bella, Beauty and The Best, Fairest of Them All… I wanted to write a twist on The Little Mermaid. So, I decided to make him the Mer. Erica’s name was easy because the prince in The Little Mermaid is named Eric, but how do you spin Ariel? I came up with Riel, but figured everyone would pronounce it Ree- el. And then I realized what a pun it’d be to name him Reel.
Chumley, aka Chum, opened his mouth and his name popped out. Same thing with Rod – when Erica was smart-mouthing off to Reel she just asked, “You got a friend Rod around here anywhere?” to which Reel shot back, “He’s my brother. He lives in the South Atlantic .” Until that point, I had no idea Reel had a brother, let alone he was a twin or that the twin’s name was Rod.
In order for their punny names to be believable, I had to name Fisher Fisher. Their mom, Kai’s name means “sea” in Hawaiian. Then, of course, there were the sisters’ names and those are explained in the story.
In your book, In Over Her Head, you’ve created a whole world under the sea. Everything from restructuring common phrases to talking fish to mythology is present. What was the hardest part of world building for you? The most fun?
Hardest part was where to put things in the North Atlantic like Reel’s lair and their traveling to Bermuda to make it believable. There is NOTHING in the North Atlantic except a few small rises in the ocean floor off the coast of NY . Thank goodness for Google Earth. I lived on that site for a long time.
Most fun? Atlantis. I took a look at a few pictures of the caves beneath Bermuda online then let my imagination swim free.
Can you tell us more about Mers? What research did you do and what parts did you make to suit your needs?
I took basic mythology and tweaked it to fit my own needs. I’ve always enjoyed mythology and like mermaids, so there wasn’t a lot I had to research. A great thing about writing paranormal is that you can make your world be anything you want it to be. We have vampires now who aren’t dead, who can be awake in the day, who don’t have to bite people… why not make my Mers do whatever I need them to.
I will say that the question I get most often surprised me. Most people ask, “how do mers have sex?” Honestly, I’m amazed at the question. I don’t write beastiality stories, so it’s really not hard to figure out. I usually say, “Think of the mythology.” If you watch The Little Mermaid, you should have some idea of what I did with the story (but no way am I spoiling it here.)
To suit my needs: I had to give my Mers the ability to breathe both water and air, and make it easy for Erica to, as well. I didn’t want to write the story about the mechanics of being able to live under the sea, so I worked it to where all he had to do was kiss the ability into her. I think I’ve covered all the reasons and wherefores in the story so readers shouldn’t have any trouble suspending disbelief.
What’s the difference between a talking animal and one that is normal or doesn’t talk?
Oh, they all talk. They just don’t talk around us. Humans are kind of the bullies in high school to animals. They put up with us, but they don’t want to be our best friends. It just so happens we’re the top of the food chain, so unless they want to be lunch, they better toe (or flipper) the line.
But they’re organized. Make no mistake about that.
Had you the option, would you choose to live under the sea or on land? Why?
Give me land. Why? Because I saw Jaws at an impressionable age and it left a huge gaping gash in my self-confidence in the ocean.
It’s a totally irrational fear. I know that. I used to LOVE the ocean. I would swim back and forth for hours beyond where the waves break. I’d read a book on a raft, getting off only to swim back up the beach after the current had carried me down. Then I saw “the movie.”
I know there are no great white sharks hanging off the coast of NJ just waiting for me to get in the water. I know that. But I make sure there are people out farther than me and on either side whenever I go in. I have a “shark meter” in my head. My tension level starts out at my ankles and the longer I’m in the water (or the better the conditions are, say, warmer water, recent sightings), the higher it goes. When it reaches my neck, I’m out of there. Sometimes it gets to that point in 10 minutes, other times it’s 45. Never longer.
How does Reel match into your idea of the perfect hero?
One of the reasons I married my husband was because he’s the nicest person I’ve ever met and he can always make me laugh.
Reel is, at heart, a nice person. And he certainly can make me laugh. ‘Nuff said.
And, no, my husband doesn’t have a tail.
How is Erica the perfect heroine for Reel and why should readers root for her?
What I love about Erica is that she’s in a situation that terrifies her and she doesn’t give up. It’d be easy to take her lumps (or shark bite, as it were) and give up. She’s figuring she’s going to die one way or the other, but she doesn’t. She struggles til the end.
Then when she wakes up under the sea, she is determined to survive it.
And then when she confronts her original nemesis towards the end, she’s a changed person. He can’t get away with what he could in the beginning because in fighting for herself, she’s become stronger.
I like when people don’t give up. I mean, it’s your life – what else are you going to do?
A lot of this attitude stems from the time I lived in Spain . I was in college and four of us were going to drive through the south of Spain for Spring Break. I picked up the rental car then went to get everyone else. That’s when I found out that no one else knew how to A) drive a stick shift, B) pack for a week at the beach in a 2 door hatchback, and C) read a map. I drove 1300 miles in 8 days, found all the hotels, navigated through all those medieval towns without an accident and got us back alive. Don’t tell me there’s something I can’t do. I guess in infusing Erica with my irrational fear, I also gave her my stubbornness–though I prefer to call it my Can-Do attitude.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I have loved every minute of writing this book. The characters were some of the chattiest I’ve ever worked with, and they just made it so much fun. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
Thanks so much, Keira, for having me!