An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their tiny zoo of four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish.
When she’s not writing, she’s often painting, or engaged in nerdy pursuits from video games to tabletop adventures.
Thank you for having me!
If I weren’t a writer, I would absolutely be a veterinarian. Outside of publishing, helping animals is my greatest passion (as is evidenced by my ‘zoo’ of rescue dogs, fish, and a bird!).
Your bio says that you’ve yet to encounter a doughnut you haven’t liked. My question is: if you were a kind of doughnut, which one would you be?
Well, since I try to always be sweet, don’t like rules, and believe one should always indulge in whatever makes them happy (aka, chocolate)—I’m going to say Devil’s Food!
In line with the title of your debut novel, what are your three biggest fears? Have you successfully overcome any of them?
1) Being alone
2) Closet doors left open (I always think I’ll see something bad in there…)
3) Robots& Clowns; that’s right, I’m lumping these two horrible things together!
As for overcoming them—-I’ll keep you posted! I’m a work in progress, as the saying goes. 😉 A while back, monkeys would have been on this list, but I now find them adorable! Exposure therapy for the win. Maybe I’ll find a friendly robot somewhere to change my mind about them, too! Not a chance on the clowns, though.
What are the three most significant lessons you learned about the whole writing, editing and publishing process?
1) Trust yourself above all others when it comes to your stories; it’s great to get a lot of opinions from CPs and beta readers, but sometimes you’ll get too many conflicting ones, and you can drown in them and wind up with a mess of a story. It’s important to only take feedback that truly resonates with you, and while it can be very difficult to parse that out, trusting your instincts will help tremendously.
2) Remember that you write for the joy of it. I don’t think this one needs much of an explanation, but I’ll just add that with the most recent book I finished, I learned this lesson; I wrote a book purely because I wanted to say something—not with the hope of publishing it, not to please anyone else, not censoring myself or holding anything back—and it was picked up by Penguin as a duology!
3) Surround yourself with people who lift you up; this has been an important lesson, especially in my debut year. Once your book is out in the world, it’s so helpful to have author friends who can commiserate with whatever you’re feeling on a given day, who love your work and can speak to its strengths, and who are there to reassure you when you doubt yourself (which, if you’re like me, will be often).
What is the strangest compliment you’ve ever received regarding your writing?
I’m not sure whether this counts as strange, but: I love it when my books make people cry. *Grin* *Cue maniacal laughter*
On a more somber note, my Granny (who passed away in late August) told me after reading FTDD that she could see herself in Morag, and that stuck with me as one of the coolest things anyone has ever said about my work.
Do you have other stories and/or writing projects you’re currently working on? Can you tell us something about them?
Well, I’m really excited about my upcoming YA fantasy with Penguin: Reign of the Fallen. It’s a darker, older-leaning story than FTDD, set in an original world, with a super fun magic system. The MC, Odessa, can see gateways into the Deadlands, and traveling there is part of her job as a necromancer—-at least, until someone there starts murdering her necromancer friends. It’s a story about death and pain and grief, and I love it to pieces. If you enjoy the cultural details in FTDD, well, REIGN has a rich culture, too—-just one that I created. Oh, and there are romance(s!). Plural! Of course, they take a backseat to the murder and monsters, but they’re there!
I hope you’ll check it out, and I can guarantee it will take you somewhere you’ve never been; an insular island nation called Karthia, whose borders have been closed for over two hundred years, a land where change is forbidden.
Are any of your characters in the novel based on yourself or people you know in real life?
They’re (mostly) just from my head; I tried not to base them on anyone in particular, but of course influences crept in here and there (like Grayse and my love of animals mentioned below!).
The one relationship in the book that has some deliberate real-life inspiration is the one between Bridey and Morag, the island’s supposed witch. That relationship was written with both of my grandmothers in mind; I should be so lucky as to be as tough and wise as them someday (goals!).
In Fear the Drowning Deep, which character was the easiest to write about? And which character did you have the most difficulty with?
The easiest to write was Grayse, Bridey’s youngest sister. She shares my love of animals and is always trying to help them; she wears her heart on her sleeve, and has a great mischievous streak! She’s such a vibrant character that it’s easy to imagine what she’d say or do in any situation.
The most difficult to write was probably Lugh, one of Bridey’s two best friends. He experiences so much loss in the book, and he’s in such a dark head space that I wound up feeling really sorry for him! Writing Mr. Gill was such a pain, too, because he irritated me all the time—but, there are definitely people like him in the world!
What inspired you to give Bridey her name? It has a very sweet and innocent ring to it.
All the names in FTDD are Manx given names! I looked at lists of Manx names, as well as Manx censuses, where I found the beautiful surname ‘Corkill.’ Bridey’s name was also on a Manx list, and the moment I saw it, I knew I needed to use it! I loved the sound of it.
I understand that the setting of the story takes place on the Isle of Man in 1913. Clearly, writing historical fiction demands a substantial amount of research. What is the most fascinating thing you’ve learned about the history and culture of the Manx?
I’d say I’m most fascinated by the blend of cultures on the Isle; it was conquered by the Vikings, the English, and the Irish at various times, and as a result, has inherited traditions from each group—but also has many cultural traditions unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. For instance, the fish-bone charms sailors wear to guard against drowning (called croshbollan in Manx, or in English, ‘bollan crosses’), or how a belief in fairies persisted on the Isle into the late 1800s, with villagers leaving out bowls of milk for them at night.
I’m from the Philippines and close family ties comprise a significant part of our culture. With that said, I was very delighted that family dynamics and a strong sense of kinship were prevalent themes in the story. Was the inclusion of these themes intentional?
Oh yes, this was definitely intentional! Both because–as I understand it—close family ties are also an important part of the culture on the Isle of Man, and because family is so important to me! My family makes up my closest social circle; for instance, my husband and I recently went to the beach with my grandparents, cousins, aunt, uncle, parents, and my sister, as well as a few close family friends.
I think my attitude toward family can best be summed up by a story about Little Sarah (I’m talking maybe 3, 4 years old here): My grandparents, who are like second parents to me, took me to Florida to see their friend, and my uncle came along as well. As they tell it, I had a small bed between my grandparents’ and my uncle’s, and when it was bedtime, I happy-sighed and said, “I can sleep now. All my people are here.”
In one of your interviews, you stated that at its core, Fear the Drowning Deep is a love story. Personally, I found the romance to be pretty low key (which I loved, by the way) – like it was a secondary part of the plot rather than a primary focal point. Did you plan for it to turn out that way?
I need to credit my editor on this one; she helped me draw out the most exciting plot elements so that the story moved forward briskly enough to keep readers engaged! There are some cut romantic scenes and moments that I miss, but I know the book is all the better for being streamlined in edits!
If Bridey was given an opportunity to talk to your readers and to impart a message, what would that message be?
“Stay far away from islands!” Kidding. She would tell people that while facing their fears sometimes seems impossible, they’re capable of more than they realize; she believes they can and will win against whatever frightens them.
What is your favorite quote from Fear the Drowning Deep?
That’s tough! Maybe, “And with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire and everything I loved,” because it evokes the atmosphere and theme of the book so well—how the ocean gives and takes away.
…Plus all of Morag’s quips, of course!
Is there a possibility that we’ll one day get another glimpse into Bridey’s life? Have you considered writing a sequel, a novella or a spinoff to Fear the Drowning Deep?
While there aren’t any plans for a sequel or companion novel at this time, I’m not opposed. If enough readers want some sort of follow-up to FTDD, I’d definitely be up for a short story to revisit Bridey, Morag, and the Isle, at the least! I also have a story kicking around in my head about Liss (one of Bridey’s sisters) getting into some trouble with the Manx fairy queen, Mona.
This isn’t a question, but I just wanted to once again thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’re definitely one of the most delightful authors I’ve had the pleasure of working with! Congratulations on your brilliant debut YA historical novel!
THANK YOU, Shealea! I can’t wait to share future books with you!
Interesting little tidbit. The instant I read the passage Sarah mentioned in her interview (“And with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire and everything I loved.”) was the same moment I felt absolutely certain I would immensely enjoy Fear the Drowning Deep.
Lo and behold, until this very day, I can’t quite shut up about how fantastic this story is. (My apologies, non-book-enthusiast friends.) With that said, this one should definitely be on everyone’s radar! Here is a little more insight about the book.
Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.
Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.
The expected publication date for this book is on the 4th of October. Go and grab yourself a pre-order of Fear the Drowning Deep either through Amazon or through Book Depository! The latter is offering a 10% discount.
Also, you have an opportunity to win a merchandise swag pack of Fear the Drowning Deep from Sarah Marsh herself! All you have to do is to enter this giveaway. What are you waiting for?