What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
In or on the ocean. I can be anywhere in the world – Fremantle, Coral Bay, Albany or the Abrolhos in Western Australia, Sydney Harbour or the Gold Coast, the port in Osaka or Singapore, or on a tiny beach to myself at one of the Indian Ocean Territories…but when I’m standing there, I am in my favourite place in the world. The salt, the water, the waves…
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I honestly didn’t think writing a novel was challenging, because I don’t find it so. The more I read, though, the more I realise that some people do have trouble with it. Some struggle with bringing their novel to a clear ending. Some write far too much description, as they envisage a setting to be, when it’s not necessary. Some need to work with editors to improve the sentence structure, grammar and overall flow of their work.
Ocean’s Gift always had a clear end point. I don’t need to write such descriptions, as I have a detailed database of photos of my settings, so I only describe what’s necessary for characterisation or the plot. Plus, I’ve worked with an editor from the beginning.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Ocean’s Gift? Sure.
“To the lucky deckie!” Skipper roared. All the beer glasses went up with a ragged cheer, before tipping to empty their contents down the throats of their owners.
My glass came down empty. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and stood up. I started to weave through people to the sink out the back. It was near closing time and there was an unspoken rule – it was always the deckies’ turn to wash up.
Skipper stood in front of me, so I had to stop. “Not your turn tonight. You head back to camp.” He winked. “Maybe find some other way to celebrate tonight.”
Bloody bastard was reading my mind. I faked a yawn. “Yeah, like sleep before you get me up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.” I stumbled out of the club into the dark.
Someone made a ribald comment behind me that I didn’t hear, but the laughter in response was unmistakeable.
It took me a minute to find my torch in my pocket and switch it on, before I went down the rock-strewn track to the dinghy.
I pushed it out into the water and got in. The engine caught on the second pull and I steered her around, headed back to Rat Island and camp. Good thing I knew this stretch of water so well – beer and driving a boat in the pitch black was bloody difficult.
I figured I had maybe half an hour before the other guys would be back. If we had the lights out by then, maybe they wouldn’t bother us. Was that enough time for a couple of drinks with her? A drink or two and one thing might lead to another….SHIT!
I felt the wave drench me from behind and saw it half fill the boat with water, knocking the torch out of my hand. The engine sputtered and died, drowned, and I found a few more four-letter words to describe the motor. I pulled on it, over and over, pounded it till my hand hurt, but the bitch didn’t catch. Dead in the water, with a boat full of water, I groped for the paddle I know had been there before the wave hit. My hand grasped the handle and I pulled it free.
Look at the bloody lucky deckie now, I fumed. Paddling his bloody dinghy back to Rat Island in the dark.
I paddled till my arms ached, but the distant lights on Rat only seemed to get further away. I saw the other guys get in their dinghies and head back to Rat Island in a convoy. I shouted and waved, but they never heard me. The wind was blowing the wrong way, carrying my voice out to sea. It had picked up a fair bit, too.
I stopped paddling to rest for a few minutes, letting the boat drift with the waves. Maybe it’d ground on a sandbank or a rock and I could just sit here and wait ’til morning.
I hadn’t prayed about it, but the unsaid prayer was answered anyway. The bottom of the boat scraped across a rock. I tipped the useless motor up, in an effort to save it from further damage, as the tinnie wedged up against part of the rock just under the surface. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now I just sit here and have wet dreams while I’m soaked through in a dinghy full of water on a rock, until someone comes looking for me in daylight. Just the thought of Vanessa with her clothes off would keep any red-blooded male warm for a night…
I drifted between sleep and daydreams, waking every time a wave jolted the boat. Another wave sloshed over the side of the boat, soaking me again, and forcing me awake. The boat was almost full of water now, I realised in panic, as I groped for a bucket to start baling with. Throwing bucket after bucket overboard, I couldn’t tell if I was making any difference to the water level in the boat.
One moment I was holding the bucket, about to scoop up more water, the next I was flying through the air, full of spray and water and no sign of the tinny. Suddenly immersed in cold, black water, I couldn’t see the surface. I struggled, kicking in the direction I thought was up, and hit a rock. I jerked back reflexively and my head cleared the water. I gulped a huge lungful of air and grabbed for the rock. I had to hold on ’til daylight. Surely, that couldn’t be too far away.
Another big wave broke and I tried to keep a hold of the slimy rock, but I was pushed out of reach, drifting in the current. I tried to kick my legs, but I wasn’t sure if I did. I couldn’t feel my feet and the numbness was creeping up my legs. Vanessa won’t be able to help me here, I thought. I could feel my body shake with laughter. I drifted.
I could hear the breakers on the outer reef, louder than they were from shore. I could feel the spray on my face. A wave washed over me and I was under the water again.
I thought I heard dolphins, but it sounded deeper and closer with my head submerged. Dolphins or whales? I thought I could feel them beside me, rolling me over so my face was at the surface, pulling my body through the water.
All I could hear was an unearthly singing, high and sad, like some kind of suicidal dolphin. I could say I blacked out, but everything was already so fucking black I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.
I checked out of Hotel Consciousness. At least I got to dream of Vanessa naked.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted a phrase that described the mermaid/siren people. I mean, I didn’t want them to call themselves mermaids or sirens, as those were human words for what they were. They feel they’re superior to humans because they can breathe air and walk on land, but also swim and survive beneath the waves. Their additional abilities are a gift that ensured their survival when the joint human/siren city was destroyed thousands of years ago. So from gift it became…ocean’s gift. The mermaids are the people of the ocean’s gift. The ocean provides everything they need, except for one thing…their males are born few and far between, which is where the story starts.
Can you tell us about your main character?
Which one? Hmm…there’s Sirena, a mermaid who lost her first love by accident in a storm when she was sixteen. This isn’t a book about an angry sixteen-year-old mermaid – though the first scene describes how it happened. It’s Sirena’s story many years later. The elected leader of the mermaid people, she swims ashore to investigate what humans are doing to her ocean…but her first stop is the island fishing community she visited at sixteen. A confident woman and a capable leader, she’s already established herself as an experienced fisher in the community by the time newbie fisherman, Joe Fisher, arrives.
Joe Fisher…he’s an electrician, used to setting up remote mining camps deep in the Aussie desert with a porn-obsessed plumber. He’s saving all his money for a house, so he jumps at the chance to get paid to go fishing during his holidays. Problem is, he has no idea what he’s in for. The remote lobster fishing community at the Abrolhos is hard work, with early mornings and primitive shack accommodation. He’s ready to pack it in after his first day at work, after he gets attacked by the lobster catch, but as he’s staggering back to his shack to pack his things, he meets the beautiful woman who lives in the house next door and changes his mind about leaving.
How did you develop your plot and characters?
I started writing a bit about the mermaids, their swim to shore and their quest for information. I realised that their shore quests usually involved a human man, so I decided to take advantage of a fly-in-fly-out electrician and send him fishing at the islands. I had little idea of what he looked like or his personality, until I wandered into the bathroom one day, looked in the mirror, and had the oddest thought.
Guess what my electrician notices first in a woman?
As I wrote his narrative, I had some very strange thoughts, as he’s very much a bloke who likes women. Luckily, I had male beta-readers and editors, who helped me ensure that Joe was definitely a bloke with blokey thoughts. But he’s one bloke I never want to share a bathroom with, after that first day.
Who designed the cover?
The cover of Ocean’s Gift was based on a concept design by another author – J.T. Chapman, the author of the Enchantress series. I’d hired a graphic artist (who shall remain nameless) who prepared some covers based on my original ideas…and the originals had me in tears. It really wasn’t the artist’s fault – my ideas were just terrible, that’s all. Still, the artist agreed to redo the cover, based on Chapman’s idea, using photographs I took at the Abrolhos, to create the present cover. The tail actually belonged to a humpback whale.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
How mermaids can have sex. I swear, I could now write an entire textbook on mermaid biology. By the time I’m done with the fourth book in the series, I could probably write a detailed history of their society, too, because it’s all in my notes.
If you want to know how mermaids have sex, I wrote it up in a blog post on my website. It didn’t seem right to go into that level of explicit detail anywhere else.
How much of the book is realistic?
A realistic book about mermaids…actually, you’d be surprised at how realistic I’ve made the story. As the setting is a real place in the present day, it’s only the mermaids who seem a little unreal. They deliberately don’t fit well into the setting because they don’t belong there.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel for research before and during writing them. My Abrolhos travel for Ocean’s Gift was all before I started writing the book, as was my travel to Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands, before I wrote Ocean’s Infiltrator, the second book in the series. Water and Fire, the prequel to this series that I released in August, is set in Albany, Western Australia, so I spent a couple of weekends there, just photographing the place, visiting the local watering holes and restaurants, as well as the house and hospital where most of the book is set.
If you mean travelling the world for signings and such…not yet. Perhaps in the future, but that’s what I like about the internet – I can go on virtual tours all over the world, without having to fly. Given how much I love flying, though, I wouldn’t turn travel down often.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Absolutely. There are at least another five books in the Ocean’s Gift series, with Ocean’s Depths due out in 2014. I don’t have a firm release date for that one yet – but I’ll announce it on my website the moment I do.
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Genre - Australian sea adventure,contemporary urban fantasy,paranormal romance
Rating – PG 13