This weeks Indie Book the Week belongs to Merrie Destefano and her new YA fantasy book, Fathom! As well as my review I also talked Merrie into doing a very special guest post and she so generously offered up two ARC copies of Fathom too, which I am so excited about!
Turning sixteen can be hell, especially if everyone in town thinks your mother killed herself and your sister. All Kira Callahan wants to do is swim, hang out with her best friend, Sean, and ignore the kids who torment her at school. That is, until one day when she gets invited to a party. For three minutes her life is wonderful—she even kisses Sean in the driveway. Then somebody spikes her drink at the party and some girls from out of town lure her into the ocean and hold her underwater.
Kira soon discovers that the group of wild teenagers who have come to visit Crescent Moon Bay are not as innocent as they seem. In fact, nothing is as it seems—not the mysterious deaths of her sister and mother, not her heritage, not even her best friend. And everything seems to hinge on the ancient Celtic legends that her mother used to tell her as a child.
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Where Characters Originate
By Merrie Destefano
There are all sorts of tools that writers use when creating characters. There are charts you can fill out that list everything from height and hair color to place of birth and favorite flavor of ice cream. There are personality profiles, a popular one being the Myers Briggs personality type test. Other writers may have great success using these tools to develop their characters, but these methods have never worked for me.
I just look for the pain.
I’m like some twisted doctor, carefully examining my characters, trying to find their hidden wounds. Except when I find those tender areas, I stick a knife inside the wound and make it hurt even more.
Take the characters in my recent young adult novel, Fathom, for example. Kira Callahan lost both her mother and her sister when she was very young. That alone might have been enough for some writers. Not me. First, I compounded that loss (Her mother and sister didn’t just die; instead, her sister was murdered by her mother, who then killed herself.) Then I dug deeper, looking for Kira’s fears that related to that event (Kira worries that she might go mad, just like her mother), and then looking for the fears in her community caused by that event (Kira’s an outcast at school because of what her mother did. The other students see her as a potential threat.)
On top of that, I look for secrets.
Everyone has them, so imaginary people should have them too. These are things they try their best not to reveal to anyone. Unfortunately for them, these are exactly the sorts of things that I reveal in the middle of the book.
Sean, Kira’s best friend and next door neighbor, has a secret—he’s falling in love with Kira. But he’s never told her. He’s never told anyone.
Caleb, the mysterious boy who comes to visit Crescent Moon Bay, has one too—he’s enchanted by the legends his people tell, one legend in particular that’s about Kira. It causes him to seek her out and it has a strong influence in how her feels about her.
Brianna, another one of Kira’s close friends, has a secret, as well. But if I told you this secret…well, let’s just say I can’t tell you. Not yet, anyway. You have to read the book to find out that one.
All of my stories are fueled by secrets and pain, and these elements, which may seem simple, are what drive my characters to do the things they do. This is what causes their motives to ring true. Readers know that Kira has been outcast and has been tormented by the other teenage girls at school, so when she’s finally had enough and lashes out, it’s believable. To me, this method works much better than all the charts and profiles, because this is organic. It grows with every page I write. One fear leads to another, the revelation of one secret leads to the obscuring of another.
I used this method when creating characters in both of my other novels, Afterlife and Feast, as well. It helped me during the world building process and it also helped generate tension between the characters. Once I know what hurts my character the most, what her fear is and what her secrets are, it then becomes my goal to expose her to those things. How the character reacts is where I get my character arc.
It’s all about fear, pain and secrets. These are the things that make imaginary people seem real, for these are things we all can understand.
With twenty years’ experience in publishing, Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as the editor of Victorian Homes magazine to become a full-time novelist. Her first two novels, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles and Feast: Harvest of Dreams were published by HarperVoyager. Fathom is both her first YA novel and her first indie published novel. When not writing, she loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. Born in the Midwest, she now lives in Southern California with her husband, their two German shepherds and a Siamese cat.
My Thoughts and Review:
This novel started off with a bang. Right from the beginning it sucked me into the darkness of the story. Right into Kira's world and after the first few pages, I was lost and didn't want to be found.
Kira's story slowly unfolds as the book progresses but hers isn't the only one being told.
There is also a young man named Caleb who is part of Kira's story, only she doesn't know it yet.
This book goes back and forth between the two POVs of Kira and Caleb and while I did like that about it, it was also a little different, namely because we know Caleb isn't, well I can't even really say because we don't really know what he is at first. Just that he is something other, something not quite human. Something supernatural.
And that had me a little frustrated at first, namely because I really wanted to know his secrets. Sometimes, I just really need to have some patience.
I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give anything away or say just enough that you pick up something that you really shouldn't have. But I do have to say, that I am so sad and angry for Kira that her dad and grandma kept so much from her. Not just about herself but about her mom and sister as well.
To go through life knowing and thinking things that weren't necessarily what they appeared to be...well, considering how much was revealed, that just wasn't right. I felt angry for her, that her memories of her mom were tarnished because of it and my heart went out to her.
Even as things started to unravel and they shouldn't and couldn't keep their secrets anymore, they still kept things from her. They still reused to tell her everything she needed to know. I know they had her best interests at heart but I wanted to bop them upside the head and demand that they spill it all.
There are so many great characters in this story, Sean and Caleb especially. Ms. Destefano did an excellent job with this and the ending let it wide open for a sequel and I truly hope there is one. I know I will be waiting to read it.
I give this one a very solid 4 Stars!!