I’m a really visual person—I know where I’m going by landmarks rather than addresses, I have to see someone demonstrate something before I can figure out how to do it, and my strongest memories are all in images, not in words. So, as I began to create Rio’s world for her, I realized I needed to be able to see Atlantia in order to have her walking around and living in it. There were a few pictures that I found early on that helped in the process and it was so fun to have these images serve as inspiration.
The very first picture that inspired Atlantia was this one—I came across an article about an underwater city in China, an ancient city full of temples and buildings that is now underneath a lake (but still intact)! I found this idea absolutely haunting, and it influenced the way I created the gods and the buildings for Atlantia.
Later, as I was building the temple where Rio and Bay and their mother lived and studied, I knew I wanted a blue door on the temple since that was symbolic of the colors of Atlantia. I hunted around to find the perfect blue door for the temple, and this was it.
In ATLANTIA, Bay and Rio’s mother has a special ring, one made of blue stone and of wood, that represents both the Above and Below. This was a case where an image came first, before the idea, and when a friend sent me a picture of this ring I knew exactly where I wanted to put it in Rio’s story and what purpose it would serve. (I am still a bit tempted to buy the actual ring!) ;)
I knew fairly early on in the process of writing ATLANTIA that I wanted a single animal from the Above to stowaway and survive in the Below, and as I was deciding which might be a likely candidate, I settled on bats. I wanted an animal that could fly because of the symbolism, but felt like a bird would be too heavy-handed. In the end, I decided that bats would be perfect because they are so resourceful and they don’t mind the dark. And I know all of this because there were bats that lived in my high school auditorium that periodically flew out into the hallway and BIT students, and the school authorities never seemed to be able to get rid of them, no matter how hard they tried.
When Rio meets True and notices the beautiful metal fish he’s created, I could imagine what they looked like fairly well, but I wanted to find a picture that was exactly what I had in mind so that I could show Rio’s reaction to them, and so that I could write them in a way that readers could understand. (Just because I can see something clearly in my mind doesn’t mean that I’m getting it right on the page!) So when I found this picture, I was thrilled.
And, last of all, an image that is both a picture and a quote. This line stood out to me when I read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and had the initial idea for ATLANTIA, and it served as a touchstone for the entire writing process. I felt that it applied to Rio and the way she’s had to contain her emotions, and that it applied to the sirens of ATLANTIA as a group as well. It’s a line that breaks your heart, because we’ve all had those moments where we wish with all our hearts we could cry, and we can’t, and it hurts beyond almost anything else.
Atlantia is out now!
Can you hear Atlantia breathing?
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long silenced—she has nothing left to lose.
Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the corrupted system constructed to govern the Divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.