Carolyn Turgeon is a mermaid. In fact, do visit her “I am a Mermaid” blog (where she interviewed yours truly, in fact) to see just why. I actually discovered Carolyn via her blog and was fascinated by her interviews with people who identify as and/or are connected with mermaids. What’s more, her books sound wonderful, and I’ve downloaded Mermaid onto my Kindle. Can’t wait to start it. Carolyn’s novels include: Mermaid, The Fairest of Them All, Rain Village, Godmother, and the middle-grade The Next Full Moon (the latter is young adult). She’s published by wonderful publishers such as Simon and Schuster and she’s also simply dazzling.
Well, seeing as our Mermaid Voyage: A Two-Week Journey of Erotic Self-Discovery launches on July 1st, Carolyn is clearly the perfect candidate for a celebratory GDP interview. Enjoy!
1. What are “Mermaid” and your new book “The Fairest of Them All” about?
Mermaid came out in 2011 and is a retelling of the original Hans Christian Andersen little mermaid story, but it’s the story of both the mermaid the human princess, who’s almost a non-character in the original but is the one who ends up marrying the prince while the mermaid herself ends up bereft and alone. The book alternatives, chapter to chapter, between their two stories, and becomes more about their complicated relationship as unwitting rivals for the prince’s love than about either of their actual relationships with the prince!
The Fairest of Them All comes out in August from Simon & Schuster and is about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White’s stepmother. To some extent it’s about what happens after you get the prince—and then get older. And then have a younger, more gorgeous girl getting all the attention. Like Mermaid, it’s more about the complicated female relationships than anything else!
2. Does erotic love play a big part in your books and stories?
Well in both Mermaid and Fairest the characters are motivated by their love for hot princes who end up possibly being a little disappointing, as princes often are. In Mermaid, our mermaid changes into human form and has a red-blooded human body, and the intense sexual desire that goes with it, for the first time. She doesn’t know how to navigate these feelings or the social arena she now finds herself in and so behaves in a very uninhibited fashion that might ultimately cost her. (She is at a medieval court). In Fairest, Rapunzel can feel people’s emotions and desires when they touch her hair, which is magical, and first experiences this power with the prince as he climbs her hair into the tower. It’s pretty intimate and intense for both of these characters, dealing with such unbridled feeling they’re not totally equipped to handle. I have three other books, too (Rain Village, Godmother, and the middle-grade The Next Full Moon), and my characters are usually motivated to some extent by erotic love, whether or not it works out for them in the end!
3. Are any of your characters very erotic or sensual?
I think they are. Godmother’s about the fairy godmother from the Cinderella story—now an old woman in NYC with wings she has to conceal who’s always remembering the world she had once and lost. The book alternates between her current life and a long flashback to what really happened on the night of the ball, and it turns out that as a fairy she was (like my later mermaid) perfect, immune to pain or desire. When she starts entering Cinderella’s thoughts and dreams, she becomes jealous of human desire and ends up sacrificing everything to experience it for herself. Both my godmother and my mermaid transform from magical creatures into embodied humans and as a result a whole sensual human world opens up to them, for better or worse.
Rain Village is about a strange, tiny girl who feels like a freak, until a sexy ex-circus-star gypsy-like librarian sweeps into town and sees something beautiful in her that no one had ever thought to see before. It turns out that the girl’s tiny body, so awkward on earth, is stunning and brilliant when she gets on the trapeze. She’ll end up a famous aerialist, and will fall in love with a beautiful, sensual tightrope walker who adores her and is baffled by her former insecurities. So she, too, undergoes a transformation that includes an intense erotic awakening.
4. In your opinion, why do so many people think mermaids are sexy?
It’s interesting, given that they are half fish and a dangerous magical creature. But they also have that curving S shape, they’re accessible with their long hair (typically) and bare breasts, they live their lives submerged in water, with all its erotic associations, its mystery and danger. They literally come from a part of the world, the deepest ocean, that is terrifying and inaccessible, and they could pull you down there at any moment, but that terror is also associated with the subconscious, death and birth, desire. They kind of embody what’s most beautiful and most dangerous and intense all at once. They’re like a magical, girly version of James Dean. But the mermaid is very much a powerful female symbol, too.
Also: we all grew up with Splash and The Little Mermaid, so we’re pretty much brainwashed to love them.
5. What do you think of the notion in folklore that sailors have been lured to their deaths by seductive mermaid song?
I think mermaids are alluring and dangerous, and that poor Odysseus had to be tied to a pole with wax in his ears to resist them (those were sirens, but still). Hot ladies in the sea (or manatees, as the case may be) would naturally present an occupational hazard to drunk sailors such a long way from home.
6. If you had to set up a date for a friend with one of your characters, who might you choose and why?
Honestly, I think most of my characters are a little too dark or maladjusted to be good dates for my friends, but then I guess that’s the case with most anyone. I do, in the crime novel I’m writing, have a genuinely good, loving, gorgeous man who’s engaged to our protagonist (a man she’ll do all kinds of terrible things to hold onto), so he would be a good candidate. Though actually, I think my friends might be too dark and maladjusted for him…
7. Are you excited about the launch of “The Fairest of them All”? How will you celebrate?
I’m excited, and am doing a bunch of events for it, in NYC and Pennsylvania and San Francisco and Baton Rouge. Lots of stuff! But it’s kind of weird in that I finished that book a while ago and am totally immersed in projects now that are big departures—a historical novel and the crime novel I mentioned. But I love this book, with all its witchery and dark forest, all its eating of hearts, and hope readers love it, too!
Thanks a million, Carolyn!
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