I am delighted to welcome fabulous author Debbie Herbert to my blog. Debbie is a fellow member of team Aponte Literary, represented by our wonderful agent Victoria Lea, and I had the great pleasure of meeting her and M.V. Freeman at the 2013 Southern Magic Reader Luncheon. After reading and loving Siren’s Secret, I just HAD to have her on my blog.
It’s no secret that I love mermaids and the mythology surrounding them, so imagine my delight to find another aficionado in my circle of writer pals!
Shelly Connors is good at keeping secrets. The safety of her family and of her species depends upon quiet co-existence with humanity. It may be a lonely co-existence for Shelly as a half-breed, but she’s accepts her lot in life between land and water as best she can.
When she catches a serial killer in the act, though, guarding her fins takes a backseat to fighting for her life. Pursued by the monster, Shelly must decide whether to take matters in her own hands and have the killer face seaborne justice, or trust the attractive and engaging local sheriff. Sure Tillman Angier is easy on the eyes and damn good at his job, but Shelly’s been burned by human men before. Can she trust him with her secret and her heart as they work together to stop a deranged and deadly madman?
Thanks for being here with me today, Debbie! I’m a bit of a mythology nerd, and as such I very much enjoyed the bits of mermaid lore you wove into your story, as well as your unique spin on how these supernatural beings integrate into the human world. What drew you to mermaids as a subject (aside from the fact that they’re absolutely fascinating)?
I appreciate the opportunity, Dana!
I see mermaids as symbols of feminine beauty and strength. My theory is that even (or especially) young girls are drawn to the whole idea of mermaids because archetypically they represent power balanced with maidenly grace. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be a beautiful mermaid playing with dolphins all day long? I’ve always loved the ocean and beaches and as a child fantasized about what magic might lay deep beneath the water.
Your mermaid heroine is such a wonderful blend of toughness and vulnerability, with a dash of down home Southern charm to go along with her exotic nature. She literally has a toe (or tailfin) in two different worlds, not really belonging to either, but she’s forced to put herself and her kind in danger in order to bring a killer to justice. We readers experience her heartbreaking struggle to find acceptance, not just from her love interest Sherriff Tillman Angier, but from within. What inspired Shelly?
Shelly has a mermaid mother and human father and struggles to find acceptance on land and at sea. Except for her maternal aunts and cousins, the merfolk shun her and she is not allowed to tell her secret to humans for fear of rejection and putting her kind at risk of exposure. To top it off, her parent’s marriage was a failure and she’s determined not to repeat her mother’s mistake by denying her mermaid nature and moving away from the sea. If she falls in love, the man will have to accept her as she is because anything less is bound for failure.
Sherriff Tillman Angier is such a complex and relatable character. So many of us struggle quietly with caregiver fatigue – be it looking after a terminally or chronically ill relatives, aging parents, or in Tillman’s case, someone disabled. So many caregivers are idealized as stalwart and stoic, which is unrealistic and, I would argue, potentially damaging to those who actually live these situations day in and day out. You show us the good, the bad, and the ugly, complete with resentment, anger, and a longing to escape that are natural, human reactions to the stress involved. At the same time, you show us the honorable, caring man struggling to do the right thing, and I loved that. How did you balance these two aspects of Tillman’s character?
Thanks, Dana. I don’t mind sharing that I have an adult son with severe autism so I’m quite familiar with the struggles of caring for someone with special needs and trying to maintain balance in my life with other family relationships, a job and everything else that goes along with being a well-rounded person. With Tillman, I tried to show that despite the less-than-saintly feelings that come with caretaking, what matters is the actions we take and the lessons we learn.
To me, every character – like every person – has flaws that they work to overcome.
My son was recently diagnosed, so I was definitely able to relate to the struggles of a caregiver. Every complex, relatable hero/heroine needs an equally complex antagonist. You aren’t afraid to go dark (another aspect of your writing that I really admire!). How hard was it to get into serial killer Melkie Pellerin’s head?
I don’t know what it says about me, but it was immensely interesting to try and get in the head of a character with a value system so opposite my own. At every step of the way, I tried to imagine what would motivate a killer to commit such crimes and what happened in his life that made him so amoral. I also tried to show him as a real person with problems and one that could occasionally demonstrate glimmers of kindness in his dark world. I believe human nature is a continuum between absolute goodness and absolute evil.
So… two other mermaids plus a few surprise supernatural residents of Bayou La Siryna equals many more adventures in the series… Hooray! Can you give us any hints about what is to come?
Absolutely! Book Two of the Dark Seas series, Siren’s Treasure, will take up the story of Shelly’s cousin Jet, and is scheduled to be released this fall by Harlequin Nocturne. In many ways, Jet is the opposite of Shelly. She’s physically strong and mentally tough but nevertheless, has a hidden vulnerability that’s exposed when her ex-boyfriend pirate is released from prison and returns to the bayou.
It’s The Hunt for Red October meets Southern Gothic.
Book Three of the series, Siren’s Call, will be Lily’s story. Lily is the mysterious siren who enchants men with her voice . . . until she meets the one man impervious to her charms. This book will be released in 2015.
Mermaids, pirates, and hidden treasures, hooray! Just pre-ordered my copy of Siren’s Treasure. Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?
Dark chocolate flavored with chili and sea salt. And it’s good for you! Well, probably not in the quantity I eat, but there are worse vices.
Hmm, a bit of spice and salt to balance the sweet. I dig it! Top three absolute favorite romance books?
Oh, that is so hard! Okay, I have to go with Pride and Prejudice as Number One. Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic hero. Second, I adore Amanda Quick historicals and my favorite is Ravished which plays upon a Beauty and the Beast theme. And third, I’ll go with Ransom by Julie Garwood for its humor and the manly highlander hero. Who doesn’t love men in kilts? Since I’ve chosen all historicals, I’ll add a contemporary book for honorable mention even if it isn’t strictly a romance: Alice at Heart by Deborah Smith which is about a mermaid from North Georgia seeking love and acceptance.
Thanks for letting me visit, Dana!
Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Debbie, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, find her on Goodreads, and check out her Facebook Fanpage. Siren’s Secret is available now from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Harlequin. Siren’s Treasure is available for pre-order, too, and will be released November 1, 2014.