Here are some of the most frequently-asked questions about the "Rescue Sirens" series. Click the + sign to expand each answer!
For Nim, lifeguarding is more than just a summer job. She and her friends are Rescue Sirens, mermaids sworn to an ancient vow to watch over and protect humans — and the best way to do that in today's world is by hiding in plain sight as lifeguards. When the Rescue Sirens receive word that a special human — unwittingly possessing the rare power to turn into a mermaid — has made her way to Miami Beach, it's up to them to find her before she transforms on her own and is either discovered... or lost forever.
Written by Jessica Steele-Sanders and Academy Award-nominated animation writer/director Chris Sanders (Disney's "Lilo & Stitch," DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon"), and featuring interior illustrations by Genevieve Tsai as well as cover art drawn by Chris Sanders and colored by Edgar Delgado, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" is the first book in the "Rescue Sirens" series.
Future stories will follow the aquatic adventures of the Rescue Sirens, particularly the new girl, Kelby, as together they navigate the worlds of both humans and mermaids. "Rescue Sirens" has important lessons to teach about ocean conservation, water safety, female empowerment, diversity, and helping others — all wrapped up neatly with five unique, relatable mermaid characters living in magical Miami Beach.
The long answer: "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" doesn't contain content inappropriate for young children, so you can read it aloud to your little one if they're not reading on their own just yet. For solo readers, we suggest the age of eight and up; however, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" can be enjoyed by all ages.
The short answer: in terms of intended age group, the "Rescue Sirens" novel is comparable to J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series.
"Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" is available for purchase in both paperback and eBook formats on Amazon. While the paperback edition currently ships only within the United States, you can instantly download the digital eBook anywhere in the world, which you can then read on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or Amazon Kindle.
"Rescue Sirens" creator and co-author Jessica Steele-Sanders grew up in Florida, where her jobs nearly always revolved around water: she helped care for and train dolphins and other marine mammals, went scuba diving with sharks for a living, taught marine conservation education programs, and spent a summer lifeguarding (but if she has a fish tail, she isn’t telling). Today, Jessica lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and co-author, Chris, and her English shepherd, Brody. “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” is her first book.
"Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" co-author and cover artist Chris Sanders was born and raised in Colorado, which had no beaches and very very cold water. He learned to draw on the blank sides of office forms his dad permanently borrowed from work, with Blackwing pencils likewise liberated. Chris eventually traveled to California to seek a future in animated movies. In the evenings, he draws mermaids and monsters and occasionally writes stories.
Interior illustrator for "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" Genevieve Tsai works as a Character Designer in the games and animation industry, currently residing near San Francisco, California. Ever since she was a child, she has been passionate about animation and storytelling; music and humor often provides a huge spark of inspiration for her many personal projects. She enjoys video games, traveling, convention-going, toy collecting, Renaissance faires, indulging in cartoons/anime, and wishes she had an endless supply of Astronaut Ice Cream. For as long as she could remember, she’s always been drawn to the mysteries of the deep ocean, though unfortunately, she doesn’t have fins like Kelby.
Good eye! Chris Sanders, "Rescue Sirens" co-author, cover artist, and character designer, actually co-wrote and co-directed Walt Disney Pictures' 42nd animated feature, "Lilo & Stitch"! (He also voiced Stitch.)
That film's distinctive aesthetic was deliberately based on Chris's immediately recognizable personal drawing style; thus, "Lilo & Stitch" shares visual similarities with Chris's other artwork, including his "Rescue Sirens" illustrations as well as his webcomic, "Kiskaloo."
Jessica Steele-Sanders had been tossing around the idea of creating a mermaid property with her husband, Chris Sanders, for a couple of years; since she was a former lifeguard, the concept of lifeguard mermaids was particularly appealing. It was never more than a "what if" until the day that Jessica was standing in her living room and suddenly took notice of the local fire department's rescue vehicle sirens. "Rescue Sirens," Jessica thought. "That's what you'd call lifeguard mermaids!"
Once Jessica was done laughing at her play on words, questions began bubbling to the surface. What if these mermaids worked as lifeguards because they were sworn to an ancient vow to protect humans? What if living topside for a time was a requirement for all mermaids as soon as they came of age? What if they had to keep their identities a secret from the humans they lived amongst? She was intrigued and delighted by the possibilities. The more she thought about it, the more things fit together; the more it started to sound like a world.
Jessica developed a detailed backstory, rooted in mermaid tales dating back over three thousand years — from Assyria, Turkey, Ancient Greece, and every community near a coastline. She described her mermaids' anatomy and physiology based on the marine life that she knew and loved so well from her days as a marine conservation education instructor and marine mammal husbandry assistant, and defined the mermaid culture's mythology as well as the "rules" governing their world.
With the "Rescue Sirens" world mapped out, Jessica then began writing a short story-within-a-story that laid the groundwork for these mermaids, which she showed to Chris. He loved it, and, with a few tweaks from him, that initial pitch became the prologue for the first novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," which Jessica and Chris co-wrote together.
Co-writing first requires having somewhat similar writing styles; you don't want it to be obvious where one author leaves off and the other picks up. Jessica Steele-Sanders and Chris Sanders each possess a comparable "voice," so, even though they have their individual strengths and weaknesses, their writing blends well together without much effort.
Author George R.R. Martin, best known for "A Game of Thrones" and its sequels, categorizes writers as either "gardeners" or "architects" (he self-identifies as the former). Chris is more of a gardener, planting an idea and seeing what grows from it, following the tendrils as they flourish and spread and often finding himself surprised with the results. Jessica, on the other hand, is very much an architect: she first builds a "house" for her words to live in, planning and outlining before she ever starts writing. Together, these two approaches complement one another marvelously as a mixture of imaginative and structured.
Jessica, as a first-time author, is also incredibly fortunate in that Chris has a great deal of professional experience with successful creative collaborations. Chris started out in Walt Disney Pictures' Feature Animation Story Department, where he worked together with a team of between five and seven story artists to bring animated films like "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," and "Mulan" to the screen; he then went on to co-write and co-direct both Disney's "Lilo & Stitch" and DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon" with Dean DeBlois, so Chris knows how to write with a partner.
As to the actual mechanics of co-writing, Jessica first outlines the story, then divides it up into chapters, and from there breaks it down into individual scenes. Jessica and Chris then divvy up the chapters and get to work. The great thing about knowing the entire story beforehand is that you don't have to write chronologically and figure it out as you go; you know where you're going and how you're getting there, so you can jump around as it suits you. If Jessica or Chris get stuck, they'll hand a chapter or scene over to the other person, which handily eliminates writers' block and the delays that come with it.
Writing with a partner is exponentially faster than writing on your own. After Jessica developed "Rescue Sirens"' backstory and wrote the prologue, she and Chris finished writing "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" in about five and a half weeks. In addition to being faster, co-writing is also, by its nature, more thorough: Jessica and Chris each go over the entire book, so mistakes are less likely to slip through, and many sentences have been worked on by both authors. All told, Jessica and Chris each wrote about half of the first "Rescue Sirens" novel.
Jessica Steele-Sanders: "Growing up, one of my favorite authors was Brian Jacques, who wrote the 'Redwall' series of children's novels. I appreciated his diverse cast of animal characters and his adventurous plots, but, maybe most of all, I loved the vast world he created in Redwall Abbey, Mossflower Country, and beyond. It felt expansive and real to me; it felt like it had a history. Richard Adams' 'Watership Down' has always been a favorite of mine, as well, for the way the author set up his rabbits' culture and mythology — so imaginative, thorough, and fresh! And, although I wasn't crazy about the later sequels, I greatly admire Jean M. Auel's 'Clan of the Cave Bear' for its world-building and phenomenal attention to prehistoric detail. I love books that feel like you can crawl into them and live inside!"
Chris Sanders: "I wish I could say I've read more than I have. I read a lot as a kid: James Harriot; Alfred Hitchcock books. I liked non-fiction animal and nature books. For a while I was into fantasy because all my friends were. They recommended the 'Dragonriders of Pern' series, which I thought had disappointing structure but amazing atmosphere. Then I read a lot of Dean Koontz and a little Stephen King. I recently read 'Riptide' by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. That was amazing."
Yes! We have the next two novels outlined, with storylines in mind for four more books after that; it's just a matter of finding enough hours in the day to write them. Please send caffeine — Chris loves coffee, while Jessica prefers soda.
In addition to the sequels to "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," we're also publishing a line of fully illustrated "Rescue Sirens" children's storybooks for readers who are a bit too young for the novels.
If you represent a book store, aquarium, aquatic sports facility, convention, or a similar venue appropriate for the "Rescue Sirens" books and you'd like to arrange a book signing, interview, panel participation, or other appearance, we'd love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with information about your location and possible appearance dates so we can consult our calendar.
"Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" serves as an origin story for the "Rescue Sirens" series and follows two main characters. With each chapter, the perspective alternates between Nim and Kelby. Although Nim is the leader of the Rescue Sirens in Miami Beach, Kelby is the titular Atavist, and the overall story arc for the series will follow Kelby's journey into the world of mermaids.
That doesn't mean that Rescue Sirens Echo, Pippa, and Maris are sidekicks, however — indeed, each character will star in her own sequel novel. "Rescue Sirens" is about teamwork, and, as such, all of the Rescue Sirens are important in their own ways.
Courtesy of Dictionary.com, an atavism is defined as follows:
According to "Rescue Sirens"' unique mermaid mythology, merfolk existed before human beings — in fact, they represent our species' very origin. From the beginning of time, mermaids and mermen were able to "make legs" indistinguishable from our own and walk around on shore, where they bred, gave birth in special birthing coves, and simply explored the vast expanses of wild land.
There was a catch, though (isn't there always?): after more than a day away from the ocean, legged merfolk would start to feel ill, and if they went for three full days without "turning tail" and submerging in water from head to fin-tip, their specialized lungs would dry up and they would lose their ability to change from legs to tail. Forever.
In other words, they became human.
Across the globe, merfolk were trapped on land often enough — due to losing their way, natural disasters, illness or injury, and even treachery — that the resulting small bands of human beings were able to sustain and eventually grow their population (although the offspring of human/human pairings lacked from birth the capacities to "turn tail" and breathe underwater). These humans were watched over when they went near the water by the mermaids and mermen still living in the ocean, and merfolk observe that ancient vow to protect their landbound brethren to this day; that's the role of a Rescue Siren.
But sometimes, once in a very long while, a human being is born with the ability locked within them to change their legs into a tail (and back again) as well as to breathe water, just like humankind's merfolk ancestors. This genetic throwback is known amongst merfolk as an Atavist. It is the search for just such a human by the Rescue Sirens of Miami Beach that forms the basis for the first novel.
"Rescue Sirens" creator and co-author Jessica Steele-Sanders' first choice for where to set "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" was always Miami Beach. The Miami area, particularly South Beach, is the perfect location: a beautiful melting pot of cultural diversity that features gorgeous Art Deco architecture in pleasing pastel colors, built right on the Atlantic Ocean. Jessica is originally from Florida, so she enjoys revisiting her home state in her writing.
That said, Rescue Sirens inhabit every ocean in the world, stationed anywhere there's a coastline, so future stories may be set in, say, Hawaii, Australia, Alaska, or Japan. The possibilities are as endless as the sea!
When creator Jessica Steele-Sanders first began developing "Rescue Sirens," she wanted the series' mermaids to be examples of convergent evolution: the phenomenon by which organisms of unrelated lineages show similar adaptations due to comparable environmental influences. In other words, animals that occupy the same biological niche share the same types of features because they're doing the same kind of things.
Since the mermaids in "Rescue Sirens" live in the waters around South Florida, most of them have lower bodies that resemble marine life native to that area (Nim being the sole exception, with her fantastical "classic" mermaid tail). Tiger sharks (Kelby), common dolphins (Maris), and blue marlins (Echo) are pretty obvious choices for South Florida sea creatures, while Pippa's tail takes its inspiration from an animal that used to inhabit those waters, but no longer does: the Caribbean monk seal, which hasn't been seen since 1952 and was sadly declared extinct in 2008. Deciding to give one of our mermaids a tail like a Caribbean monk seal has already introduced many people to a species that they never knew existed — and, if you're interested, you can learn more about these tropical pinnipeds in this blog post.
With so much biological diversity on display in the world's oceans, giving the mermaids of "Rescue Sirens" distinct tails based on those found in nature was a fun and easy choice. In future stories, you may meet a Northern mermaid with a beluga's tail, or a mermaid from Australia with a tail like a clownfish!
The automatic transformation from legs to tail upon being splashed with water has been a popular mermaid convention since at least the 1980s, and it's easy to understand why: it adds a sense of tension as the mermaid in question tries to keep her secret from the humans around her while avoiding lawn sprinklers, car washes, and slippery swimming pool decks. However, we wanted our Rescue Sirens to possess more personal agency than that; thus, the choice to switch from legs to tail (and back again) is entirely up to our mermaids and under their control.
There's a catch, though, that adds its own variety of suspense and excitement: the mermaids in the world of "Rescue Sirens" begin to fall ill if they go for twenty-four hours without submerging in water; after three days dry, they lose their ability to transform back into a mermaid — forever. Stranded merfolk, left on land in their two-legged form, are where the first human beings originated, and Rescue Sirens living topside must never stray far from water lest the same fate befall them.
The answer to this question is multiple choice; please select the one that you prefer!
These are not questions, but some version of this sentiment comes up more often than you might think. (And almost always from high school students, funnily enough!)
Although the classical Sirens were originally depicted as seductive and deadly bird-women, over the centuries, sirens and mermaids became synonymous to the point that it's far more common now for people to associate the word "siren" with aquatic women. Everyone from Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse to the filmmakers behind Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (with its mermaid character Syrena) has chosen the new association over the old.
Nor is this limited to popular culture: the manatee and the dugong, early sightings believed by many to have inspired mermaid myths, belong to the scientific order Sirenia, named for the mythical creature. It even extends to other languages -- if you were to speak with someone from Spain or Italy about a mermaid, they would refer to the creature as sirena, while the French word for "mermaid" is sirène.
Isn't the evolution of language fascinating?
As for the murderous intent of the mythological Sirens, in our story, yes, the complete opposite is true: because all humans originated from mermaids who stayed dry in their two-legged form too long, losing their ability to transform back and live in the sea, the remaining mermaids swore a solemn vow to forever watch over their landlocked kin. When a mermaid comes of age, she goes to live topside, pledged to protect, learn, and teach; it's at this time that she earns the rank of "Rescue Siren."
Insisting that all sirens are "supposed" to be deadly is like insisting that all ghosts are "supposed" to be scary, including the titular character in "Casper the Friendly Ghost." The distinction is right there in the title: the word "rescue" in "Rescue Sirens" lets you know that, if you're under the impression that sirens are inherently evil, these ones are different.
(Also, "Rescue Sirens" creator Jessica Steele-Sanders just really loves terrible puns.)
Since first coming up with the idea, Jessica Steele-Sanders has envisioned "Rescue Sirens" as a television show in addition to a book series. The universe, the characters, and the concept all lend themselves perfectly to an episodic format, and, in addition to telling a sweeping story of adventure and female empowerment, a TV series simultaneously offers a fun, appealing way for Jessica to create awareness of two issues very important to her: ocean conservation and water safety.
Fortunately, Jessica's husband and co-author, Chris Sanders, has been working in the field of animation and filmmaking for thirty years, making this an ideal partnership, and "Rescue Sirens" is currently in development as a television property.
Yes! We've seen some truly wonderful cosplays (1, 2, 3) of our "Rescue Sirens" characters since the novel debuted, and it warms our hearts every time we consider the amount of time, effort, skill, and love that goes into creating a costume based on our lifeguard mermaids. It's such an honor, and we're humbled by your creativity, your passion, and your support of our story.
So, yes, by all means, attend conventions and take photos of yourself dressed as your favorite Rescue Siren, and then send us pictures so we can enjoy your hard work, too! (Just please don't sell prints or make paid appearances or do anything else that will force us to defend our registered trademark to prevent losing it. We don't want to do that.)
Not at this time — because "Rescue Sirens" is a trademarked property, we cannot allow unauthorized use of our characters and concepts; we must defend our registered trademark or risk losing it. That means, among other things, that you cannot profit from appearing as our characters or creating your own Rescue Siren, or lead people into believing that you represent our brand when you do not (even if you're doing it for free).
Here's the good news, though: one of the projects currently on our slate is devising a program by which we'll be able to approve and license mermaid entertainers to perform as official Rescue Sirens, complete with exclusive apparel and merchandising opportunities. We love mermaid entertainers, and we look forward to finding the best way to collaborate!
Thanks for your understanding, and stay tuned for more information!
Unfortunately, no, this is not something that we can be involved in. We love seeing fans dress up in mermaid tails while wearing their "Rescue Sirens" gear — that's great, and we encourage it! — but, when it comes to actually creating a "new" Rescue Siren designed to live in our universe, our being made aware of that may open us up to potential legal issues, so we can't be a part of it. We're always hard at work on the next stories in the "Rescue Sirens" series, and that means creating new characters. If you were to send us your idea for a specific character that was really similar to one we already had in development (sharing a name or type of tail, for instance), what then?
As the authors of the series, we prefer to err on the side of caution in this regard by preventing our exposure to fan works in the first place (other than fan art; see the next question). This ensures that any similarities to fan-created characters is purely coincidental.
The same goes for fan fiction and story ideas. For the protection of everyone, we will not view your fanfic or hear your ideas for future stories. If you email them to us, they will go unread.
However, it's immensely flattering that people love the "Rescue Sirens" characters enough to want to go on new adventures with them in our sandbox, so, as long as you play nice (i.e., don't publish/profit from your writing, don't market it as official in any way, and don't do damage to the "Rescue Sirens" brand), have fun!
Yes! We love seeing "Rescue Sirens" fan art — in fact, we have an entire "Guest Art" album devoted to it on Facebook, and we regularly feature fan art on our Instagram account, as well. While we ask that you do not sell prints or otherwise profit from your "Rescue Sirens" fan art (as we're required to defend our trademark or risk losing it), we welcome you to share your work with us so we can, in turn, share it with other "Rescue Sirens" fans. Please email your artwork to email@example.com (making sure to include how you'd like to be credited), and we'll add it to the collection!
We're always happy to meet new artists, so please feel free to introduce yourself and your work! The illustrators with whom we've collaborated on our "Rescue Sirens" books and promotional materials are either colleagues of ours that we know from San Diego Comic-Con, or artists whose work we've discovered on Tumblr and Instagram.
If you think your art style would work well with the "Rescue Sirens" brand and you're interested in doing business with us on a work-for-hire basis, please email a link to your website or portfolio to firstname.lastname@example.org; we may not be able to respond to you if we don't have a particular project in mind at that time, but you'll be on our radar for future projects!
We'd love to hear from you! For licensing inquiries, please email email@example.com.
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