Title: Shadow in the Sea
Author: Sheila A Nielson
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: July 15, 2015Summary:
When sixteen-year-old Sadelyn Hanson washes up on the shores of Windwaithe Island, her beauty and the strange marks on her wrist make superstitious locals suspect she is a mermaid. Feigning amnesia, Sade hides a far worse secret: she was sailing to her own murder trial when she was thrown overboard by the real killer, the cunning and cruel Captain Westwood.
Sade’s quiet effort to rebuild her life on the island is threatened when she meets an actual young merman. Unable to speak his language, Sade still longs for the warm companionship he offers, despite the locals’ dire legends about merfolk and their dark magic. But her confused feelings for the impossible boy become the least of her problems when Captain Westwood’s ship docks at Windwaithe. With nowhere to escape, Sade must trust in the one person who doesn’t fear the merfolk. A woman who had dealings with them herself—years ago.
“What do you mean?” I demanded. My heart beat heavily against the back of my ribs. Had he heard about my impending trial from his father?
“I’ll bet you’re a mermaid,” James said.
I was so relieved by his ridiculous answer I laughed out loud. It was a tight unnatural sound, nothing like the way I used to laugh.
James lifted his chin to a lofty angle, clearly offended by my amusement at his expense. “There are such things as mermaids you know—especially around Windwaithe Island. I should know because a member of my family was once stolen away by one.”
Stolen away? I wrinkled my nose and narrowed my eyes at him in disbelief.
James’s eyes were a brilliant blue as he hurried on with what was obviously one of his favorite stories. “Lady Lauretta was my great, great—well she was a great, great something or other of mine—she was put under a spell by her.”
“Who?” I asked, suddenly overcome by curiosity.
A hush came over James’s voice as he spoke the words. “The Windwaithe Mermaid.”
My breath caught somewhere in my chest. When I didn’t speak, he continued. “They say the mermaid was beautiful beyond words, with dark green skin and a voice filled with terrible magic. She sang Lady Lauretta right out of her bed in the middle of the night, laying a powerful trance upon her. Lauretta’s father tried to stop the mermaid from taking her, but the creature used her powers to curse the island and call up a terrible storm—”
Noticing my face for the first time, James broke off in the middle of his story. “Are you all right, Miss Sade? You look ill.”
I did indeed feel sick.
I’ve never seen anything like her before? She’s exquisite. Like some elfin creature out of a fairy story… You heard the men who found her. She was just lying there in the surf—washed up out of the sea with nary a sign of a boat, like something out of the old tales.
Estelle spoke those words of me the first night I awakened in the Rousay cottage. I had not understood then—I did now. This was the curse Captain Westwood spoke of. A powerful curse straight out of the darkest depths of the sea itself. And they thought I had something to do with it.
I squeezed my hands tight into fists. “I’m not a mermaid.”
“If you don’t remember where you came from, how do you know?” James asked. “You might be the Windwaithe mermaid’s daughter or something.”
“Do I look like a mermaid?” I demanded.
James’s blue eyes took in all of me with a glance. He smiled shyly. “You’re pretty enough to be one. I’ve never met anyone with hair like yours—long, with all those braids woven in.”
I immediately regretted not heeding Estelle’s warnings about wearing my hair down in public. “If I were a mermaid, would I have two perfectly good legs?” I lifted my skirt just enough to reveal the tops of my two booted feet.
James grinned, gracefully giving way in his defeat. “All right, so maybe you’re not a mermaid.”
Your newest book, Shadow in the Sea is a follow-up to the mermaid novel, Forbidden Sea, published by Scholastic Press. Do you have to read Forbidden Sea first in order to enjoy Shadow in the Sea?
Shadow in the Sea is more of a companion novel rather than a true sequel to Forbidden Sea. I knew this book would be the first time visiting Windwaithe Island for many readers—so I wrote Shadow in the Sea as a stand-alone. If readers decide they like Shadow in the Sea, they can always go back and read Forbidden Sea to find out what happened before.
Why mermaids? Or should I say, mermaids and mermen—since one of the main characters in Shadow in the Sea is a handsome merprince.
I was first introduced to Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale, The Little Mermaid, as a child. My family had an illustrated version of the story and I used to look at the pictures in it again and again. I hated the whole lose-the-guy-and-turn-into-sea-foam-ending—so I would imagine my own mermaid stories to go along with the pictures. Ones with much better endings.
After I became a children’s librarian, I noticed that many girls who came in asked for mermaid books. We didn’t have a lot of them so the kids left looking very disappointed. I thought to myself, Someone needs to write more mermaid stories. That’s when I realized that person could be me. When I finally got around to writing my mermaid stories, I found myself revisiting some of the things I’d first imagined about mermaids back in my elementary school days.
Do you think there are real mermaids out there in the ocean somewhere?
You would be surprised how often I get asked that question. I, myself, am a complete skeptic, though, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. I will say this—while doing my research for Shadow in the Sea I discovered there are a lot of people who strongly believe in mermaids—both in present day and historically. In fact, the Orkney Islands have an extensive history when it comes to mermaid sightings. (Try Googling “Deerness Mermaid” sometime and see what you find!)
What part of Shadow in the Sea did you enjoy writing most?
The Sea Prince, Araedyn, was the most complicated (and enjoyable) character to write in Shadow in the Sea. Because he speaks only merlanguage, I had to find other ways to communicate his story and personality to the main character, and the reader. As an author, I know a great many private details about my characters. Some of this information can’t be fit into the final story. In the first book, Forbidden Sea, I didn’t have time to flesh out Prince Araedyn the way I wanted to. Shadow in the Sea finally gave me a chance to bring the mysterious merprince front and center, the way I’d been dying to from the start.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
An author writes what she knows, so bits and pieces of real people do sneak in here and there. However, there is only one character in Shadow in the Sea who is completely based on reality. Dartemore, the horse. My grandfather owned an animal just like him while I was growing up. He was a one man horse who adored my grandpa and hated everyone else. If he could have slept at the end of my grandfather’s bed like a dog, he would have. When grandpa rode the horse, he lifted up his feet and let his tail fly high. When I got on him he tried to kill me. Every. Single. Time.
Fictional characters often find themselves in situations they’re not sure they can get out of. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? What did you do?
I almost drowned when I was young. I was swimming in a lake all alone. (A really stupid thing to do!) I felt something swim into my legs under the water—either a good sized fish or a water snake—I ‘m not sure which. I panicked, started thrashing around, and quickly went under. I remember looking down through the water and realizing that I couldn’t see the bottom because it was so dark and deep. Luckily, I was able to calm down enough to stop flailing and float back up to the surface before it was too late. I’ve had a phobia of fish and deep water ever since. This made writing about merfolk who live fathoms beneath the surface of the ocean an interesting experience. There were times I had to take a break from writing because I would start to feel like I couldn’t breathe.
You are a children’s librarian as well as an author. Do you find this affects your writing in any way?
Children want to share their joy when it comes to reading. I’ve had the plots of far too many novels spoiled for me by eager young library patrons who just wanted to tell me everything about their favorite book. I don’t mind one bit. This has given me a unique understanding of what kids do and don’t like when reading a book. Sometimes, I find myself thinking, What would the kids at the library like to see happen in this chapter? then I write the scene accordingly. Kids love fun little details that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the book’s main plot. The game of Quiddich is a great example of this. In Shadow in the Sea, the Sea Prince has eyes that change color based on his emotions and moods. I recently had a young fan write me an email to ask if I could please make a list of every eye color and its corresponding emotion and send it to her as quickly as possible.
There is one other perk to being a librarian author. Kids will sometimes come to the reference desk and ask me for one of my own books—never realizing I’m the one who wrote it.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
A couple of years ago, I wrote a paranormal romance story about a haunted doll museum. It was much scarier and darker than anything else I’ve ever written. It was so creepy one member of my writer’s group decided they didn’t want to finish it. That book is one of my favorites despite the fact that it may never be published.
What would Sadelyn, Shadow in the Sea’s protagonist, think about you if she could meet you?
After everything I put her through in this story--she would probably refuse to even speak to me. Sade would forgive me in time, but then find some sneaky way to let me know she didn’t approve of my methods of entertaining readers at her expense.
Sheila never did figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. She graduated from college with a BFA in illustration, has worked as a children's librarian for over eighteen years, and would eventually like to be a full-time author. Why pick one career when you can have many? Sheila lives with her two pets, a goffin cockatoo and a tiny toy poodle. She was born and raised in California but has come to also love her adopted home in Utah where she currently resides.