A Love of Mermaids
When I was little, I thought that mermaids were the most wonderful, magical, exciting thing imaginable. The Little Mermaid was my favourite Disney film and I just worshipped Ariel. As a child I was convinced that if I concentrated really hard in the bath then I might be able to turn my legs into a tail fin. So when the chance came along to create a brand new character in the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club universe, I knew that I wanted to have a mermaid. And so Ursula Jellyfin was born – half human, half mermaid, skilled engineer and novice explorer.
I was also keen to find out a little bit more about underwater mermaid life. What kind of furniture might they have, what pets would they keep, what kind of ice cream parlours would they go to? How do they send letters to each other and what might their cities look like? I had great fun inventing my own type of mermaid magic too, one in which singing has the power to grow sea flowers from a grain of sand or summon magical water horses from the depths of the ocean. It also seemed to me as if mermaids should have multi-coloured hair, in a mix of blue, green, purple and silver, as well as magical lockets to help channel their magic. Perhaps even tridents and dolphin friends, too.
I knew that Ursula would need explorer friends to accompany her on her adventure, and as these friends would be human, they needed a way to travel safely underwater. And, of course, the Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club is famed for its gleaming fleet of submarines. I’d always thought submarines were awesome ever since going on a ride involving one at Disney World, and then later reading about Captain Nemo’s Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by the great Jules Verne.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of creating a fantasy world is that you can be as inventive as you like, without the need to be constrained by reality. The submarine my explorers travel on is therefore a technological feat of engineering, with its very own swimming pool, theatre, skating rink, robotics lab, library and monster-stuffing room. It even has large bubble windows and portholes through which to view the extraordinary things they encounter along the way. Sea monsters, of course – including kraken and colossal sneezing jellyfish – but also a whole host of other things, from mermaid cities, to deep underwater canyons, to sea fairies enjoying a birthday party in their best seaweed dresses.
I might never have quite managed to turn myself into a mermaid (which is probably for the best), but writing The Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club made me feel as if I had joined their magical underwater world for a while. And one day I would still dearly love to be best friends with a dolphin, ride a water horse and taste mermaid ice cream – complete with green seahorse sprinkles and trident-shaped fudge sticks, of course.