Surprisingly, after being asked to blog on above said creatures, I realized that despite having written a trilogy involving sirens, I haven't really blogged about why I picked them in the first place, on my fascination with them and such, only having touched upon them here and there in guest blog posts but never having written one solid piece. Well, this needs to be rectified, correct? Therefore, let me dish on mermaids and sirens, or, more like, let me start with rusalkas, because this is where my fascination is coming from, rusalkas and ponds and lakes and cold slimy scary things that come with it.
Back when I was this one little Russian girl, I was of course enthralled with Russian fairy tales, which are actually pretty horrific stories with deranged bears attacking old ladies, or old ladies attacking young men and frying them for dinner, and terrifying animal violence like beautiful people being turned into animals and then, well... there was this one story of sister Alenushka and brother Ivanushka. They walked along this desolate road, and Ivanushka got really thirsty and he kept asking his sister if he can drink out of hoof prints, and she kept telling him, no dear, you will turn into a goat. Long story short, he did drink, and turned into a little goat, and then Alenushka sat crying on the road, and a merchant passed by, and said, hey, if you marry me, we will live happy with the goat. She agreed (what the fuck?!?) and they lived like this, but then a witch got jealous, tied a stone around Alenushka'a neck and threw her into river, and took on her shape. The little goat came to the river to talk to his sister. Now, it all ended good, some peasant overheard them talking, and the witch was banished, of course, and the merchant took the stone off Alenushka's neck and lifted her from the river and they lived... Wait. Here is where my fascination started. I was like, hold on a minute, how the hell could she breathe underwater with a stone on her neck? For several days? I would gaze at the very famous painting by Vasnetsov, Alyonushka (above), and would wonder, how was that possible? I think the seed was planted then and there.
Later, in my teens, I started digging up more information on mythology around women and water. One reason for this was, once I almost drowned. I couldn't swim and some boy pushed me down in the lake underwater, and I still remember seeing other kids' legs and everything floating around me, my hair and some green stuff and clouds of sand and stems of lilies like tall snakes. Somebody pulled me out, but the memory lingered. I did learn to swim at 13, made myself learn, because I was determined to never drown again. Another reason is, I was abused in the bathroom, as it was one of the convenient places one could lock and get the water running and have a naked kid all to oneself and... Anyway. The whole water theme was fixed in my mind around something beautiful and ugly at the same time, terrible and lusty, slippery and comfortable, wet and cold, fascinating and perverse, and once I came upon the explanation of rusalkas in Slavik mythology, which are these creepy female water demons that were half-women, half-fish and that loved luring men with their sweet songs and drown them. Why exactly did they do this? For revenge, of course. It turns out, any young maiden that was either tossed by her lover or committed suicide or was raped and got pregnant without being married, in other words, was considered unclean, would turn into a rusalka. Also, think about this. In their rusalka form they couldn't be abused anymore, because they technically had no vagina. Clever mythological trick, to disguise truth in the shape of a fairy tale, so it became digestible, covering up the every day ugly truth of the lives of women. So there you go. It hit the pain point for me, and I was hooked, hooked so much that I started digging for more. Oh, one more thing. I loved Hans Christian Andersen's stories as a kid, and his fairy tale The Little Mermaid mesmerized me too, along the lines of Alenushka story.
Well, at 18 I became a mom and the whole mermaid thing flew out of my head. I was busy, very busy, being a mom and trying to get into college, then finally getting into college, then divorcing, then living on my own as a single mom in my 20's, then marrying again, and then finally coming to America, but then I was busy learning English because I didn't know any, and then I was studying in college again and then I was a mom again... It was not until about 5 years ago that this mermaid theme resurfaced in my mind. We went camping to Lake Crescent, here in Washington state, and I read the history of it, which is fascinating, starting from Native American legends surrounding the place to the most recent story of a corpse of a woman discovered 3 years after her death, frozen and completely preserved, with her skin turning soapy due to lake water and minerals interacting with her fat, a process called saponification. Brrr... At the same time I was going through therapy, trying to uncover such disturbing things from my past like fear of being naked, body spasms in the bathroom when I was undressing, inability to have orgasm anywhere but in the bathroom, sexual problems, fear of darkness, and a whole host of other issues that plagued me for my whole life, slowly remembering the source of it all and denying it at first.
Then I read Twilight at the suggestion of my daughter. Where for other readers it was a love story of a girl and a vampire, it hit me differently. It was a story about water, rain, and this girl moving in to live with her father in this rainy wet cold city. It's funny how things come together in our minds. It was about that time that I finally recalled what happened to me, and at that time I wrote the first line of the very first draft of SIREN SUICIDES, and it started pouring out of me. I stopped twice, picked it up twice, until finally last year I finished it, after 5 drafts, and self-published it, with the entire story taking place in Seattle, the rainy city, its lakes and rivers and the ocean. Except here is where mermaids changed to sirens. You see, another issue I've been struggling with is talking. This is in all of my writing. I suppose when I was little I tried telling adults what was happening to me, but I was told I'm imagining things, I'm an actress, I'm stupid, and more things like that. I learned not to talk. Literally, I would not talk for weeks. And when I was doing research for SIREN SUICIDES, the idea of Homer's sirens appealed to me more because of the emphasis on their voices, as opposed to them being half-fish. They had wings instead, and that I guess symbolized to me this ability to fly away from terrible things. And they were more vicious. Since Andersen's mermaid and Russian rusalkas for the most part were portrayed in the stories as rather timid, the image of the flesh-eating sirens from this secluded island suited me better. I wanted to write a character who was not meek, who was nasty and powerful and beautiful. And, well, the rest you know.
It's funny though how those of you who read ROSEHEAD drafts pointed out to me a few water things that were similar to SIREN SUICIDES. Also, there is a boy character, Ed, in ROSEHEAD, who doesn't talk. In IRKADURA, the main character, Irka, doesn't talk, so you can definitely see a pattern, because, of course, everything we writers write is based on our lives, on our experiences, and that means... maybe one day I will return to the water theme again and write something else about sirens, or mermaids, or rusalkas, but for now I'm done with them. Although through writing about water it became soothing to me, instead of aggravating. I love it. There you go, the power of writing out your pain.