Monday, June 01, 2009

Make-Believe Mondays with Judi Fennell

Today on Make-Believe Mondays I'm pleased to introduce Judi Fennel.

Judi, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you're working on now.

Judi: Currently, I'm finishing up the third book in my Mer series, Catch of a Lifetime.

In Over Her Head, which comes out in June, is the first book in the series. It's the story of a merman named Reel, and a woman who's afraid of the ocean. Having seen JAWS at a young age, I can totally relate to Erica's fear. When she accidentally gets shot and wakes up under the water, she thinks she's died and gone to hell, so talking fish and a merman are to be expected. It's when she realizes that she's not dead that she really starts to freak out. Then The Oceanic Council sends her and Reel off on a search for missing diamonds and all her fears of the sea start to come true. Sea monsters, deadly sharks, barracuda... Erica can't wait to get back on land. Toss in a couple of nights with Reel on a deserted island, however, and she might just change her mind.

Debra: I can't wait to read this series, Judi. I confess to being a bit phobic of water myself. Though I did learn to swim in college and can swim anywhere with a life jacket (and now love to snorkle), the phobia is still there.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Judi: My characters usually start talking to me before I start the story. They are the ones who dictate to me and if I try to write something in a way they don't want, they let me know.

Debra: Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Judi: I always play with words: puns, plays-on-words, double entendre, clichés... you name it, I use it. But I like to put twists on it. Since I'm creating an undersea world with its own set of rules and hierarchy and mythology, plus the fact that I pull on several known mythologies, I did take several words and join them to create a new word for the world. Selinos means "years," based on thirteen moon cycles (since they live under the sea, their lives are governed by the moon) in my Mer language and it's a combination of:

(σεληνη) pronounced sel-ay-nay selanay (moon)

ετος) pronounced eh-tos atos (year)

I also take common expressions and make them "Mer friendly." S-O-B, for example, becomes S-O-M (Son-of-a-Mer) or, Son-of-a-Sandpiper, depending on who's saying it. Task at hand becomes task-at-fin, etc. That, to me, was also part of the fun of creating this world.

Debra: These are not only fascinating, but playful and fun! Thanks for sharing them.

Judi: As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world? I was a voracious reader (and still am, deadlines notwithstanding). I loved the worlds of L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz series), Hugh Lofting (Dr. Doolittle), as well as all the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/Bobbsey Twins books. I loved Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians and the sequel, Twilight Barking, the hilarity of Freaky Friday, and Dorothy Wisbieski's The True Story of Okee The Otter. I always wanted to have a pet otter, but since that's not exactly a viable thing, my husband did sponsor the river otters in my local zoo a few years for me as a Christmas present. Talking animals, magic and adventure were my focus; toss in a love of romance starting in eighth grade, and I really had no choice but to write what I write.

Debra: Great stories! And what a sweet thing for your husband to do!

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Judi: Exactly the ones I'm writing. I wrote this story for me; the fact that others have loved it has been a blessing. I let my imagination run (swim?) wild with this one and the fact that I am writing more in the series just means I can live in that world and explore all the possibilities. That's the beauty of the romance world - you can go anywhere with it.

Debra: This is what I love to hear an author say when I ask this question. I really believe it's how the Harry Potter stories are born. Letting the imagination go and running with it.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Judi: Okay, here's one for you. Rocky Horror Picture Show (ah, the 80s...) "Don't dream it, be it." Who would have ever thought that my "little talking fish story" would spark a whole world--and a writing career? No one was writing it because no one had thought of it. Don't not try something because it hasn't been done. Don't not read something because it sounds a little off the beaten path. Who knows where your imagination can take you if you don't give it a chance?

Debra: Exactly! (I have to admit this answer gave me goose bumps.) And I love that quote.

Judi, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Judi: It's been my pleasure, Debra. Thank you so much for having me.

Debra: You're quite welcome, Judi. It's been fun!

Judi: I'd like to let your readers know that they can register to win one of three romantic beach getaway packages to celebrate the release of each of my books. Because In Over Her Head and Wild Blue Under take place off the coast of Ocean City, NJ, the Atlantis Inn Bed & Breakfast (, talk about the perfect name!) is offering two weekends. The Hibiscus House ( in West Palm Beach, FL, is the third package since Catch of a Lifetime takes place off the eastern coast of Florida. Please stop by my website to register to win.

Debra: What awesome prizes. It doesn't get much better than that! Be sure to visit Judi and register to win!
Debra's News/Debra is watching:

This week I'm making plans/getting ready for my birthday party which is next Saturday. (Birthday is actually Sunday.)

Continuing to work on the manuscript and plan to have it ready to send out by the end of June, if not before.

Also planning for a book signing at my beauty salon, A Clientage, on Thursday June 11th from 3:00 to 9:00 pm. You can find the invitation on my home page:

My website will be updated soon with pictures from the book launch party, from the RT convention in Orlando and a few other things. So stay tuned...


Judi Fennell said...

Hi Deb!
Thanks so much for having me!

~Sia McKye~ said...

"Don't dream it, be it." I like that--good reminder that while dreaming is good for a writer but unless it hits the paper, you can't "be it."

I really liked your thoughts Judi on writing for yourself--something you would enjoy reading and not being afraid to let your imagination free to play.

Good interview, Deb and Judi! Thank you for sharing this with us.

Maria Geraci said...

Sounds like a great series, Judi!

VA said...

Informative interview Deb. Always intriguing to see how an author came to the place they are and the creation process. I particular found the linguistics interesting.

Judi great quote, nice twist on the carpe diem.