Rainbow Award winner Catt Kingsgrave Interview

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Catt Kingsgrave’sOne Saved to the Sea cover - click to view full size One Saved to the Sea is set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Mairead, a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, has long been fascinated by the selkie girls who dance on the promontory, little knowing that one of them is fascinated with her, too. Their paths finally cross when a local man tries to capture himself a selkie wife and Mairead decides it’s up to her to stop him.

We are happy to have an interview with Cat from our friends at Circlet Press in which Cat talks about her mythological and historical inspiration and her feelings about the book’s reception.

Q: One Saved to the Sea has been getting a lot of recognition: it won the Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Paranormal Fiction, and it’s made the finalists lists for a Lambda Literary Award and a Golden Crown Award. Were you surprised by the attention the book has gotten?

A: Honestly, yes I was, and continue to be as it rolls along. Novellas don’t usually do as well as longer works, from what I’ve seen, so I’m shocked, thrilled, and awed all at once by how well it’s been received.

Q: There are many legends about selkies–are there any in particular that you drew on in writing One Saved to the Sea?

A: I wanted to use the oldest mythos I could find for them, which basically wound up being from the folktales of the Orkney Islands, where the selkie myths seem to have originated. Obviously that also informed my choice of setting, and in particular, the folktale from which I took the book’s title is relevant here. Briefly, it’s about a landsman who finds a selkie pup and gives it back to its mother. Then, when his three children are in danger of drowning, they are saved by two dark eyed women, who tell them it’s a repayment of their debt to the father: one saved to the sea is three saved to the land.

Q: There are strong themes of female empowerment running through the book. How does that tie into the selkie myth? Is there something about the myth that lends itself particularly well to telling a feminist (and/or lesbian) story?

A: On the surface of it, selkies seem to be about female disempowerment, with the girls being so often being taken as wife-prizes, but they always seem to escape in the end, and happily return to the sea, even if they’ve come to love their captor. They cannot be owned, or even mastered, merely caged for a time, and they never stop trying to escape. They never give up on freedom.

Q: One thing that stands out about the book is its strong sense of time and place. What inspired you to set a story in the Orkney Islands during World War II?

A: Once I’d decided on the Orkney Islands as my setting, the timing was really an organic decision to follow. The Orkneys were strategically important then as they defended the Scapa Flow from German submarines. The music and dance of the period were a strong allure as well, and I suppose I also wanted to have a go at fairy tale creatures in such a not-at-all-fairy-tale historical backdrop, too.

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell your readers?

A: I want to thank each and every one of them for taking a chance on my book. I’m aware what a glut market it is out there, and I’m grateful that they chose to spend their entertainment money, and precious time with me and my work.

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