My guest blogger today is Marissa Doyle, author of the YA paranormal historical series the Leland Sisters. She writes “stories with heroines finding out who they are, their strengths and purposes, and where they belong in the world.” Her latest release is SKIN DEEP, a fantasy for adults. She’s here to share more about the book and its setting, beautiful Cape Cod. Welcome, Marissa!
Thank you for letting me be a guest on your blog, Jill—it’s a pleasure to be here!
I grew up reading books where the setting was almost a character in its own right. Books like The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are probably what turned me into an Anglophile at age 9, because they painted such vivid pictures in my mind of what it was like to see a garden come alive in Yorkshire, or to live in London as both a privileged and then a poor child. So of course, now as I write my own stories, setting remains extremely important to me: I want readers to experience that same “you are there” feeling that I once had when I opened those books. Which is why I set my newest book, Skin Deep, in a place I know and love deeply: Cape Cod.
Skin Deep is a paranormal romance featuring a selkie (seal shape-shifter) hero and a heroine who discovers that she somehow imbues the quilts she sews with magic…and an evil entity bent on destroying the selkies and claiming my heroine’s abilities—and her very identity. Obviously with a selkie hero my story needed a sea-side setting, but it also needed a setting where magic would somehow be more believable, more real.
So what’s so magical about Cape Cod?
For one thing, it’s very much a place between worlds–a long, slender, curving peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, a land that is constantly shaped and changed by the sea. In geological terms it is a “terminal moraine”– more or less just a very large pile of sand and gravel marking the southernmost edge of the last glacier to scrape down from the north—which means that it is, geologically, ephemeral—it came to be just 16-20,000 years ago, and in a few thousand years, it will no longer exist. In terms of written history, though, it’s old. Some enthusiasts like to claim it was first settled by Vikings and was Leif Ericsson’s Vinland (probably not); but it was visited by many explorers before the Pilgrims made their first landfall in America here before choosing to move on to Plymouth. It was a fishing and whaling center for centuries before it became what it is today—a summer resort area whose population swells dramatically in the summer months with visitors from all over the world.
But what I think creates Cape Cod’s magic are its contrasts.
Think of beautiful white sand beaches that can be lapped by gentle wavelets in the morning and pounded by furious storm waves that night. Or clear golden sunlight (there’s a very distinctive soft golden tinge to Cape sunlight—it was a popular place for late 19th century American Impressionist artists to visit) that can be drowned within minutes by the thickest, grayest, wettest fog you can possibly imagine. Think of acre upon acre of salt marsh that looks dead and brown until you walk across it and see the hundreds of birds, the strange plants like sea lavender and horsetails, and the fish and crustaceans lurking in the threaded channels cutting through the marsh that ebb and flow with the tide. Think of enormous dunes looming above endless tidal flats, towns that teem with people in July and are nearly deserted in January, quaint 17th century saltbox houses one street away from modern palaces of glass and steel. Contrasts all…
and what is contrast but a subtle form of conflict, the engine that drives all stories?
I tried to make use of these contrasts when creating my semi-fictional Cape Cod setting for Skin Deep and use them to highlight my characters’ struggles, both internal and external…and had a lot of fun in the process. Cape Cod can be a magical place indeed…but magic can be light and dark.
More about Skin Deep
After a painful divorce, Garland Durrell looks forward to settling into her home on Cape Cod to make the quilts that are her passion. On the first morning of her new life she finds a man and a small boy washed up on the beach, both badly wounded. Since the town chief of police is strangely reluctant to help, Garland takes on the care of the mysterious pair who don’t seem to remember what happened to them–and feels her own heart begin to heal.
Alasdair does remember. He and his son Conn are the last of the ruling family of selkies from the waters around the Cape, locked in a decades-long struggle with an evil that threatens all, selkie and human. He’s not sure if he can trust the lovely, blue-eyed woman who takes them in until he touches one of her quilts and feels the magic she’s sewn into it…and the emotions that he never thought he’d feel again.
But the evil entity that stole Alasdair’s sealskin and left him for dead quickly senses both his presence and Garland’s magic, and is determined to destroy one and possess the other. Only Garland and her quilts, made with a power she barely believes she has, can save them all from destruction—if she can avoid being destroyed first.
More about Marissa
Marissa Doyle graduated from Bryn Mawr College and went on to graduate school intending to be an archaeologist but somehow got distracted. Eventually she figured out what it was she was really supposed to be doing and started writing. She’s channeled her inner history geekiness into young adult fiction: her award-winning books Bewitching Season, Betraying Season, and Courtship and Curses (all from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan) blend history with magic and romance. She also writes contemporary and historical fantasy for grownups, including By Jove (Entangled Publishing) and now Skin Deep. She lives in her native Massachusetts with her family, including a pair of bossy but adorable litterbox-trained pet rabbits, and loves quilting, gardening, and collecting antique fashion prints. Oh, and coffee.
Thank you for guest blogging today, Marissa!