My Editor, Mallory Kass interviews me about The Crossing
MK: One of the reasons I fell hard for DAUGHTERS OF THE SEA is the echoes of classic novels. Did you have any particular books in mind when you were writing?
KL: Edith Wharton, most definitely. Daughters of the Sea contains little bits of all of my favorites of hers: Custom of The Country, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth. Wharton is the master of portraying Americans in the Gilded Age, and in particular, the subtle but pernicious restraints on women of that era. In her own life, Wharton managed to cast off many of those shackles with courage and grace.
MK: Although I try to maintain professional distance, I have to admit, I have a BIG crush on Hugh, May's swoon worthy astronomer. Who are some of your fictional crushes?
KL: Don’t we all have a crush on Hugh? He’s handsome, with that lock of dark hair that keeps flopping down, and profoundly intelligent. He’s an astronomer; he studies the stars, seeking the darkness to find the light. It’s the perfect metaphor for his character.
Now, as to MY literary crushes! Well, of course there’s Mr. Darcy when he finally sees the light about Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. And there’s Robin Hood. Yeah, I know, it’s weird, but how can you not help falling in love with such a socially responsible medieval dude who runs around in a forest?! I also have a soft spot for Mr. Knightly from Emma.
MK: Fans of DOWNTON ABBEY will love the Edwardian splendor that gives your series its element of glamor. So, important question, which character in DOWNTON ABBEY do you think is secretly mer?
KL: What a terrific question. Ok, this might shock, you but I feel the perfect candidate for a mermaid is Daisy who works in the kitchen. Though, perhaps it isn’t much of a shock seeing as in the first book of the Daughters of the Sea, Hannah was also a scullery maid. Like Hannah, Daisy tries so hard to escape the fetters of her class by seeking an education.
MK: Could you have told a similar story set in the present day? In what ways are the girls products of their era and in what ways are their struggles universal?
KL: I could have told it in the present day but there would have been a very different conflict driving the story. When I first started thinking about this book, I knew that I didn’t want it to be, well, a Disneyesque kind of thing with all those candy colors. I love Disney but that aesthetic or look wouldn’t work for this series. My dear, and late, editor Craig Walker agreed with me. He said, “You have to go dark, very dark with this series.” Unfortunately, he died before I even got started, and I was put on your editorial doorstop, Mallory. You perfectly understood the heart of this series.
It is hard for us in this day and age to imagine how stratified society was in the late 19th century. It wasn’t just an economic divide. There was a gender one as well. Education for women was frowned upon. One had to dress and act a certain way. The late 19th century, particularly in the upper classes, was a time of insufferable repression of women, even if the women were rich. But in my mind, the world beneath the sea was completely different. It was free, no rigid systems for conduct. It was a kind of utopia, especially when compared to the social dystopia of land.
MK: I get such a thrill from reading the descriptions of the amazing Edwardian clothes! How did you research the fashions of the period?
KL: I own a lot of books on 19th century fashion design and am particularly fascinated by the famous Parisian designer Charles Worth. Women from Boston and New York would travel to Paris to order clothes from him. I also love going to fashion exhibits at museums and I have my sources in New York at Fashion Institute of Technology. They have a very good library there. And all you might want to know about 19th century underwear is on the internet!
MK: Are you flattered or disturbed that your editor is in love with one of your characters?
KL: How can I be disturbed? I’m in love with him too!
MK: One of my favorite things about DAUGHTERS OF THE SEA is the wonderful atmosphere you created--a magical version of New England gothic. Why did you decide to set the series in Maine?
KL: That decision was largely based on Craig telling me to go darker. So the Caribbean wouldn’t do—all those golden sand beaches and turquoise waters. There are no golden sands beaches in Maine—just dark granite rocks. Very gothic but beautiful.
MK: I once described these books as "Edith Wharton with mermaids." What other classic author could use a good dose of the Laws of Salt? For example, what about Hemingway with mermaids?
KL: No ! Not Hemingway. He might know fishing but he didn’t know women. He couldn’t get in touch with his feminine side at all. But, this might surprise you, I do think maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald could have pulled something off.
MK: I know you're an experienced sailor. What's the craziest adventure you've had at sea?
KL: I have twice crossed the Atlantic in a very small sailboat with my husband. Once, in the middle of the ocean on a very calm night, a peculiar-looking head broke through the water and began to track in our wake. The head was relatively small compared to the very long neck. It looked like a sea-going Brontosaurus, a sea monster! He did not appear aggressive, just curious. I called to my husband to come up with a camera, but he was sound asleep. By the time he heard me, the creature had disappeared.
MK: Is there a small part of you that believes in mer people?
KL: No. Not all all. If I did believe in them, I would not have been able to write this series. It wouldn’t have been fantasy. I would have been trying too hard to prove a point and not reveal a world that does not exist.
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