Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Anna Brentwood's holiday story The Mermaid's Treasure

This continues the brief author interviews from the Windtree Press Christmas anthology, The Gift of Christmas.  I've asked each author what inspired them to write their contribution to the anthology. Anna Brentwood's story focuses on a specific item, a brooch, from her debut novel The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes. Anna loves to write historical fiction and her short story for this anthology, "The Mermaid's Treasure" is a wonderful example of her vivid imagination and eye for historical detail.

What inspired me to write "The Mermaid's Treasure" was YOU and Windtree Press and the very idea of having yet another tale to tell related to The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes! I was already working on Anthony's Angel, the sequel to my debut novel,  which picks up on the life of my heroine’s son, but I left our Windtree Press meeting with my head spinning and thinking, what to write…can I write something….no...then it started percolating-- with me a process that the word obsessing describes perfectly!

I began with what holidays mean to me. I grew up in a mixed neighborhood on the East Coast between Christians and Jews. I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one who, as an adult strives to take the true essence out of each holiday. To me, Christmas is a spirit, a time to share and to show you care to family and friends. It is a time to do good things and give back no matter your beliefs.

Then I focused on the brooch from The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes that gangster Johnny Gallo gives to songbird Hannah that has significance later in their story. I focused on its history, jewels and treasures and well, history. Because my thing is to always weave in real history, people and situations in my stories, I started Googling sunken ships and voila— found the right one.

I am of Russian ancestry and have found, within my own family, gaps of info and lots of “secrets” not handed down. The Russalka, meaning mermaid, was a Russian War ship that sank in route to Finalnd in 1893. That particular ship inspired the statue of an angel to be erected 1902 in Kadriorg, Tallinn, Finland that still stands today. The “Angel” felt like a sign and I always trust signs when I am creating; so more ideas started to gell.

Ultimately, the story, "Mermaid’s Treasure" is based on two real historic events: 1) a Russian battleship that sunk off the coast of Finland and inspired a statue; and 2) The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York that led to worker’s rights being protected through the garment unions. For a story I didn’t think I had in me, it almost wrote itself and I am thrilled to be part of the anthology. Windtree Press not only pushed me as a writer, but writing "Mermaid's Treasure" is truly one of my favorite experiences (to date) and I am looking forward to more! 

Learn more about Anna Brentwood at her website.

Buy The Gift of Christmas in print or ebook from the retailer of your choice.


Maggie Lynch said...

Anna, I love how you do so much research and still make it into an interesting story. I'm dying to see your next novel and a lot more from you.

Anonymous said...

Read this and loved it. Part of a great anthology, but a great standalone story as well. Can't wait to see what others think.