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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why Selkies? (The Story Behind the Story)


It is Saturday!
Today I will answer the question, "Why Selkies?"
There is just something about them. They hypnotize. Their playfulness intoxicates.

To begin with, I have always been fascinated by seals. Growing up in the desert, the only place I saw them for real was the Rio Grande Zoo.  I could watch them for hours. I can remember sitting on the bench in front of their habitat with my two young daughters in their double stroller, the three of us completely mesmerized. I was researching Celtic Folklore at the time (On my own, not part of any particular program. I just liked the 398.2 section of the library with a passion) and read several selkie tales. I was always searching to expand my storytelling repertoire. One story in particular listed “Connelly” as a family name particularly associated with the strange, shape-shifting creatures who could change from human to seal with the use of a magic sealskin. Connelly is my grandmother’s maiden name, and eventually the middle name of my third daughter. Years later she, too, was captivated by seals, so much so that she was left behind (accidentally) at Sea World on a school field trip. She couldn’t seem to tear herself away from the seals, and the class left without her.

When I finished The Seven Tales of Trinket, I knew I was not done with the selkie legend. I started a few pieces, but they came out too stilted, as if I were trying too hard. But then, Cordie and her sisters, Ione and Neevy, showed up on the page, all modern (ish) and I knew I had my way into the story. At first, SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY was high fantasy…but it didn’t quite ring true. My editor suggested I make the story more realistic and I balked. “I can’t write the story you want me to write,” I said. And so I didn’t. My agent prepared to put my selkie book on submission to sell  it elsewhere.

Then I wrote a few sentences, just three, really. 

I sent my agent an email and asked her to please not submit the book anywhere. I felt I couldn’t write the book my editor seemed to want, but in three sentences, I had found the book that I wanted to write—that I needed to write--and I didn’t want to sell the wrong book.

So, it took me a while. I drafted up a proposal, but while I was tinkering around with it, I couldn’t help but try and finish writing the whole book. I knew where I wanted to go with the ending, but I was uncertain if I would be able to get there. I’d not written magical realism before, and my only advice for writing it is this: You must totally, completely, with your whole heart, believe in the realness of your story. You must believe that not only COULD it happen this way, but that it MUST happen this way.

I believed in this story. It made me cry a lot. I read-and re-read it over and over until I hoped I’d gotten it right. I had my agent send it to my editor, who bought it shortly there after. 

And so, that is the story behind the story.

I hope you enjoy SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY. You can click to the book cover at the top right for purchasing information.



1 comment:

Nancy Villalobos said...

Ho, ho, ho! Am forwarding this to Rosalena. Love the whole post and salute you for not giving up on your mission to get the story down the way it wanted to be written.