As an author, there is nothing more wonderful for me than world building. At the same time though, there's nothing more terrifying than getting something wrong. Whether it's how a gun is reloaded (Contagious Reads has an excellent post on it here) or a character is some genius quantum physicist, authors have to do some homework in order to make sure that their book doesn't have any errors and teleport their readers to the world of “WTF?”.
And sometimes, for better or worse, a Google search won't cut it, although the internet has made the research process far more easy. I know authors who have plastered entire walls with Post-It notes full of research. In order to write a believable world, you have to fully immerse yourself.
This was certainly the case with How to be a Mermaid, my mermaid novella that will be released as part of the Falling in Deep Collection this summer. In it, my main character Tara is a professional mermaid, meaning that she is a human who puts on a mermaid tail to do live performances underwater, such as the mermaids at Weeki Wachee.
Very cool, right?
As I delved deeper, I realized that there were a lot of questions that I didn't have easy answers for. How did one become a professional mermaid? How do you breathe? How many mermaids were there in a troupe? And so many others that Tara would have known, except I had no clue.
So I researched. I followed professional mermaids like Hannah Mermaid on Facebook. I watched videos of the tails that the Mertailor makes. I Googled everything that came to mind. Every answer lead me to more questions. What were the behind-the-scenes areas of aquariums like? What did you call an aquarium zookeeper?
Luckily, the Georgia Aquarium is within driving distance and they have a behind-the-scenes tour. Even better, I found out that they had the Weeki Wachee mermaids visiting and you could have a meet-and-greet with the mermaids and see them perform.
So I woke up early one Saturday morning and took the drive from Birmingham to Atlanta. I watched the mermaids perform. I went to the meet-and-greet and watched as the mermaid kindly answered the children's questions – a similar scene appears in my novella actually. I did a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire aquarium and asked as many questions as I could think of (for those wondering, an aquarium zookeeper is called an aquarist, and there are many volunteers who help run it too).
I had a blast. Below are some pictures of the backstage tour and here is a video of the mermaids performing (please pardon my bad video quality!).
Armed with this information, I felt like I finally had enough to write my story. There are, of course, some things that I could have missed, and while I'm writing it, I'm noting any questions that come to mind and I'm going to see if I can get those answers.
It's been a fun experience, and I'm so excited that I've had the chance to explore this fun world. I hope you will enjoy it too.
How to be a Mermaid
All Tara ever wanted was to be a mermaid.
So she takes a year off between high school and college to don a fake tail and tour aquariums across the country in a professional mermaid troupe.
Everything's great until she meets a gorgeous real-life merman named Finn. Suddenly, what she thought was a dream turns out to be a nightmare - she's turning into a mermaid herself. For real.
Yet when she returns to the sea to seek out Finn and reverse her transformation, she finds herself in the middle of an impending war between the land and sea. Tara may have always wanted to be a mermaid, but now it's sink or swim. In order to survive, she has to learn how to be one, too.
Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd, and wannabe manga artist Erin Hayes writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books, like the fantasy mystery novel Death is but a Dream, the sci-fi middle grade book Jacob Smith is Incredibly Average, and the Her Wolf paranormal series.
She works as an advertising copywriter during the day, and she moonlights as an author. She has lived in New Zealand, Texas, and now in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, cat, and a growing collection of geek paraphernalia.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll be happy to chat. Especially if you want to debate Star Wars.
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