In 2013 there was a debate in the Internet world about something very important. Were mermaids replacing vampires in the world of young adult literature? This was apparently very important because (at my last count) thirteen different online news blogs reported it, including The Wire, Book Riot, Huffington Post, and ABC News.
You see, ten years ago, in 2005, Stephanie Meyers revived the love of vampires with her Twilight series. After her books became a phenomenal success, there were SO MANY vampires books in the wake. The glut of them was so amazing that editors and agents are now posting on their wish lists "no vampires, please." When teenagers read all the vampire books they could handle they were ready for something new. Well, mermaids weren't the first offering. No, next up were angels. Mostly dark, brooding ones. Girls were still wanting hot guys with complicated morals. When that wore itself out, the next trend was werewolves. Same reason. Who doesn't want t read about a hot guy who can barely stay in his own skin? And the other thing about these vampires, dark angels, and werewolves? There was always some strong gal who could bring out the best in them - change them.
That leads to the next trend - probably the oddest: zombies. If you're looking for a story about how a girl changes a guy for the better, there's simply nothing better than her bringing him literally back to life.
Just two years ago everyone insisted that mermaids would be next. But why? How? Mermaid novels are pretty much bound to be about girls, not hot, brooding guys. The person doing the changing back and forth from human to paranormal creature is the girl, not the guy, and more often than not, she's doing it for a guy. 18 mermaid novels were published that year (and I'm sure that's not counting indie published titles - those numbers never do). One article heatedly argued that mermaids could never replace vampires because of the lack of sexuality, and because mermaids aren't scary.
Here's what I think. The sudden rise in mermaid books doesn't have anything to do with girls wanting to read about hot guys at all. Quite the opposite. Young women fantasy readers realized that being an anchor for a complicated guy wasn't enough anymore. Instead, they wanted to read about strong, independent young women having their own adventures and finding their own way. While there are a lot of mermaid romances (even with mermen in them), a large number of mermaid stories stay focused on a single female lead or a community of female mermaids/sirens.
One list on Goodreads has 117 mermaid themed books on it (including Cry of the Sea). Way more than 18. A lot of those original 18 books led to series, and there's been a slew of other titles since. (I didn't know mermaids were trending when my book came out in early 2014. I thought it was kind of funny to be in a trend when I'd started writing that book in 2000, five years before the paranormal YA phenomenon even began). Many are about girls who discover that they are princesses of an underwater kingdom. Quite a few are Little Mermaid knock-offs about a mermaid wishing to be human. Some are scary and about sirens luring people to their deaths. Some are about vampire mermaids. I have yet to read one of those, but I admire the irony.
Thought I'd point out that trending right alongside mermaids are witch books and fresh, feminist adaptations of fairy tales. Those are usually girl-centric stories too.
I don't know how long this mermaid book thing will last, but I know that mermaid fandoms are growing by leaps and bounds. I'm a member of eight different merfolk fan groups on Facebook, and one of them has 9,000 members. That's a lot of mermaid pictures and cosplay. In that group, several of us are authors, and I know there are two more mermaid books from them coming out before Christmas.
So, enjoy it while it lasts. Stories for every taste as long as you don't mind a big fish tail being part of the plot. And if you're looking for a mermaid story that is completely different from all the rest, check out Cry of the Sea. From what I've seen, it is the only one where the main character is human and never will be a mermaid, and the mermaids themselves are portrayed as what they might be like if they were ever discovered to be real. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Here it is! Isn't she a beauty? I'm so thrilled. Caroline Andrus, cover art designer for Fire and Ice Young Adult Books has given me another book cover to be proud of. I hope you like it too. I thought I'd share with you a blurb about the book and a little bit about how this cover came together.
Juniper Sawfeather seems to have a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her.
The mermaids she saved from the oil spill are long gone. There’s no evidence of them, and she’s been branded as a liar and a fake in the media and at school. Her environmental activist parents have moved on to a protest to save Old Growth trees from being chopped down. June isn’t particularly concerned with this cause until after falling asleep at the base of a giant tree she wakes to find herself 40 feet in the air on one of its branches!
From this point on she becomes obsessed with the tree, and it appears the tree is becoming obsessed with her too. Soon, she is trapped 170 feet above the ground, and the magical spirit that resides in the tree isn’t interested in letting her go free or allowing anyone else to save her. Is the tree spirit good or evil? Will Juniper’s feet ever touch the ground again?
Caroline Andrus is one of the owners of Melange Books (Fire & Ice is an imprint - see some of her beautiful covers), but she is also one of their main cover designers. Several of her book covers from this past year have just become finalists in the Epic Book Awards. And she deserves it. When I saw the cover for Cry of the Sea back in fall of 2013, I actually cried because it was so perfect. I thought she had found the perfect face to represent Juniper. I also loved the hint of a mermaid, because in my mind the book is more about Juniper than the mermaids.
However, we had a little more of a struggle with the second book. It was very important to all of us involved with the book at Fire and Ice that the image of Juniper was authentically American Indian. Oddly, the woman featured on the first book's cover didn't look American Indian in her other photographs. Caroline was having a hard time finding a suitable image to use. Around that same time, a young friend of mine, an actress in Nashville, posted some new photographs of herself on Facebook, and I realized that she was the spitting image of Juniper. I suggested to Caroline that we could get pictures of her to use for the cover, and Caroline agreed. So, I approached the actress, Faith Kelm, and asked if she would be interested in doing a photo shoot. I also approached my dear friend Jeni Richard, a photographer, to take the pictures.
Now, Whisper of the Woods takes place in the first couple weeks of January in Washington State. Bitter cold. We did this photo shoot on the hottest most humid day of the summer here in Nashville. I'm not kidding. It was 103 degrees outside. And I had poor Faith wearing a big, puffy winter jacket. She was a trouper, though. She looked absolutely gorgeous. We were all also covered with mosquito bites by the time it was over. I can't tell you how grateful I was to these women.
I sent the pictures to Caroline, and she played with them a bit. The hint of supernatural (like the mermaid tail on the cover of Cry of the Sea) was harder to accomplish because this book is about a tree spirit. I made suggestions of eyes peering out of the leaves or in the bark, but the other problem was that Juniper is stuck in a 200 foot tall red cedar tree. A book cover is only so big. Well, genius that Caroline is, she put this almost surreal glow on the image, and chose a picture from the photo shoot of Juniper looking at something we can't see with great concern. I love how it came out. I'd love to know what you think. Please leave your comments below.
Whisper of the Woods will be released on November 21st. I've head a rumor that they will do a week of presales on Kindle at only $0.99. I'm fairly certain it'll never be that cheap again. So, if you don't want to miss when that happens, follow me at Facebook or Twitter so you'll catch the announcement.
You can read Whisper of the Woods without reading the first book, but I didn't spend a lot of time re-introducing the characters or summing up the first story and there is a through-line. So, if you haven't read Cry of the Sea yet, this would be the perfect time to get yourself a copy. Lots of purchase links here.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.