The Debutante Ball Welcomes Deb Alum Erika Marks!

Deb alum Erika Marks is a native New Englander, raised in Maine, and now lives and writes in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two daughters. She has worked as an illustrator, a cake decorator, an art director and a carpenter. THE MERMAID COLLECTOR is her second novel after LITTLE GALE GUMBO.


More than a century ago, lighthouse keeper Linus Harris left his beloved wife and waded into the ocean with three other men to reunite with their mermaid lovers. The mysterious Mermaid Mutiny of 1888 has become legend for the residents of Cradle Harbor, Maine, honored by the town’s Mermaid Festival every August, when wind chimes are hung from seaside porches to drown out the alluring sound of mermaid song.

For twenty-five-year-old Tess Patterson, the legend is more than folklore; it’s proof of life’s magic. A hopeless romantic who is profoundly connected to the ocean in which she lost her mother, Tess ekes out a living as a wood-carver and longs to find a love as mystical as the sea. But when she’s hired to carve the commemorative mermaid sculpture for the coming festival, a chance to win the town’s elusive acceptance might finally be in her grasp.

For Tom Grace, life’s magic was lost at eighteen, when the death of his parents left him to care for his reckless brother, Dean. Now thirty-five and the new owner of Cradle Harbor’s prized lightkeeper’s house, Tom hopes the quiet town will calm Dean’s self-destructive ways. But when Tom discovers Tess working on her sculpture, an unlikely and passionate affair ignites between them that just might be the stuff of legend itself—even as it brings to the surface a long-buried secret that could tear everything apart.

And now, without further ado, we are thrilled to bring you Erika!

Talk about one book that made an impact on you:

Oh, there are so many! But at the top, THE SHIPPING NEWS always comes to mind. For me, that was a novel I never imagined liking. My mother raved about it and knowing that she and I have very different tastes in literature, I suspected I wouldn’t be won over. I was SO wrong. Annie Proulx’s writing is a marvel—so unique—and it was that element that made such a strong impact on me as a writer. While I could never dream of her talent or being able to write in her style (which is hers, of course, so why would I try, right?) reading her prose was the first time I began to really absorb the idea that style could be whatever it needed to be to tell my story, and to embrace the style I felt most comfortable with, even if it shunned some of the traditional structures of writing. Even now, I feel that style is a fluid thing, ever-shifting, and I embrace that too. I think it makes the process even more exciting every time I sit down to write.

Where do you love to be?

On the beach with my family. There is no greater bliss for me than all of us walking the surf, combing for shells and sea glass. I grew up in Maine, and the shore and all its scents have long been ingrained in me. I’m Pavlovian that way, for sure. If I’m ever stressed or worried or just feeling out of sorts for whatever reason, I have only to catch a tangy whiff of the water before I’m settling down. Get me on the beach at dusk and I’m at total peace. (Which dovetails nicely to another question—kind of a two-for-one; how tricky am I?)

What time of day do you love best?

Dusk, without question. To me, there is something so magical and promising about that time of day. I suspect it’s a hold-over from youth, those long summer days when you could stay outside longer and the air was still warm and there was a certain enchantment to the color of the world at that time, a mysterious softness.

Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.

I love, love, LOVE to drive. It relaxes me, what can I say? Conversely, I am the WORST passenger. Just ask my husband (who is a great driver, by the way)—but it’s like I think I’m in a driver’s Ed car and I am always slamming my foot into the floor when I worry the driver isn’t stopping soon enough. I tend to gasp too but I have figured out a trick to cover it with a cough so my husband doesn’t let me off at the curb for stressing him out.

Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.

This. Every. Single. Time.


What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?

The easiest is the writing—no, really! Even when it’s during an impossible stage of revisions, I never think of that as hard, just part of the process and it’s all good because that I get to do it is a dream and I’m so damn grateful I can’t even tell you! Hardest would have to be the self-promotion side of it. I am a lousy salesperson and I don’t know many writers who would say they are good at it. We live to tell other people’s stories so it’s not a natural thing to talk about ourselves, but it is part of the publishing world now that the author is expected to promote their work, so we must—the key is to find a way to do it in a genuine way. I struggle—and I know I and my fellow Debs of 2012 used to talk about this—with not feeling pushy or sleazy or insincere. It’s hard, though. And a part of the business I am constantly grappling with. Suggestions are ALWAYS welcome.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t Stop Writing. And if you want to become published, Don’t Stop Submitting! And not only to never stop writing, but to keep working on new projects. Too often I think we grow attached to one manuscript and we can’t let it go, even when the publishing world won’t embrace it as much as we do. We work it and work it and keep sending it out, but very often I think our efforts are better placed in starting over with a whole new project and putting what we learn from one manuscript into another one—like a relationship. We grow that way—as partners, and writers.

Find Erika online:

Facebook       Website       Twitter

Find THE MERMAID COLLECTOR on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at your local bookstore!

Thanks for being here, Erika! We wish you loads of success with THE MERMAID COLLECTOR!

Erika has generously offered to send a signed copy of THE MERMAID COLLECTOR to one of our lucky commenters (U.S. and international addresses)! For a chance to win, leave a comment below and tell us about your favorite beach or coastal spot!

24 Replies to “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Deb Alum Erika Marks!”

  1. That Tommy Boy clip is hilarious. For what it’s worth, I still, on occasion, sing “fat guy in a little coat.”

    My favorite beach would probably be the North Carolina outer banks. I went there every summer as a kid and have such fond memories. At the same time, my husband and I just visited Newport, RI, and we LOVED it. So I have a soft spot in my heart for New England, too.

    Congrats on the launch of THE MERMAID COLLECTOR! So exciting!

    1. Dana, I swear the hardest part of this interview was picking ONE Tommy Boy clip–the one you mention is right up there.

      We are now living in NC and while we have ventured out to the gorgeous beaches outside of Charleston, we have yet to get to the outer banks but we can’t wait.

  2. This one definitely goes on the reading list! I adore the ocean – it is one place where magic always does seem possible. My favorite beach is on Long Beach – not in California but on Vancouver Island, Canada.

    1. Hi Kerry! You said it perfectly–magic happens by the ocean. There is something about the scale of it, the peace and unknown of it, that always seems to calm me–no matter what my heart is grappling with. I wish we could all have immediate access to the shore for those days.

  3. Erika! Doesn’t it feel weird to be a “Deb Alum”? Weren’t our pictures on the banner just yesterday???
    Congrats on THE MERMAID COLLECTOR – I’m so happy for you on the release of your second book! Deb Mom Marcia is, too. She’s busy getting ready for a Bar Mitzvah this morning, otherwise she’d be here cheering you on and promising to cook you something.

    1. Oh, Deb Joanne–thank you, my dear–and I feel the same way!! But as soon as you say Deb Mom Marcia would cook me up something yummy to celebrate, it’s like we’re home again!!

  4. Ladies! Can I just say how AWESOME it is to be back at the Ball and how grateful I am to be dancing with you all. Thank you so much having me here!! Oh, and can I also say how proud we of 2012 are you all?! 🙂

  5. Hi, Erika! *waves madly* It tugs at my nostalgic heart to see you here at the Ball again. *sniffle* But in a good way.

    You are absolutely right about the writing being the easy part. Having just survived my first debut month, I can honestly say promo is ten times harder than writing. Please tell me it’s easier the second time! *grin*

    Even if it’s not, I know you will rock it with the same grace and good humor you did with your first book. 🙂

    1. Deb Linda!! Can we get a group hug? PLEEEEASE???

      Thank you cheering me on, my friend. And I will say I think promo is easier in many ways the second time around–but boy, I’m STILL learning and still feel often times like that chicken without a head!!! Gah! 😉

  6. I love reading these Q&As and learning more about the wonderful author friends who write books I love (I just finished reading THE MERMAID COLLECTOR and it was wonderful!!). I’m with you — one of my favorite things to do is to drive. Therefore, it always surprises me when people say they’re sorry when I need to drive long distances to pick up my kids (in college). Two of my favorite things together: long drives and time with my kids… what could be better?

    1. Julia, I know we’ve shared our love of driving before–do you think it has something to do with Maine’s scenic routes? 😉 Just a theory…

      Thanks so much for coming by, my friend!

  7. I miss you already Erika! The new class is great and trying to fill your shoes. I LOVED Little Gale Gumbo and am anxiously looking forward to the Mermaid Collector. See you in Twitterland.

  8. This has been on my goodreads list since the minute I heard about it. My favorite place of all, to ever be at, is also the beach. It’s where I’m almost 100% relaxed. I have to say that my favorite beach is in Aruba, specifically Palm Beach. It’s breathtaking!

    1. Hi Amy! Thank you so much for coming by and I’m so thrilled that you’re looking forward to reading!

      Oh, the beach! It truly is the one place where it seems everything else fades away. I have never been to Aruba but I think I can safely say when (not if!;) ) I get there, I may have to be dragged away!!

  9. I love beaches and lakes especially that are located in forests. It’s beautiful, peaceful and I can stay there all day. One of my favorite beach is English Bay.

    THE MERMAID COLLECTOR sounds like a wonderful read!

  10. I loved this post, Erika! So much wisdom in so few words — esp. “style is a fluid thing, ever-shifting”… It is, isn’t it? Never thought about it that way! And I love your description of dusk as your favorite time of day. You’re right: it does harken back to those childhood days of evening warmth and not wanting the day to end … Thanks for that sensory experience. Took me right back.

    My favorite coastal spot? Does ANY spot count, since I’m hopelessly landlocked in the desert southwest? I have to say that going to the Gold Coast of Australia when I was a youngster has to top my “best beaches in history” list ;-). I remember a kookaburra screaming in the tress and having NO idea what it was, until my gracious (um, male) host explained.

    1. Melissa, my dear, I am SWOONING here. Did you know my favorite bird of all time is the kookaburra??It is!! And here you’ve been to Australia and seen them in their native habitat! I am so envious–you are my hero! Any chance you’ve blogged about that trip? (Hint, hint;) )

      1. Hmm. If I blogged about that trip, what would I say? “Dumb 22-year-old visits soccer coach in Australia, whom she barely knows”? Heheh. I worked at a college where, at the time, one of only two faxes was IN my office. In walks handsome man with Australian accent, who needs to send a fax. We catch one another’s eyes. He says, “Come to Australia.” I say, “What? SURE!”

        Ha ha. Now you’re making me want to dig out my pics. Priceless trip/experience.

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