The Chicks are thrilled to welcome Esme Addison, who writes the delightfully magical Enchanted Bay Mysteries. Today, she shares the charming tale of what inspired her series…
I have loved cozy mysteries ever since I discovered Ellen Crosby’s A Wine Country Mystery, after I’d just returned from a trip to Napa Valley, California and wanted to read a book about wine making.
I didn’t even know what a cozy mystery was at that time, but after I binged my way through her series, I found another one and another one and… I was hooked.
I love cozy mysteries.
I love the small-town settings, the amateur sleuth, the various themes – everything. And I knew one day, I’d write one. When I decided that I wanted to write a cozy, I was challenged to do something familiar yet different. With so many great series published, how to find something different?
I thought it would be fun to create a family inspired by my in-law’s Polish origins. I love Polish food, so maybe a Polish bakery so I could include all of the delicious desserts my teściowa – mother-in-law – prepared for us. But no… at the time there was an abundance of culinary cozies in the market, and I was asked to think of another hook. So, I delved into Polish history and culture, hoping to find something that would capture my interest, something that I could use to drive an entire series, because as a lover of history I love to weave a complex backstory into my writing.
I found the myth of the Mermaid of Warsaw and knew I’d found my hook for a series.
One of my other favorite genres to read is magical realism, a la Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende. Empowered magical women? Yes, please. So, I’d also found a way to include magical women in my series.
Only one problem. Mermaid cozies weren’t really a thing. Thankfully, my publisher took a chance of me and my outside-the-box idea, telling me to initially tone down the mermaids and add some witches. Which I did. Because what would a mermaid be if she lost her ability to shapeshift from Mer to human form but could still command the water? She’d probably be a water witch, right?
So, I created a mystery series based on the Mermaid of Warsaw that centered on her descendants who were modern day water witches living in a coastal community in North Carolina.
Here’s the myth:
Once upon a time, there were two mermaids, sisters. Swimming in the Baltic Sea they parted ways at Gdańsk, with one swimming to Copenhagen (immortalized in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Little Mermaid), and the other to Poland’s Vistula River.
The river was long, the longest in Poland and after days of languidly swimming down the waterway, the mermaid found an area that she loved and wanted to make her new home. This area, then only a village would eventually become Warsaw.
She spent her days sunning herself on large rocks in the river and sometimes on its banks. She amused herself by singing songs of her people and, because she was kind and compassionate, releasing fish from nets whenever she heard their cries for help.
One day a small group of fishermen discovered who was releasing their fish from its nets, and they conspired to sneak upon her and trap her in a net, just as they would their fish. But once they were close enough to see her face and form, and hear her lovely voice, they decided to let her be.
A few more days passed, and eventually, a local fish market owner noticed that the fishermen weren’t bringing in fish for him to sell. He discovered for himself, for the mermaid was easily seen on the banks of the river. The market owner riled up the fishermen, telling them that she was evil, a danger to the villagers and that she must be imprisoned. The market owner caught the mermaid and kept her in a prison with a plan to take her on tour for curiosity seekers.
The mermaid cried for her freedom day and night. And just as she had freed fish from their net, she hoped someone would hear her pleas and liberate her. A few days passed and a young fisherman heard her crying. He asked his friends to help free here and they released her from her prison.
After her rescue, she was so grateful to the kind men that she promised to help the people of the city whenever they needed it. From then on, because she was just as loyal and protective of those she loved, as she was kind and caring, she carried a sword and shield with her ever ready to protect the city of Warsaw and its people.
My series goes beyond the myth and answers the question, what happened to the mermaid? I think she went on to find love and created a family. And her descendants did the same.
This myth, and the family’s heritage and culture is central to the series. And I have enjoyed having the opportunity to explore, write and share about an interesting bit of folklore that may be new to many people.
Readers, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned while reading a cozy mystery?
Bio: Ever since Esme discovered Nancy Drew, she’s wanted to solve mysteries. As a mystery author, she’s finally found a way to make that dream come true. Esme lives in Raleigh, NC with her family. When she’s not writing or dreaming up new mysteries for her sleuths to stumble upon, you can find her dancing her calories away in Zumba, patronizing her local bookstores or visiting the beach, the mountains and all historical sites in between. Learn more about Esme at https://esmeaddison.com and follow her on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @EsmeAddison. Subscribe to her newsletter at https://esmeaddison.com/newsletter/.
Synopsis: Aleksandra Daniels hasn’t set foot in the quiet seaside town of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina in over twenty years. Ever since her mother’s tragic death, her father has mysteriously forbidden her from visiting her aunt and cousins. But on a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies.
Bellamy Bay doesn’t look like trouble, but this is a town that harbors dark secrets. Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why.
Alex’s investigation unearths stories that some have gone to desperate lengths to conceal: forbidden affairs, family rivalries, and the truth about Alex’s own ancestry. And when the case turns deadly, Alex learns that not only are these secrets worth hiding, but they may even be worth killing for.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/36Qype3