Sometimes you have to create a new monster
All story ideas begin somewhere. Mine usually begin with a character in an unusual setting. The idea for my young adult novel, Fathom, was born from a single scene: A mother telling stories to her two young daughters, all three of them nestled in a tree house. The whole story unfolded from that one scene idea, although in the end, I removed that scene from the book.
The mother was telling her daughters myths and legends from their homeland, Ireland.
The concept of myth played a strong part in this novel. In the process, I did a lot of research—especially when it came time to create the monster. Somewhere along the way, I came across the legend of a lake in Canada, where the local people believe that if you take anything from the lake, the lake will come after you and kill you. Unfortunately, I later lost all my notes and couldn’t find any mention of this lake or the legend in any of my reference books or online.
At that point, I had to do what writers have done for thousands of years.
I just made stuff up.
In a way, losing my notes was the best thing that could have happened. I was then free to create my own legends and my own mythical beast. With each chapter, my monster—which lives in the ocean, but can also come on land for short periods of time—became more wicked and more dangerous. I was able to give this beast a mysterious back story and a nefarious purpose. As creepy as this thing was, it fit perfectly into the well-knit weave of Fathom’s mythology, just like a natural predator who serves a purpose by maintaining the balance of nature.
The monster became the dark note in the book’s score, but there are light notes as well. One of the main themes is that of coming of age. The main character, sixteen-year-old Kira Callahan, leaves childhood behind as she gains the courage to stand up to the bullies at school, and as she begins to fall in love for the first time. The mysteries of her past slowly unfold throughout the book as she discovers that her past isn’t what she thought it was.
At its heart, Fathom is book about courage and love and hope—and never giving up, no matter how fierce the monsters in your life are.