I’ve been a fan of Ashley Herring Blake ever since GIRL MADE OF STARS came out, and I also loved IVY EBERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD. Her newest Middle Grade novel, HAZEL BLY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, comes out on May 25, 2021:
Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum’s death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.
When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there’s a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel’s tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel’s age, Lemon, who can’t stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.
Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren’t even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?
According to your website bio, you live on a tiny island off the coast of Georgia. I didn’t know there were islands near there–can you tell us more?
Yes! I live on Saint Simons Island, which is a tiny barrier island about an hour south of Savannah, an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida. It’s small and quaint and generally a pretty nice place! It’s lovely, because there are no huge vacation condos, just lots of houses for rent near the water, a lot of residential neighborhoods, and a ton of undeveloped land.
Sounds idyllic! I love how HAZEL BLY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA explores magic within a realistic setting. How did the fantastical elements evolve as you wrote Hazel’s story?
As I developed the idea of the Rose Maid myth–the myth of a girl who turned into a mermaid–I wanted Hazel to come face to face with that possibility. She had learned a lot about herself and her grief and much of her path through loss parallels the Rose Maid’s own journey, so it only felt that Hazel experience a little magic there. I’m not a fantasy writer, nor do I ever foresee myself being one, but I think the world I set up lent itself to just a touch of magic, a way the people and stories in our lives can have such a huge impact that magic becomes real.
And stories with just the right touch of magic are my favorite to read. Another of your Middle Grade books, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, was a Stonewall Honor Book, as well as a Kirkus, School Library Journal, NYPL, and NPR Best Book of 2018. What parts of this story do you feel have resonated most with readers?
Ivy’s story is very much one centered on identity. I think readers find themselves inside those pages, inside Ivy’s questions and searching, her acceptance and self-love. It was the book I needed when I was twelve, and I’m honored that it’s one of many amazing queer middle grade books that a lot of twelve year olds are thankful to have because they feel seen. They feel heard and comforted and hopeful. They feel proud.
Feeling seen, heard, comforted and hopeful is so necessary! What are some of your current projects?
Since writing HAZEL, I’ve mostly been writing adult romance. I found romance writing such a wonderful escape during the pandemic, and I’m so excited to have my debut (queer!) adult romance coming out in 2022. Right now I’m working on the second book in that series. I’ve also been hard at work co editing a YA romance anthology with Rebecca Podos called FOOLS IN LOVE. It comes out in December with Running Press Kids and features some of my absolute favorite authors–Amy Spalding, Julian Winters, Malinda Lo, Natasha Ngan, Gloria Chao, Rebecca Barrow, Mason Deaver, Rebecca Kim Wells, Hannah Moskowitz, Claire Kann, Laura Silverman, Lilliam Rivera, and Sara Farizan.
Buy: Bookshop.org ~ BookPassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound
For Ashley Herring Blake’s other books, go to http://www.ashleyherringblake.com/#/books/
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