Tell us about yourself and why you write for young people.I am a member of SCBWI and have been a published author since 1995. When I first started writing, I was in college getting my degree in Drama, planning to be an actress. I wrote for fun. A friend asked me to write a children’s play for his theater, and I was hooked. I did and still do perform, but I have been a teacher (in Special Education) and writer foremost over the past 20+ years. As Donna Getzinger I published many books, including six highly acclaimed non-fiction works with Morgan Reynolds publishers. Cry of the Sea is my first YA novel and first novel as D. G. Driver. I also had a short story titled “The Jamaican Dragon” published in an anthology of pirate stories called A Tall Ship, A Star and Plunder.
Cry of the Sea is intended for readers 12 and up. Juniper Sawfeather is 17, but the story is very PG.
What made you decide to write Cry of the Sea and create Juniper
Tell something Juniper you want young readers to grasp.Juniper is a smart, sensitive girl, but she has a hard time because her parents are very outspoken environmental activists. She is unpopular more because of that than because she is American Indian. At the beginning of the book she wants nothing more than to get away from her current life and start somewhere new. The mermaids allow her to find her own cause and her own voice. She realizes that she is more than what others think of her.
How do you see your book fitting into schools and into the concept of Windows, Mirrors and Sliding glass doors.One of the things I’ve been reading over and over in the articles about diversity in books is that readers want novels, particularly fantasy novels like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, but with non-whites in the leading roles. People are looking for stories that are not about the race of the protagonist but rather a regular story that features a protagonist of color. Cry of the Sea is not a story about a girl being American Indian. It is a story about a girl who happens to be American Indian finding herself in the middle of an adventure. She is a bright girl with a good heart, and she faces a lot of the same pressures any teen girl faces: difficult parents, a crush, bullies, best friend trouble, and homework. But she also faces a whole lot more once she stumbles upon the mermaids.
Tell us a little about your research and efforts to make the character accurate
Juniper is definitely not a stereo-typical American Indian. She is a modern, teenage girl from the suburbs. I looked into which Tribal Nations were in the Washington State area and decided which one made the most sense for Juniper. However, her mother is not American Indian, so I don’t have her living on a reservation. There are references to Juniper’s heritage, and her father is very proud of his heritage. However, as mentioned above, Juniper is less concerned about being seen as American Indian than she is of being seen as the daughter of these extreme environmentalists. Once the plot of the story really kicks into gear, no one is focusing on the color of her skin.
I wanted Juniper’s father to tell a legend that would make him wonder if American Indians had been somehow aware of the mermaids far in the past. I read a lot of mythology from the area about the sea animals and life on the Northwest Coast. I wound up inventing the myth I used for the novel, but it was loosely based on a real legend of warriors who were turned into killer whales. Additionally, I found out about a real event called the Potlatch, where people make necklaces and throw them into the sea to celebrate the killer whales. I decided to adapt that to fit my story as well and have it told by a news reporter who has both Spanish and American Indian ancestry.