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.
A little about THE MERMAID COLLECTOR:
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.
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:
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!