Judi Fennell Guest Blog, author of Wild Blue Under
November 5, 2009
Hi Gaby and thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to chat about how I came up with Wild Blue Under.
When I was writing the first book, In Over Her Head, I hadn't planned a series, mainly because I didn’t know if my “little talking fish story” would sell or not. I wrote it as part of a larger Fairy Tale series (Cinda Bella, Fairest of Them All, and Beauty and The Best). So when I decided to pitch the book as a Mer series, I had to come up with two more stories and make them different than the first.
That was the tough part. My natural inclination was to set each story under the sea, but how many different reactions could I come up with for three Humans discovering Atlantis for the first time? I figured everyone would be shocked and surprised, so that wasn't going to be all that different. Ergo, I had to make the basic premise of the stories different - and what could be more different from a Human going into the sea to find a Merman than a Merman coming out of the sea to convince a Human he is what he says he is… and that she’s one as well.
When I wrote In Over Her Head, I was able to create Atlantis and the rest of the underwater world any way I wanted. I brought in myths of sea monsters and the Bermuda Triangle. I added magic so I could cloak everything from Humans. I even gave Jacques Cousteau a nod. But when I moved the story on land for Wild Blue Under, I had to deal with reality. I became confined by what we all know as fact. I guess I could have tossed some more magic in, but that seemed like a cop-out to me. Magic for magic's sake is like sex for sex's sake in a story: nice but not necessarily adding anything. And I like to put as much realism into my paranormal worlds so that the suspension of disbelief isn't that hard to make.
I picked Kansas as the location for the story because the town of Lebanon is the geographic center of the lower forty-eight states, and it seemed like that'd be the place to hide from Mers. That was easy. But then I had to “visit” the real town to get my fictional town as close to the original as possible (although I never make the claim that the town is Lebanon in the story because I like to be able to manipulate the layout without angering the inhabitants). For all the hoopla that Lebanon is the center of the US, there are relatively few pictures of the town online. Luckily, one of my fellow Writing Wombats, Jamie Chapman, lives within driving distance and had a few hours to spare on a weekend afternoon, so she drove there to do a little research.
In fact, several Wombats helped with bird research, others with marketing, and Pat and Ed Shaw took a Sunday afternoon drive to visit motels around Columbus, Ohio for the book. An RWA chapter-mate and author, Adele Dubois, was driving that way on a visit to family and grabbed some pictures and brochures along the way. It doesn't hurt that I made that trip with my family, but that was years ago, so the updated info/pictures were good to have.
So I took the pictures, added my plot, tweaked a few things to fit and voila! I had a fictional Kansas town, the cross-country drive and then I let my imagination take flight. Actually, I let the birds of the area take flight. The story needed some action. A 1300-mile drive could make for a very boring story, so how do you liven it up?
Put the characters in peril.
What kind of peril would be plausible since Rod, the Mer Prince, is hundreds of miles from home? Birds ought to do it—dive-bombing peregrines, fish-bombs from an albatross, crows dropping things from the skies and vultures planning to shut down airports… I had a ton of fun doing the research.
And then serendipity came into play. I've always been amazed when I'm doing research and find something to be the way I need it to be, or something shows up just when I need it. For example, I was examining the idea of using peregrine falcons as projectile missiles, when I walked into our living room where my husband was watching some nature show—on the flight mechanisms of peregrine falcons. Needless to say, that show got DVR'd. Since I write paranormal, I choose to think it's the universe telling me I'm on the right track with my stories. :)
Another cog in the wheel of creating Wild Blue Under was the movie, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (complete with an actress named Ethel Merman). The movie is a cross-country treasure hunt with the travelers all trying to find the treasure before the other.
I don't set out with a certain framework in mind, the same way that I don't plot the whole story. Usually I know how it begins, perhaps what the “black” moment is, and some general idea of where it's going. Usually I'm right, but not always. The beauty of not plotting is that the story can go where it wants.
The downside of not plotting is the same thing. Sometimes I write myself in a totally different direction from where I'd thought it'd go and have to re-do certain aspects. That's what the second draft is for! But the fun part of writing is the sense of discovery I have along with my characters. Sometimes they'll “tell” me where they want it to go: case in point is the next book, Catch of a Lifetime (February 2010). It started going down a road I hadn't planned, nor wanted, so I had to go back and change a few things to get it on track. And you know what? It still went down that path, only with a different twist that I liked a lot more.
I hope you enjoy discovering the journey Rod and Valerie make in the story. I did. Are there any movies that have influenced your writing? Or perhaps something you'd like to see "re-done" as a book? I'm always open for suggestions!
To celebrate the release of Wild Blue Under (and all my stories) I'm raffling off a Romantic Beach Getaway Weekend to the Atlantis Inn in Ocean City, NJ (www.AtlantisInn.com) with the final drawing on November 30, and to the Hibiscus House in West Palm Beach, FL (www.HibiscusHouse.com) for Catch of a Lifetime, drawing date to be February 28, 2010. Information on how to enter is available on my website: www.JudiFennell.com
Judi, thank you for sharing so much about your creative and writing process. Learning the different decisions that you went through and the steps that you took brings another level of understanding and enjoyment to my reading of the book. Congratulations on Wild Blue Under! I'm look forward to your next work. Thank you again for generously sharing your time and thoughts!
WILD BLUE UNDER—book 2 in the Mer Series—in stores November 2009!
The underwater kingdom is his as soon as he claims his queen…
Rod Tritone has the looks and charm to snag any queen he wants for his Mer kingdom, but unfortunately, it's not up to him. As fate would have it, the one woman destined to rule with him is terrified of water…
She lives in land-locked Kansas and has no idea she's a princess…
Valerie Dumere thinks Rod is gorgeous and irresistible—but why does he keep insisting she has another side to herself that only he can show her?
Somehow, Rod has to prove to her who she really is. But when she finds out the truth, will she ever forgive him?
About the Author:
Judi Fennell is an award-winning author. Her romance novels have been finalists in Gather.com's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, as well as the third American Title contest. She spends family vacations at the Jersey Shore, the setting for some of her paranormal romance series. She lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA.
Danielle and SourceBooks are generously giving away Judi Fennell's first two Mer novels (In Over Her Head and Wild Blue Under) to one lucky reader.
To enter, please comment on Judi Fennell's guest post above.
Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
For an extra entry, visit Judi Fennell's website and come back and tell me something that you learned from her site.
The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on November 30, 2009. Thank you so much, Danielle and SourceBooks for sponsoring this giveaway!