What was your inspiration for this story?
Like many of my stories, this one brewed for a long time before I wrote a single word. The original inspiration came from rereading Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie’s 1911 novelization of his 1904 play, as part of the Disney ReadWatch essay project that I did for Tor.com. While reading it, I unexpectedly found myself feeling extremely sorry for the pirates, trapped as they were in this island largely controlled by Peter Pan’s inability to grow up, forced to be part of his games again and again. I was also deeply struck by how rigidly gendered Neverland and the novel is, right down to the dog, who as a girl dog, is given a nurturing, maternal role. And of course, Wendy, who arrives in Neverland seeking adventure, and ends up doing laundry.
I wanted to have a character that fit neatly into the Neverland world but could challenge that. Given the number of women in history who chose to become pirates or who were forced into piracy—depending upon which story you choose to believe—a proper pirate seemed like the obvious option.
“Great Gerta and the Mermaid” is written as if it were historical nonfiction. What made you decide to write it this way?
The historical nonfiction approach is a nod to the original novel, which has touches of that approach here and there. I expanded on it, while somewhat guiltily taking all of my “historical facts” from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. My deep apologies to the actual pirates of history.
Why Neverland? Great Gerta is certainly an excellent addition to the mythos, but what is it about that world and its inhabitants that interest you? And why was it the perfect backdrop for your story?
Well, for one thing, Neverland has pirates and mermaids, making it the perfect setting for a story about pirates and mermaids! Especially since the novel assures us that most of the Neverland stories have not been told.
But also, for all of its enticements—nothing but play and ongoing adventure!—Neverland is a deeply troubling, terrifying place, more so than the other famed childhood worlds of Wonderland and Oz and Narnia. And that makes it a rich source for stories.
What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
I’m tinkering on various things here and there, but nothing that I can talk about, alas.
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