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Interview with Brenda Peterson, author of The Drowning World


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Two different people from two very different worlds. The Drowning World is set in a future of rising seas, Flood Lands, and tells the story of an impossible romance. A regal and highly trained young mermaid, Marina, is half-human and half-dolphin. On her first spy mission to Skyeworld in 2020, she comes ashore on Siesta Key, Florida. On the beach, she meets feisty Lukas, a proud Cuban refugee. Marina will have to choose between Aquantis—where she has been chosen as a High Priestess—and her love for Lukas and his dangerously polluted SkyeWorld.

The Drowning World is like The Hunger Games set underwater. Marina’s magic and skill save Lukas’ life. But can she save her own against a lifelong nemesis from her world?

What genre is it?
The Drowning World is YA crossover, fantasy, and paranormal romance.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
All readers who enjoy imagined worlds, unusual love stories, animals, and adventure. The Drowning World is very popular with YA and adult readers who like magical realism and fantasy.

You’ve mentioned The Hunger Games. However complete this sentence for us: if you like_____________________, you’ll love The Drowning World.
The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass, Mists of Avalon, and  Avatar.

That’s exalted company to be in. Tell us a bit more about Marina.
Marina was born in the advanced underwater civilization of Aquantis. All her young life, she’s trained in the Sound Temples to develop her telepathy, her acoustic cloak, and clandestine skills to spy on and pass as human. As a Diplomat-Spy and High Priestess, she visits SkyeWorld (Florida in 2030) to discover why the WaveHole between all worlds is so unstable. Unlike the mythological Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Anderson, who has no soul and sacrifices herself for an unrequited love—Marina is passionate, curious, and on a heroine’s journey to discover that love can be as complicated and powerful a choice as any dutiful destiny.

So we should get Disney out of our minds? In fact, you’ve claimed that mermaids are “the new vampires”. Convince us.
In my Huffington Post article, The New Wave for Girls and Women: IN Mermaids, OUT Vampires, I argue that, “Mermaids practice more feminine power than most vampires. Like many female wild animals, mermaids choose their own mates. So mermaids are action heroes in their own rights; they are not just acted upon by dashing male vampires who recreate women in their undead image. . . And unlike the vampire stories in which death or war are the main themes, mermaid myths focus most on romance and struggling to fit in — or not. For girls and women, adapting to our ever-changing roles and societal expectations, our focus on relationships is like shape-shifting. We are always in moral and romantic dilemmas.
Mermaids don’t fall in love with eternal death. They fall in love with flawed and complicated real life, specifically humans. Mermaids, unlike vampires, want to stay in this world with us. They long for us, for our land and our legs. But they also have their own alternate universes that are complex and multi-dimensional. Mermaids have much to teach us about surviving a drowning earth. To mermaids, ours is not a dying world, but one worth loving — and saving.”


Yes, we are. What can you tell us about the next book in the series?
I’ve almost finished the sequel to The Drowning World and will publish it in 2013. It follows Marina, Lukas, Pandora, and Jake to Cuba—a sinking paradise. Here they encounter the mysterious Aquantan Master Tara, who has survived SkyeWorld’s sickness through her magical skills. Master Tara reveals to Lukas his shocking heritage and Marina’s true destiny. But will Pandora and Jake prove to be loyal? Or will they again betray those they’ve sworn to protect? The characters face dangerous allies and explore many other worlds as the volatile WaveHole carries them to strange, forbidden realms.

You decided to self-publish this novel, as opposed to your previous books, which were traditionally published. Will we, the readers, notice any difference?
After publishing 17 books novels and non-fiction books with traditional publishers, The Drowning World has the same craft and character development as my New York Times “Notable Book of the Year, “ Duck and Cover. It also has the psychological depth and humour of my two memoirs—the last of which, I Want to Be Left Behind, was chosen as a “Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year,” by The Christian Science Monitor.

What’s different about this new novel is that I didn’t have to “fit in” to any genre or publisher’s timeline. I could choose my own expert editors. So I could follow my imagination fully and bring out sequels more quickly—and incorporate what I hear from readers along the way. This opens the novel up to many more ideas and it’s terrifically exciting to hear how readers are enjoying and asking questions about this future world. In my successful Kickstarter campaign for The Drowning World, I even named some characters after my supporters. Great fun!

Tell us a little more about some of your other books. There seems to be an aquatic theme running through them.
I’ve drowned twice! It’s left me with a devotion to the ocean. For the last three decades I’ve been studying and writing about dolphins, whales, seals in my non-fiction books, such as Living by Water, Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, Between Species: Celebrating the Dolphin Human Bond, and my first children’s book, Leopard and Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups, which the National Science Teacher’s Association named as an “Outstanding Science Book of 2013 for K-12.” My last novel, Animal Heart, features a strong heroine who’s a wildlife forensics pathologist investigating crimes against animals. Jane Goodall called it “a haunting love story with a fast-moving plot.”

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Continuing the aquatic theme—here in Seattle, I live on the Salish Sea and founded Seal Sitters, part of the Northwest Marina Mammal Stranding Network. We are a group of citizen naturalists who sit vigil over seal pups who spend 50% of their lives onshore. Call it “day care on the beach.” Here’s a PBS video about our work.

I sing in a local chorale, teach writing, patrol the beaches for pups, kayak, adore my two cats and a Siberian husky niece. I have an intimate circle of friends who are my West Coast family. My large family is on the East Coast so whenever I can, I visit them and listen to their stories. I ascribe to the Taoist notion of “a calm and happy life.” Gratitude is my religion.

Have you got a website where readers can keep up with your work?
Please come visit all my books and blog at
My email:

How can we follow you on social media?
Twitter: @BrendaSPeterson.

What’s next?
Finishing the sequel to The Drowning World and I just sold a new non-fiction book to a traditional publisher on the craft of writing—a skill I’ve taught for twenty years. My new kids book, Seal Pup Rescue is just out in June and was featured in Scholastic magazine on Earth Day. Back to Florida this summer to see family and finally watch the Weeki Wachi mermaid show!

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  1. Pingback: Top 10 Books: Week ending May 31, 2013 | Indie Author Land

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