Q: When did first come up with the idea for your novel, The Sunken City?
I’ve always had an obsession with the water; I grew up in Chicago, next to Lake Michigan, and I was a competitive springboard diver for a long time. The idea for this novel was born over twenty years ago, when I wrote my first-ever novel, called The Sea Girl. I was just six years old. The book was terrible, of course, but it followed a young girl who could breathe underwater and went for adventures on the ocean floor. One year ago, I decided to revive that childhood story, but turn it into something real (rather than stick figures on lined paper).
Q: Who are the main characters in the book?
The main characters are:
Amare Bellamy – a fierce, feisty seventeen-year-old girl raised on the Moonshadow, a pirate ship in the 1700s in the Caribbean. During a vicious storm, she’s thrown overboard, and wakes up in an underwater kingdom. I’ll leave the rest of her story for you to find out. 😉
Finn Mason – The right-hand man of the King of the Sunken City, and a serious thorn in Amare’s side. She wants to have freedom and explore the City, but Finn is assigned as her protective detail. At first, they hate each other, but that hate quickly turns into something else entirely…
Shoa Morgan – The first friend Amare meets in the Sunken City, and her eventual partner-in-crime. Shoa’s mother is the City’s Head Oracle – those charged with deciphering the messages that leak out of the Great Trenches, straight from the mouths of the Ten Gods and Goddesses.
Lukas Mason – Finn’s bad-news older brother. Four years before, he was shipped off to Marianas Military Academy for bad behavior, but he’s returned to the City for reasons unknown. Amare knows she should stay far away from him… but finds him fairly hard to resist.
Q: What themes will readers find in The Sunken City?
There are two key themes in this story. The first is womanhood/femininity – what it means to be a woman in a world ruled by men. Amare grew up on a pirate ship, which is no place for a young woman to live. She fought her whole life to chip away at her womanhood – cutting her hair short, dressing in men’s clothes, learning to fight better than any man on board. When she arrives at the Sunken City and is suddenly forced into the position of Princess, she has no idea how to take on the femininity of this new role.
The second has to do with mental health. The way the magic system works in this story is that, in order to access your powers, you have to face down your inner demons. To accept the shadow self that lives within you. I have long struggled with OCD and eating disorders, and one of the core tenants of my work in therapy was accepting the scarier, “less acceptable” parts of myself. It’s something I’ve been very vocal about in my writing, and a message I want to spread widely. It’s better to accept yourself for who you are, rather than fighting it.Q: Using three words, how would you describe your writing style?
Fast-paced, lyrical, natural
Q: When did you get started in writing fiction?
When I was six! I’ve been writing novels and short stories my whole life.
Q: How did you get into the young adult fantasy and adult literary fiction genres?
YA fantasy has always been my favorite to read, so it came naturally that I would try to write it, as well. Adult literary fiction came a bit later. In college, when I was grappling seriously with my OCD and eating disorders, I started writing very honest short stories and journal entries about what it’s like to struggle with those illnesses. Eventually, those stories became a full book.
Q: How has your bachelor’s of arts degree in history and literature helped shape your writing?
The History & Literature degree focuses on analyzing historical documents within their time period. It was hugely helpful in my research for this book, of which I need to do quite a lot – specifically on pirating in the 1700s and underwater life.
Q: Tell, us, readers about your main protagonist Amare. What was your inspiration for her?
Amare is inspired, as I mentioned before, by my own struggles with inner demons. She copes with them in different ways than I do (anger, mostly), but the root of her struggles is the same. She’s also inspired by all of my other favorite badass female main characters, in particular Jude from The Cruel Prince and Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Q: Will The Sunken City be a stand-alone book or the start of a series?
It will be a trilogy!
Q: What other books have you published? What are your future projects, if any, that you can share with us, readers?
I have only published one other book, a novella titled Half the Lemon. I have several other projects in progress, including the second book in The Sunken City trilogy, as well as an adult literary novel that deals honestly with anorexia/bulimia, as well as the difficulties of falling in love for the first time as a new adult.
Q: What advice would you give to inspiring writers in your genre?
WRITE! I know it’s scary to get started, but one sentence turns to a paragraph, which turns to a page, which turns to a chapter, and before you know it, you have a whole book. Of course, you aren’t finished there. The best advice I can give is that, once you finish your book, find a keen-eyed editor (or several) to read it over and give you honest feedback. Your first draft almost never looks like the final one.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
The Sunken City is currently available on Amazon, Bookshop.org, and IngramSpark. You can also follow along with my writing adventures on Instagram and TikTok at @emmanoyesmaybe.