TFA's in the Spotlight: Tides by Betsy Cornwell

Why hello there! Hawkeye here, with a FABULOUS feature for you all. [and OHMYGOSH it's my second post as a YAvenger. This is momentous y'all.] But anyway, I am thrilled to feature the lovely Betsy Cornwell,  author of the soon-to-be-released Tides!

Betsy grew up in the wilds of rural New Hampshire and graduated from Smith College in 2010.  She received her MFA in creative writing (with a minor in gender studies, you know, for fun) from the University of Notre Dame in 2012.  After grad school, she ran away to Ireland to live with the fairies, and that's where she lives now, with a dreamy horse trainer, a black cat named Fagin, and a varying number of pretty horsies. She taught fiction writing and film & television studies at Notre Dame, and now teaches creative and critical writing at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program, as well as working as a private tutor.  She's also been a columnist and editor for Teen Ink magazine, a radio DJ, a nanny, and a historical tour guide on a steamship replica. When she isn't writing, Betsy enjoys traveling, knitting, cooking, and nerdy TV (especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  She is also really tall. Betsy is represented by the amazing Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc.
Find her Awesome: Website -- Twitter -- Blog -- Tumblr -- Facebook

HAWKEYE: Let's get this show on the road. Suppose I've never heard of selkies before. Now pitch me your book, under 150 words. 

BETSYSelkies are mermaids’ lesser-known Celtic cousins: they’re seal shapeshifters who can take off their sealskins and become human. If a human steals a selkie’s sealskin, he captures the selkie and her free will, too—something you might sympathize with, Hawkeye, if I remember correctly!

----[Hawkeye: Indeed. *sigh*]----

Tides is all about selkies and kidnappers, mysteries and science, and the fluid bonds of family and love. It’s the story of a boy named Noah who moves to his grandmother’s island cottage for a summer marine science internship, and brings his sister, Lo, along to help her get away from their parents. He and Lo soon learn of their grandmother’s decades-long romance with a selkie woman—and before long, Noah begins to fall for the selkie’s daughter. But when one of the selkie children is kidnapped, the tremulous bonds between them are tested, and they all must fight to keep the selkies’ secrets from being revealed.

HAWKEYE: According to your bio, you live in Ireland. I'm not manly enough to pretend I'm not jealous. What is your favorite part of the country?

BETSY: The west coast of Ireland is absolutely my favorite, particularly County Galway (and hey, I just moved there, so hurrah!) and Galway City. There’s something especially lush and wild about this part of the country, and something especially Irish, too. But my very favorite part of the country is Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, about an hour west of Galway by ferry. (When you read Tides you will know what a sucker I am for remote islands!) It’s the most beautiful place I’ve even been—all cliffs and tiny fields and stone walls and rocky beaches and rainbows, and basically the friendliest people in the world live there. Most people who travel to the Aran Islands only come for a day trip, but if you ever get to go, stay as long as you can—I worked in Kilronan Hostel there for a month last fall, and it was one of the best months of my life.

HAWKEYE: May I come visit you? *coughs awkwardly* I'm thrilled to see another male protagonist in YA. There aren't enough of us out there. What made you decide to include Noah as one of the voices in the novel?

BETSY: I know, right? I actually didn’t make the intentional decision to have a male protagonist; Noah just walked into my head, pretty complete, and waved at me when I decided to write a YA book about selkies. But as I was writing Tides, I did think about the kind of boys I wished I saw more of in paranormal YA: complex characters who are flawed and (hopefully) relatable in their own right, instead of broody paragons of dreaminess. At first I was nervous about writing from Noah’s perspective (one of several in Tides, both male and female). But as one of my favorite writing teachers, Valerie Sayers, told me, fiction writing is about the other—trying to empathize with or understand the experiences of someone different from yourself. Tides is definitely about that, in terms of gender, age, sexuality, and, well, selkie- or human-ness too.

HAWKEYE: I could get along with Noah alright. Oh yes I could. Now, as an author, what was the hardest thing you learned throughout the process of bringing Tides to life?

BETSYTides is the first book I ever wrote—I started it as a junior in college, for National Novel Writing Month, in 2008. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but what I learned from writing Tides—and then rewriting, and revising, and revising again—was how much discipline and day-in, day-out work it takes to write a whole book. Much of writing is sitting down and slogging away even when you don’t feel like it, or when you don’t think your writing is any good. In a lot of ways, it’s a much less mysterious and romantic process than I once imagined.

HAWKEYE: [Nanowrimo FTW!] Now reverse, what has been the funnest part of bringing Tides to life? 

BETSY: Okay, to soften the blow of my last answer, writing is also my very favorite thing to do! (I mean, I like reading and watching Buffy and eating fine cheeses, but . . .) It’s hard to get started a lot of the time—even most of the time—and I am basically the Queen Mother of All Procrastinators, but once I get going, it’s the most challenging and engaging thing in the world. There are parts of it that are visual, emotional, logistical, psychological, pretty much everything-ical as well as verbal, and you have to use all the parts of your brain and heart to do it. I absolutely love that. Plus I get to, say, travel to Ireland for ‘research.’ That’s a pretty fun bit of it, too.

HAWKEYE: Can I be your King? That sounds like my alter ego... Since selkies are creatures from Irish lore, did any of your experiences there influence Noah's story?

BETSY: I, ah, actually had never been to Ireland when I wrote Tides, unless you count layovers at the Dublin airport on my way to Parts Beyond. But I had always had a particular love for Irish folklore within my lifelong obsession with All Things Fairy Tale, and had always wanted to visit someday. Tides takes place at the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire, and one of the selkie characters, Ronan, is desperate to go back to Ireland and find the other selkies that he’s sure are waiting for him there. I guess it makes sense that, like me, the characters in Tides live in America but long to see Ireland. And now that I’ve been here myself, I am working on a companion novel in which Ronan does just that.

HAWKEYE: Suh-weet! If my eyes are telling the truth, there is a manatee on the cover of your book. [down below for those curious] That is awesome. Your thoughts?

BETSY: Manatees are awesome—but it’s a seal on the cover. A bunch of people have thought that, though, maybe because he’s a chubby little fella. I guess I’ll have to write about manatees next!

HAWKEYE: Tomato Tumatoe. Which of your characters would be the most likely one found among YAvenger ranks? Why?

BETSY: I would say Mara, the girl Noah mistakenly tries to rescue from drowning at the beginning of Tides. When she gets angry, and especially when the safety of her family is threatened, she can go a little Black Widow: all business and very, very deadly. I wouldn’t want to mess with her.

HAWKEYE: The world is ending, gummy bears or chocolate malt balls?

BETSY: What! Cruel fate! I think I have to go with gummy bears, because at least you get some variety. And they must be Haribo.

HAWKEYENoah's heart has led him to fall in love with a girl who is NOT in his book. Which fictional girl stole his heart?

BETSY: Noah would fall so hard for Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture the Castle (which is also my favorite novel of all time). She’s thoughtful, empathetic, and hyper-observant and curious—all qualities Noah would admire and understand. He’d have to get over his shyness and introduce himself, but once he did, they would talk and laugh for hours about books, ideas, and their crazy families.

HAWKEYEPanem is real and Lo has been chosen as a tribute in the Hunger Games. What district is she from? 

BETSYLo is very artistic, so at first I thought I’d say she’s from one of the luxury goods districts, but I think she’d be best suited to decorating cakes with Peeta. Lo is trying to overcome an eating disorder at the start of Tides and I imagine that would go very differently for her in District 12 . . 

HAWKEYE: [Who doesn't love some Peeta? He marries an Archer. Automatic win!] So now that you've dipped your toe into the deep and dark world of folklore, what do you have planned next?

BETSYThis summer, I’m going back to my job teaching writing at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, a ‘nerd camp’ I’ve loved since I was a teenager, and I couldn’t be more excited about that! Afterwards, I’m coming back to Ireland to keep working on that Tides companion novel. And my second book, Mechanica & the Heir, a steampunk retelling of Cinderella, is coming out in 2015! I don’t think I’ll be leaving the deep and dark world of folklore any time soon, and that’s just how I like it.

HAWKEYE: Well I and my alter ego adore folklore retold so I approve of this Mechanica you speak of. Thanks so much Betsy for taking the time to chat! It was as fantastic as my new fireproof arrows. 

BETSYThank you! It was so much fun. I’ll go eat my apocalyptic gummy bears now.

---TIDES by Betsy Cornwell---
When high school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.
Now. All you readers, it's time for you to answer a question. How excited are YOU for this book? You've heard from the brilly author, you've read the synopsis and seen the cover. Time to vote in the poll! As for me, well I could shoot my eye out.

1 comment:

  1. Anything relating to Celtic mythology automatically interests me, being a total nut for the sidhe and everything connected to them! :D