Message From The Author
Fishing for Love
MARYJANICE DAVIDSON EXPLORES UNCHARTED WATERS
WITH HER MERMAID STORY, SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES
By Lauren Spielberg
Not many authors kill off their heroines in the first few pages of their novels, especially when they're relatively new to the publishing industry. But two years ago that's what MaryJanice Davidson did in her Undead series
for Berkley, and she hasn't looked back since. Departing from her series about vampire queen Betsy Taylor and the world of the undead, Davidson sets her sights a little lower -- the ocean, that is -- in her new paranormal romance, Sleeping With the Fishes (Dec., Berkley).
This time the leading lady is actually half a lady: Fred Bimm is mercurial, tough as nails and a mermaid to boot.
The story is the first in what is contracted to be a three-book series about the land-living mermaid as
she hangs on to her job at the New England Aquarium -- no easy feat considering that, in her two-legged form, Fred can barely stay afloat in her scuba gear. (That's right. She's a mermaid who can't swim.) Her mother has just announced that Fred's father isn't who she thinks he is -- a quick tryst with a merman and presto! Not helping matters, the fish at the aquarium are on strike, her best friend from childhood has an unusual crush and after years of being dateless, Fred's own dating waters are looking a lot less murky.
Known for her wacky sense of humor, humility, loyalty and wild imagination, Davidson swears it's not skill that writes her bestsellers, it's her "rampant immaturity." "I can't not write funny," she says. "Maybe writing comedy is harder for some people, but it's about the only thing I can write."
Davidson's best friend -- and PR person -- Jessica Growette is glad that readers can sample the flavor and humor of her pal. "I've been telling her since we met that she was going to make it big one day," says Growette, the inspiration for Betsy's pal Jessica in the Undead books. "It's so gratifying when the fans get to meet the MaryJanice Davidson I've known for all these years. The attention still freaks her out. As far as Jessica -- what greater compliment can you receive from a friend? Betsy and Jessica are so similar to MaryJanice and me it's almost spooky."
Here in Davidson's own words, get the skinny on her new book, learn about Fred the mermaid and find out what's in the cards for vampire queen Betsy Taylor.
What inspired you to write another continuing series? How much research did this book take? My Berkley editor informed me that the Undead series was going to be only once a year instead of twice a year. But she still wanted a paranormal book from me each fall and asked if I had any ideas. Well, Fred the mermaid had been stuck in my brain like a fishhook for years -- even longer than Betsy! So while I wasn't happy about only writing one Undead a year, I jumped at
the chance to do the mermaid series. And yep, I had to do a lot
of research for Sleeping With the Fishes, mostly because my heroine is a marine biologist and I never went to college. It helped that for a while I lived in Boston, where the book is set, and went to the New England Aquarium, where the heroine and one of the heroes works. And the web and the local library were a huge help.
How much of your own worldview goes into your novels? Both Betsy and Fred are unafraid to be cast in an "unpopular" light. Do you think you'll ever write a female character who can't hurl a grown man across the room without breaking into a sweat? I was never one to worry about conforming. I was an Air Force brat, always the new kid, and I never bothered to make friends or even be friendly. What's the point when you know you're going to move again in eight months? So I spent a lot of time writing short stories. I like my female characters to be strong and with a no-bulls--- attitude, so no, I don't think I'd ever write about a shrinking violet. I mean ... yawn. Right?
So you do personally relate to Betsy and Fred? They're both irritating, have the same friends they had in school, are reluctant to let new people into their lives and are extremely bitchy. So, no, I don't see anything to relate to. At all. Really! Next question?
Can you give a quick description of your first book, The Adventures of the Teen Furies? Has your writing process changed from the time you started with small-press publishers to now? It's about a group of teen misfits who play role-playing games after school. It was the first book I ever got published (and it's still in print at HardShell.com). Part of the book takes place
in the real world and part in their imaginations, where they have powers and are trying to vanquish evil. Since the characters were based on a
lot of my friends, it's very dear to me, and I'm kind of amazed it's still selling.
I think, with practice, my writing is getting cleaner (big rule: avoid unnecessary words), and my plots are getting more interesting. But that comes with practice. I get a lot of flak for writing short hardcovers, but for me, when the story is done, it's done. And I refuse to pad a book. You can always tell when an author does that. I think, for a first book, The Adventures of the Teen Furies can
still stand on its own merits. Some of my older stuff makes me cringe and desperate to rewrite, but not that book.
Was it difficult to transition from small-press publishers to larger publishers? It wasn't difficult at all; it was a dream come true. I have great editors, so they made it easy. The first book I sold [to large publisher Berkley] was Undead and Unwed (Mar. '04). One nice thing about the big publishers is they can get your book out there. And the money is just ridiculous. Seriously. I feel like I'm robbing a bank or something.
What are you working on now? What's going on with Betsy? An excerpt in your new book shows she may finally tie the knot with Sinclair. I'm currently working on Undead and Uneasy, and this will be the Undead book -- a lot of questions answered (like where the zombie came from), some deaths (sorry, but people die and that's how it is) and Betsy's support system that I've so carefully built (Jessica, Marc, Tina, etc.)? Gone. She's on her own for most of this one. It'll be by far the most ambitious -- and longest -- Undead book yet. And I have several novellas coming out in the next few months in anthologies. Plus, there will be a sequel to my werewolf/vampire anthology, Dead and Loving It. I'm keeping busy, which I love!
MARYJANICE DAVIDSON'S TOP 5 FOODS
5. Chocolate cake with lots of gooey frosting, yummmm!
An Excerpt from Sleeping With The Fishes:
The unbelievable horror began, when Fred walked in on her parents making love on the living room coffee table. Like all children (even when grown), her first muddled impression was that her father was hurting her mother. Or perhaps fixing her back. Her second impression was that the coffee-table books (Alaska: The Last Frontier; Cape Cod: An Explorer's Guide; The Black Sea: A History) must sting like hell on her mother's knees. Her third impression sounded something like this:
Her mother slipped and National Geographic's Seals of the Antarctic flew like a tiddly wink from the coffee table and hit the floor with a thud. Her father flinched but, unfortunately, did not fall off (or out of) her mother.
Fred darted across the room and, before she realized what she was doing, hauled her father off and tossed him over the back of the couch. She then yanked the puke-colored throw from said couch and threw it over her mother.
"Ow," her father groaned from out of sight.
Her mother wriggled under the throw, sat up, and faced her daughter, her normally pale face flushed with wrath. Or something else Fred did not want to think about. "Fredrika Bimm, what do you think you're doing?"
"Freaking out. Losing my mind. Thinking about snapping your husband's spine. Squashing the urge to vomit. Wishing I'd died at childbirth."
"Oh, you say that when you don't get a prize in your Lucky Charms," her mother snapped. "What's your problem, miss? You don't knock anymore?"
"I have a key, I didn't barge," Fred pointed out, still revolted, but regretting the violence. "And you told me to come over."
"Yesterday. I told you to come over yesterday."
"I was working," Fred tried not to whine, or stare.
"I couldn't just ditch all the fish. Although they deserve it, the little bastards. Anyway, I couldn't come."
"Well," her mother retorted, "neither could I."
Fred again tried not to vomit, and succeeded for the moment. She peered over the couch, where her father was groaning and clutching the small of his back. His bald spot was flushed almost purple. His ponytail had come undone. "Sorry, Dad."
"Sorry, hell," he gasped. "I swear, I'll never touch
"Oh, Sam, just stop it."
"Not even if we're married for another 30 years."
Fred flashed a rare smile. "Okay."
"Fred, stop it! You too, Sam." Mrs. Bimm helped her husband to his feet and hustled him out of the living room. Then she turned on her daughter.
"Mom, put yourself in my fins."
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