So I am a huge fan of Francesca Lia Block. I first read her classic YA novel Weetzie Bat in 1995, when I’d just moved to Los Angeles from New York to attend grad school at UCLA and wasn’t totally happy to be in that weird, glittery city. But those opening lines made that whole city come alive with magic and seem like some kind of wonderland, and from then on my heart burst with Angeleno love:
“The reason Weetzie Bat hated high school was because no one understood. They didn’t even realize where they were living. They didn’t care that Marilyn’s prints were practically in their backyard at Graumann’s; that you could buy tomahawks and plastic palm tree wallets at Farmer’s Market, and the wildest, cheapest cheese and bean and hot dog and pastrami burritos at Oki Dogs; that the waitresses wore skates at the Jetson-style Tiny Naylor’s; that there was a fountain that turned tropical soda-pop colors, and a canyon where Jim Morrison and Houdini used to live, and all-night potato knishes at Canter’s, and not too far away was Venice, with columns, and canals, even, like the real Venice but maybe cooler because of the surfers. There was no one who cared. Until Dirk.”
It’s not every writer who can make you see the world in a brand-new way and/or seek out hot dog/pastrami/cheese burritos on Pico Boulevard (which I totally did).
Francesca has written nearly three dozen books by now, full of all kinds of magical creatures (technical and otherwise) and the occasional mermaid. Here’s a random mermaidly quote from her novel Echo:
“Maybe I would become a mermaid… I would live in the swirling blue-green currents, doing exotic underwater dances for the fish, kissed by sea anemones, caressed by seaweed shawls. I would have a dolphin friend. He would have merry eyes and thick flesh of a god. My fingernails would be tiny shells and my skin would be like jade with light shining through it I would never have to come back up.”
And from Wasteland:
“You asked me who I thought I was before. I said maybe I was a fish because I love water and you said, you thought a mermaid, maybe. If you were a mermaid, you said, if you were a mermaid, I was the sea.”
Do you see what I mean?
Francesca also, by the way, contributed to the not-yet-published Mermaids magazine I’ve told you about, and which will come out soon I THINK (watch this space!), and one day recently she emailed me a link to these
which officially makes her the best author with the best taste in sunglasses ever.
Our illuminating Q and A follows:
So can you tell me about your fictional mermaids? When and where do they appear in your books? What do they do?
Weetzie grows up, goes to a pink hotel and rescues one here:
And I have an erotic mermaid tale here:
Are you yourself a mermaid?
No, I am a wood nymph. In my system, outlined in Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur, mermaids are beautiful, warm, maternal, challenging divas. Wood Nymphs are wild, loving, somewhat neurotic artists.
Why do people love mermaids so much, do you think?
What’s not to like? They are like us and yet completely foreign and inaccessible. They also echo our origins from the sea.
Do you have any future mermaid plans, in your books or outside of them (or both)?
I have one coming to visit me next weekend from Manhattan. She has red hair, does yoga and writes poetry and stories.
In my new book Love in the Time of Global Warming, there are some sirens. The book is based on The Odyssey by Homer with a female protagonist named Penelope (Pen) who has to help save the world after an apocalypse.
Do you have any favorite mermaid art/fashion statements/books/movies?
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson.
The Odyssey by Homer
Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman [interviewed on this blog here]
The Secret of Roan Inish. (film)
As I think more about this, I would like to write one!
What do you think makes mermaids so cool?
I am fascinated with all half-human, half animal creatures but there is something especially enticing about the ability to live under water, to swim like a fish, to sing on the rocks, to charm the object of your desire into your hidden realm.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a sequel to Love in the Time of Global Warming and a new adult book for St. Martin’s Press called Beyond the Pale Motel.
And finally,do you have any advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Wear sunglasses (I just had cataract surgery at an early age) while you bask on rocks. And wear sunscreen.