top of page
MN Arzu Inspiration: mermaids and aliens, what could go wrong? main banner



Inspiration for Underneath - A Merfolk Tale

Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim photo

The Idea


Underneath - A Merfolk Tale is a rather unusual take on mermaid stories. It deals with humans finding an injured, unconscious merman on a beach in Maine, the media trying to discern hoax from reality, and a family moving heaven and hell to rescue one of their own.

The first time I thought about it was during a documentary on myths, and the image of Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim flashed on my TV.

What would someone do if they actually found that on the beach? I thought, and left the idea at the back of my mind for the next few months. As time went by and November approached, I started getting ready to participate in NaNoWriMo, rallying the many ideas that surface on my mind, picking apart those that were just characters or scenes from actual stories.

The merman idea kept coming back, but aside from someone finding a merman on a beach, there didn't seem to be much to work with. I started sketching ideas of what could potentially happen from the human side of things, but it wasn't until I asked myself who this merman was and who would be looking for him, that things actually came together.

Problems to Solve

Knitting together both sides of the story became my main concern. The reader would be privy to what each side knew, and retelling the same facts from both parties would drag the narrative, not to mention that keeping the stakes high required juggling with a few more balls than is usually advised.

Medical, location, and biology research took some time. I knew I could get away with a fair amount of details, but those had to sound at least plausible enough if I wanted to keep the storyline consistent with the real world. I had already run into jurisdiction questions for my other short novel, The Librarian, so I had a better idea of who would deal with merfolk.

From diving watches to the depths of the ocean, to explaining shifting abilities and thermal cameras, Underneath sure sent me to some unexpected places.

Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim photo of the tail

Putting It Together

Armed with my research and sketches of characters, I started my Nano thinking this would become a strange idea that would fizzle out come December. All I knew was that by the end of November, I would have gotten the story out of my system. After all, I wasn't into mermaid stories.

The first draft for Underneath was a joy to write. The story kept moving, I got to know the characters better, and discovered a whole lot more about the City's background and the merfolk's origins. I ended up with enough story to write four books!

In the end, Underneath - A Merfolk Tale proved to be a fantastic way to try my hand at bridging the mundane with the fantastic. Now, while I'm writing the fourth book, Undertow - A Merfolk Legacy, I marvel at the thought that this idea randomly found me one afternoon while watching TV. We really never know where our next plot bunny is waiting—or where would it lead us.

5 Fun Facts About Writing The Librarian

The Librarian is a short sci-fi novel that tells the story of Nick Logan, Seattle's resident undercover alien, who comes back from a quick trip to his home planet to tell his human wife the truth about his otherworldly origins. But he misses the spot to come back, and ends up at a military base, in the hands of a very confused General Mitchell.


All that said, here are 5 fun facts about writing The Librarian:


In the story, Nick goes for a hiking trip to reach Upper Lena Lake on trail 810 at a Washington's national park. When I visited a friend in Seattle back in 2009, he took me to that same trail 810, and we started our trip for the lake. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and never made it. If I couldn't get to Upper Lena Lake, neither could Nick.


There's a scene where Nick thinks: "The more well-behaved he was, the easier to get through this. Kind of like an airport, really. Smile, nod, present your papers, get half-naked for the officers, keep smiling, get your stuff, get on the plane, and get out of there." This was written while I was at the airport. Inspiration does come from anywhere.


The story took four years to plan, and a year and a half to write, edit, and publish. When people tell me they think it's too short, or that it could easily be longer, I maniacally laugh.


There's a cat-clock in Jane's kitchen. There's a cat-clock in every one of my novels, as an inside joke with a dear friend. We both find them dreadfully frightful.


"The Librarian" refers to both Nick and Jane, but it also refers to the code name the military will assign to the incident in years to come.

Exclusive content section



Get to know the Brooks family through moments in time.

The Librarian

First contact has never been easy. Just ask Seattle's resident alien.

Spelling It Out

In the mood for a short story? Check out this superhero's misadventure!

bottom of page