Friday, 7 September 2012

FANTABULOUS FRIDAYS A-Z: M FOR MERMAID WITH LIZ KESSLER



Scribble City Central's twenty-eighth Fantabulous Friday comes from Liz Kessler, author of the mega-popular Emily Windsnap series.  I have to confess to being a bit of an Emily Windsnap addict at this point, not least because as a little girl, my abiding dream was to have a mermaid as a best friend.  My grandmother and I used to take endless long walks on long sandy beaches in Northumberland, where she would tell me stories of dragons, and I would look hopefully out to sea, wishing and wishing for a glimpse of long trailing locks and a flash of irridescent scaled tail.


The latest in the Emily series is just out, and I've been lucky enough to read an early copy.  I can tell you that Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun is a proper page-turner, and her legions of fans are sure to be delighted with it.  King Neptune has been a terrifying presence in all the Emily books, but this time he shows a vulnerable side, which is weirdly endearing.  (I also LOVE that he sleeps in a bejewelled octopus bed, which Natascha Ledwidge's lovely illustration captures perfectly.)  Emily and new boyfriend Aaron are the only ones who can save Neptune from his nightmares, and soon they are diving into a fabulous new adventure which takes them northwards to the mysterious Land of the Midnight Sun - and a scarily surprising discovery. As always, Liz hits exactly the right notes, and I forsee another big success for her with this book.

*GIVEAWAY**GIVEAWAY**GIVEAWAY*
The best news for my Lovely Readers (and all Emily Fans) is that  I have THREE, yes THREE brand-new copies to give away, due to the generosity of Liz and Orion Children's Books.  All you have to do is leave a comment after this post.  (Winners will be picked out of a hat by SCC & Liz after 5.30pm BST on Monday 17th September 2012).  Now, here is the lovely Liz herself to give you her expert take on:

M for Mermaid
Marine Temptress


LK: Most people will know what a mermaid looks like. She has the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish. Other than in the ocean itself, she might be found sitting on a rock near the water’s edge, combing her hair and singing beautiful songs as she lures fishermen to watery deaths. Mermaids are simultaneously seen as visions of beauty and perilous creatures associated with storms, shipwrecks and drownings.

Stories of mermaids are found in the folklore of all sorts of cultures. They have been written about, painted and drawn for hundreds of years. And of course, they were made famous by Hans Christian Anderson’s famous tale, The Little Mermaid in 1836 – and even more famous by the Walt Disney interpretation of this story in the 1989 film.


So what is it about mermaids that makes them so popular and such a lasting figure of our stories, art and culture? Well, I can’t actually answer that question. What I can do, though, is tell you what mermaids mean to me.

About thirteen years ago, I was living on a narrowboat on a canal in Cheshire. Out of nowhere, a couple of lines came into my head:

Mary Penelope lived on a boat, 
Which was all very well, but it didn’t quite float.

Before long, I had grabbed a pen, scribbled the lines down, and developed them into a poem about a girl who lived on a boat with her mum, but who had a big secret: she was a mermaid.

Some years later, the poem grew into a book – The Tail of Emily Windsnap – and the book developed into a series. (The fifth book in the series, Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun, is out this month!) Emily Windsnap and I have spent much of the last decade together. In my real life, I have been on adventures to the Bermuda Triangle, to the Arctic Circle and to beautiful reefs and mysterious shipwrecks because of her. In writing these books, and going on these adventures, I have explored what mermaids mean to me. And here is what I’ve come up with.

Mermaids represent the point where the facts of our reality meet the possibilities of our imagination. They live on the precipice between our world and the world of the ocean – a world that occupies more than two thirds of our planet and yet one which we know barely anything about. Mermaids tease us with their secrets and their knowledge of places that we will only ever visit in our dreams. They are like us – and not like us. They know us – but we don’t, fully, know them. They are the ultimate mystery.

It’s no wonder that our books and our art and folklore have been full of their stories for generations.

I like to think that my Emily Windsnap books bring a modern twist to the mermaid story. Emily is an ordinary girl with ordinary issues and problems that children today can hopefully relate to. The only difference is that when she goes in water, she happens to become a mermaid.

Many of Emily’s adventures involve the conflict between our world and the world of the ocean, as ruled by King Neptune. This conflict has been at the heart of our mermaids’ stories for hundreds of years, and is another thing that keeps us interested in them. They present the ultimate clash between two completely incompatible worlds. The pleasures – and often loves – of the land, and the eternal and magnetic pull of the sea.

This conflict is at the heart of my Emily Windsnap books. With a human mother and an imprisoned merman father, Emily’s world is torn down the middle. But further qualities that mermaids represent for me – strength, power and a deep and unifying bond with nature – are at Emily’s core. So if anyone can attempt to unify the conflict at the heart of a mermaid’s life, Emily will certainly give it a good go!

Writing her stories gives me an excuse to visit incredible places and marvel at the natural beauty around us in nature. It gives me a chance to express my own feelings about friendships and loyalty and love. And it gives me the opportunity to help remind others that, although no one has yet proved that mermaids exist, no one has proved that they don’t.

SCC:  Thank you so much for giving us that insight into where Emily came from, Liz, and what she means to you.  I think she's a perfect heroine for so many of your readers - long may she continue to swish through the waves.

You can buy Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun HERE  
Or, if you'd like to be entered into the draw to WIN one of those THREE copies, don't forget to comment after this post! 

Next week: The Mer-tales continue. Malachy Doyle will be here to talk about M for Merrow.
See you then!

12 comments:

Sheelagh said...

We all love Emily down here in Dorset and I can't wait to read the new books (and yes I will make my girls wait until I have read it first lol)

Sara said...

I have been looking for a series of books for my daughter to introduce her to some new authors as she is a very keen reader, she is nearly eight. To have found these books by an author from our little patch of the world (st. Ives) seems like fate! She loves mermaids and I am pretty sure she will love these books :)

catdownunder said...

Emily is fascinating - how extremely useful to be able to change like that!

Ali said...

I adore Emily. I know an 8 year old mermaid fan (and her mum!) who would be delighted to be passed a new one once I've read it, if I'm a lucky winner!

Laura Harrison said...

BRILL Liz! I love ALL your books and am a true Mermaid fan now and always!

Hugs to you!

Laura Lilac

xxx

Zoe said...

Hi my names Zoe I'm 11 and love all Liz kellser books and my fab character is Shona and the book sounds really good. So what ever age you are read all Liz kellsers books I have read them all and they were epic
Zoe Sherlock your no1 fan
Xxx

Saviour Pirotta said...

Can boys be Emily Windsnap fans too? And do the octopus arms enfold Neptune as he sleeps?

Michele Helene said...

I would love to get to know Emily Windsnap so that I can recommend her to the many avid readers I come across.

Julienne said...

I'm hardly your target audience, Liz (I stumbled upon this post from Lucy's twitter comment) but I love your explanation of the origins of mermaid stories. I'll definitely be keeping an eye open for Emily's stories.

Julienne said...

I'm hardly your target audience, Liz (I stumbled upon this post from Lucy's twitter comment) but I love your explanation of the origins of mermaid stories. I'll definitely be keeping an eye open for Emily's stories.

Karen (Euro Crime) said...

Introduced my library reading group to Emily and one girl loved her so much went and bought her own copy. Would love to win the new one.

karen at weatherwax dot co dot uk

K.M.Lockwood said...

I love all sea-swimming mysterious creatures and I collect sea story books. I'd love an Emily Windsnap!

 
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