Written by Katie Schickel
Why write about mermaids? Why not vampires, witches, or zombies? Or unicorns, for that matter. The answer is simple: I write what I know, and I know what the world looks like a hundred feet below the surface.
First of all, it’s dark down there. Everything is tinted blue. I’ve bled under water, bitten by a spotted eel, and watched my blood ooze black from my body, because red is the first color of the light spectrum to disappear. Vision can be deceiving. Currents, cross-currents, poor visibility, and flickering schools of fish make for a disorienting experience. Your eyes play tricks on you. You think you see the hull of shipwreck through the haze, but as you swim closer, nothing is there, and instead, another shape materializes in your peripheral vision. You give chase, only to find empty ocean where sunlight is reflected by particulates in the water, making liquid appear solid. Your sense of sound is just as unreliable.The roar of an engine far away might sound like a jet taking off right beside you. Even touch is misleading. I’ve brushed up against fire coral, which looks and feels harmless under water, but burns as soon as your skin hits air.
When my character, Jess, transforms into a mermaid, she doesn’t frolic in a coconut-shelled bikini and swim merrily through the ocean. She’s disoriented. Her senses are garbled. And she’s scared, just as I have been countless times in the ocean.
In my twenties, I was a dive master and dive instructor in the Florida Keys, where I logged hundreds of hours under water, in all weather, and all conditions. In my spare time, I worked as a freelance travel writer for dive magazines, picking up assignments throughout the Caribbean, and eventually as the managing editor for a dive magazine. I’ve done shark dives, swam with a whale shark in Australia, filmed a swordfish in Panama, cave-dived in Eleuthera, gotten nitrogen narcosis on a deep dive in Andros, and a case of the bends (decompression sickness) on airplane to Nassau. I’ve been besieged by schooling barracuda, surrounded by hunting dolphins, circled by sharks. I’ve explored shipwrecks and plane wrecks from Bermuda to Palau. I’ve been swept away by currents, trapped inside a shipwreck in zero visibility, and tossed around in big seas. In other words, without realizing it, I was gathering a hoard of material to someday write a book about a mermaid.
All those years as a professional scuba diver weren’t wasted after all. With The Mermaid’s Secret, I wanted the reader to feel what it’s really like under the sea, in all its spectacular beauty, as well as its dangers.
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