Love in a Time of Mermaids
Timing is everything.
In fiction, a storyline can span five generations or five hours. So when I sat down to write THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, I knew I wanted the story of Tess and Tom to follow the same time line as the magical Mermaid Festival that brings them together. Unlike in my first novel LITTLE GALE GUMBO that follows the love stories of its characters over the course of many years, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR takes place over five days.
But not just any five days. It happens to be the five days before the town’s annual Mermaid Festival. Five magical days that pay tribute to the town’s legendary Mermaid Mutiny of 1888, enchanted days when anything can happen.
As a writer—and a reader—I loved the idea of creating a story where the expectations and conventions of a lengthy timeline were virtually swept away. Instead, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR celebrates that remarkable event of “lightning in a bottle” when life can bring people together in a unique and brief way. Indeed, every character in THE MERMAID COLLECTOR is on a collision course with a stranger—they just don’t know it yet.
There is something deeply romantic about instant attraction—and there’s no question that Tom Grace experiences that when he happens upon Tess Patterson working in her studio on a mermaid sculpture. It is a match that on the surface seems impossible. While tragedy has forced Tom to relinquish his belief in dreams, Tess is a hopeless romantic who has survived the loss of her mother when she was sixteen because of her belief in life’s magic. The enchantment of Festival season takes hold and soon Tess and Tom find themselves in a passionate affair.
Theirs, however, is not the only romance to be shaped by the magic and mystery of the town’s mermaid lore. There is a second narrative in THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, that of Lydia Harris, whose husband Linus Harris was the man believed responsible for the Mermaid Mutiny, who led the charge of men who left their wives for mermaid lovers. While the residents of Cradle Harbor believe they know the true story of the legend, it is the reader who learns what really happened to Lydia and Linus as the novel follows their life in the year before the infamous event.
For the characters in THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, those from the present and those from the past, mermaids—and their existence—may reign supreme, but it is the promise of love that proves to be the greatest mystery of all.
Has something happened to you recently to make you believe in life’s magic?
Erika Marks is a native New Englander who was raised in Maine and has worked as an illustrator, cake decorator, and carpenter. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their two daughters. This is her second novel after LITTLE GALE GUMBO.