I was asked to do a Q & A with the author of Call of the Sea, Amanda Labonté!
CKC: 1. How did you come up with the concept of the Merrows?
AL: The word ‘merrow’ actually comes from Celtic mythology. One of the really interesting things I discovered while in the research phase of this book was that the mythology of mermaids exists in cultures all over the world. I particularly liked the term ‘merrow’ because it sounds gender neutral and can apply equally to either mermaids or mermen.
CKC: 2. Which myths and legends did you use as inspiration for this novel?
AL: The main mythology in the book comes from mermaid lore. There are many different interpretations of mermaids from various cultures including Greek, Celtic and Japanese. One of the legends I drew on more specifically was from the Finnish mythology and surrounds a magical artefact called the Sampo. According to legend, the Sampo was thrown into the sea and left in the care of the sea gods. It’s a really interesting legend because there isn’t one view of what the Sampo looks like, so I had a lot of freedom in writing about it.
CKC: 3. Why did you choose to set the book in Atlantic Canada?
AL: The setting was an easy choice for me. I am from Newfoundland and Labrador so it’s a place I felt like I could write about with a fair amount of ease and accuracy. More specifically, I set the book in a fictional community on the Cape Shore, a place I visited a lot as a kid and which I felt would provide the perfect backdrop for the mythology in the book.
CKC: 4. What was your favourite part of your book to write?
AL: I think my favourite parts were also the most difficult. I really liked the early interactions between Alex and the merrows because I kept imagining how they would react to each other. I spent a lot of time rewriting those scenes but they were the most satisfying to create.
CKC: 5. Which character do you find the most relatable?
AL: Oddly, I think I relate on a personal level to Alex’s older brother Artie. I am an older sibling and also a mom so I think it makes me a natural caretaker, much like Artie is to his younger brothers. I don’t think that’s the character the audience will relate to most, since he’s not really a main character, but for me I think I empathize with his position in life.
CKC: 6. Which character was the hardest to write about?
AL: I think Poppy (the grandfather) was the hardest, mostly because of his dementia. He may not be aware of surroundings most of the time but it’s hard on his family and when he does have brief moments of awareness it’s kind of heartbreaking.
CKC: 7. What qualities from the merrow community do you think we as humans should adopt?
AL: A merrow never makes a promise they aren’t willing to keep. Their promises are more valuable than money or possessions. I think it would be great if humans, especially those in positions of power, used the merrow standard and were held accountable for their words and promises in a similar way.
CKC: 8. Would you rather have Ben’s ability of Art or Alex’s ability of Music?
AL: That’s a hard question. I am not naturally very good at either art or music (which is why I write!) but I think I am slightly more drawn to Alex’s ability. I think there is something intriguing about being able to pick up an instrument and just be able to play.
CKC: 9. Do you have any plans of writing a sequel?
AL: Yes! I think I am not quite ready to leave this world yet.