Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Greg D’Alessandro and Anne Beatrice Jarmain, authors of Ava Blue, the first novel in the Seaspell series—available from Principio. Ava, abadoned as a baby on the shore of Lake Superior, is surprised to discover that she is the last surviving member of a great mermaid tribe.
Greg has had a prolific career of writing, directing and performing for theatre, TV, music and stand up comedy. He holds dual MFAs in screenwriting from USC and UCLA, and he currently lives in New York City. Anne is a native of Toronto, Canada. She has written for film and television in both Los Angeles and New York City, and she currently lives with her husband and two small children in Venice Beach, California.
What is your favorite short story?
Anne: Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This beautifully written story is one of Fitzgerald’s finest. He captures young love and longing so perfectly. It’s also set in Minnesota like our novel, Ava Blue.
Greg: Mars is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury. The first Earth mission to Mars discovers a small American town, which is curiously inhabited by their deceased relatives. The narrative, the suspense, the characters, the twists… the Bradbury magic. Powerful, emotional. Inspiring…
Describe your favorite place to read or write.
Anne: Zincque Bar—wonderful little café/bar/hangout in Venice Beach CA. They have the best coffee, the coziest places to sit and fabulous people watching.
Greg: Anne and I hung out at Zincque and hashed out a lot of the storylines to Ava Blue, talked about our days back at USC School of Cinema, and tried to solve some of the world’s problems—including the parking problems on the Westside of LA. So it’s a special place for me, as well. Great vibe, great food and wine. They deliver my Café au Lait in a bowl, which is handy and my breakfast sandwich in the morning is quite tasty. I’ve heard that it’s a favorite of the Venice mermen, as well.
Other than Zincque I love reading everywhere I can and love writing near a big window with a view—whether looking out the bougainvillea in LA or at Museum of Natural History in New York. It’s good to dig my head out of the page and get the big picture every few hours. Reminds me that there’s a real world out there. There is a real world, right?
If you could choose your own personal theme music to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
Anne: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. I love this one not as a fight song, but as a reminder to make the most of every moment and encounter. You never know when you’re going to meet your destiny. Carpe Diem.
Greg: For most places, I’d pick the upbeat groove of “Shining Star” by Earth Wind & Fire to make my entrance. Also would like to use “I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen. The conspiratorial friendliness and the worn-leather bass tones of his voice would allow me to make the appropriate entrance into those special rooms.
Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?
Anne: A wand, definitely. Ideally, it would be pink, sparkly and let me scatter fairy dust everywhere.
Greg: A wand. I would use it cast a spell over my opponent, freeze them in their place, shrink them, surround them with my dragons, then scamper off to get my phaser and lightsaber to personally finish them off!
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
Anne: They have mermaid camps and siren schools for grown-ups. They’re really a thing! You can even hire special mer-tailors to make you proper, swimmable mermaid tails to bring with you. Pack it in your duffel bag.
Greg: I learned that mermaids are everywhere! Really, I am a true believer now. They’re everywhere. Except Starbucks because they don’t particularly like being exploited as a corporate mascot, but otherwise, you’ll find them “anywhere the water don’t freeze.”
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
Anne: Easy question—I’d name the planet after my kids! We went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab open house last weekend to learn about space—and my daughter wanted to know if there were hotels on Mars. So, ideally, their planet would have a nice hotel with a swimming pool and really good mac n’ cheese.
Greg: Pluto. The Rodney Dangerfield of planets—Pluto just doesn’t get any respect! First discovered in 1930, then unceremoniously demoted in 2006 to “dwarf-planet” status and now, they’re “considering” making a planet again. Well, I’d just get it over with and honor the mighty Pluto properly—make it permanent. Pluto forever! And Pluto’s five moons would be named: 1) Bill Murray 2) Buddy Rich 3) Sophia Loren 4) Andy Kaufman and 5) Dostoyevsky.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Anne: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.
Greg: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle. One of my very favorite books, and one closest to my heart. It made me love sci-fi/fantasy novels and it generally made me love reading and want to write. The imagination, the magic, the heart—the joy of reading. I’ve returned to the book a number of times. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.” Indeed.
Anne: Neil Young. Mostly because I am Canadian and I love Neil Young.
Greg: Bjork. She’s got that dreamy, whimsical, ethereal, Nordic, faerie creature vibe with a punk-rock edge to her. If Bjork was unavailable, busy with supporting liberation movements around the world, I would go with jazz chanteuse Cassandra Wilson or the fiery red-head from Brazil, Daniela Mercury, who I am sure is a mermaid.
Choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your new novel.
- Ava: Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones)
- Patrick: Caleb Ruminer (from MTV’s Finding Carter)
- Simon: Blair Redford (from The Lying Game)
- Ava: Emma Stone
- Marla: Shay Mitchell (from Pretty Little Liars)
- Patrick: Keegan Allen (also from Pretty Little Liars)
- Graham: Ed Sheeran
- Abe: Jeff Bridges
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
- Ava Blue: The Last Lorelei is the first book of The Seaspell Series
- I’m always asked how it was possible to write a novel as a team. Well, step one is to find yourself an amazing writing partner, who is open to collaboration. Also, Anne and I both have a background in dramatic writing for TV and film. We broke the story as you would on a TV show, then one of us would write a chapter and send it to the other for rewriting. We did this until we had a finished book—then, we went back to the beginning and… started all over.
- Mermaids are strong, bold, and even dangerous. They’re a lot more badass then you’d think.
- Ava Blue is a YA fantasy novel that deals with: first love, environmental destruction and, yes, mermaids!
- Growing up in Canada, the Great Lakes were special to me, so it was fun to set our novel on the shores of the beautiful and, I think, magical Lake Superior.
- My writing partner, Greg D’Alessandro is one of the funniest people ever!