Today's interview is with Deidre Sequeira, an author of YA fantasy. Her work twists the idea of The Little Mermaid and brings fresh, new perspectives to the table. Deidre discusses her motivations and how she finds that spark, her editing business, and the importance of the writing community. I hope you enjoy!
Please, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Well, I’m Deidre Sequeira! (That’s pronounced dee-druh skay-duh—it’s weird. I know. The Irish and Portuguese like to sprinkle in vowels and then not pronounce them.) I’m the autor of the Isla Emerged Series, which is a YA Fantasy series. I’m twenty-three years old and live in San Antonio, TX where I teach 5th grade ELAR. I have a soft spot for kittens, Disney movies, and music, so when I’m not writing or teaching, I’m obsessing over those things.
Tell us a little bit about your writing journey?
I wrote all throughout school—poetry and short stories, mostly. As I grew older, though, I began to enjoy poetry much less and focused on storytelling. Things really started to pick up for me with stories when I took creative writing during my 8th grade year. My science teacher actually taught it, and I loved her. She and my English teacher that year were actually who inspired me to teach. Teachers were instrumental in building my confidence to continue writing, and many encouraged me to take that route. However, I never actually believed I really could until that 8th grade writing class. I wrote the first chapters of a story about a girl who lands in the Underworld by mistake after she dies. Much of it is told in the form of letters, and her companions were based on my friends. I never finished the story, but I’m grateful for it because it kickstarted a really insistent desire of mine to write a novel.
In high school, I began writing on Wattpad. I started many stories on there, but never finished one. I have a book on the site called Mangled Hearts that I still think about. I never finished writing it, but the story nags at me sometimes. So, we’ll see what happens. But, in any case, writing on that site taught me a few things about who I am as a writer, so I’m very appreciative of the platform. I learned that people actually enjoyed what I wrote—that my mom, friends, and teachers hadn’t just been hyping me up to be kind. I had stories in my head that people were interested in, and that thought really blew me away. Another thing I learned is I need to take writing one idea at a time. I really believe that’s why I never finished those books on Wattpad. Once I started writing while in college and focusing my attention on one idea at a time (because I didn’t really have the time for more), I was finally able to write “The End.” And that’s how I ended up here—with two published novels and another one the way. We’ll see where I go next.
If you could only own one book, what would it be?
Probably The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I know it’s relatively new, but that story will stick with me forever. She can tell a story like no one else, and her characters are so beautifully flawed. The level of character development she creates gets me every time.
You have a really fascinating series, dealing with mermaids and familial love and self-growth. Can you pitch us the series?
Oh, man. Okay, here goes.
Isla Emerged is what could have happened if The Little Mermaid was more realistic. Princess Isla is a typical naive, selfish, short-sighted teenager in a world that expects a lot from her. The young mermaid makes some tremendous mistakes, and people are hurt in the process. When she’s punished, she has to learn from those mistakes and realize what’s really important in this world: family, friendship, and doing the right thing even when it’s hard or you’re scared. Isla is not perfect by any means, and her story isn’t what people expect from YA Fantasy. But she learns, and she grows, and she finds her strength. And that’s why I think her story is so important and so real.
The novella, Secrets Submerged, was released on June 30th. Can you tell us a little about the difference between writing the full-length novel, and then writing a novella?
Well, the biggest difference was the time it took. It was basically two years on the dot from the start to the finish writing of Isla Emerged. It took so long because I was going to college and working—not to mention I’m a horrible procrastinator. However, I finished the first draft of Secrets Submerged in about six months. I started it last summer, after Isla released. What really helped was I actually tried to use time from Nanowrimo 2019. I didn’t have a 50K word count goal, but I did Nano’s Young Writers program with my students, and I wrote with them, which they were so excited about. But this meant I had something I’d never had before: 45 minutes a day, 3-4 days per week minimum of uninterrupted writing time. I have no idea how long it would have taken me to finish without that time.
Another difference is that it’s much shorter but not as much as a short story. I’d never written a novella before, and I really enjoyed the process. I struggle with short stories, but I knew I didn’t want this to be a full-length novel. The length guidelines of a novella (15K-40K) gave me just enough room to tell the specific story I wanted to write without the pressure of a novel or the brevity of a short story.
Where did the inspiration for this series hit?
I was in college and in desperate need of a mental time out. All I wanted was to read, but I was craving a mermaid story. I couldn’t find any that really interested me, though. It was frustrating, but it gave me an idea. I figured, why not just make the story that I was craving?
I’ve always been obsessed with The Little Mermaid, but my perception of the film and Ariel has changed as I’ve grown older. I sympathize with her a lot less than I did when I was a kid. And I wanted to make somewhat of a commentary on her character and the qualities she shows. She’s brave and loving, but she’s also naive and makes poor decisions. Isla came from that idea. I wanted to use those qualities to tell a story with higher stakes.
You also run Mark My Words Editing! Can you tell us a bit about this service?
Yeah! So, I started MMW in 2017. Most of my work consists of smaller projects: editing/proofreading short stories, blog articles, and essays, as well as resume creation and editing. When I have time, I take on larger projects, like novellas and full length novels. I try to save time during the summers for those larger ones, as it’s harder to do them during the school year; teaching and writing take up so much time, especially partnered with the fact that I do multiple readthroughs of everything I edit. I try to keep things reasonably priced, too, because many of my clientele are indie authors, small business owners, and college students. As someone who has been all three of those things, I know that finding quality work for a good price is monumentally important and instrumental to success.
What inspired you to start Mark My Words?
I really enjoy using my skills and knowledge to help others, and I find that having a hand in the book industry as a writer, editor, and teacher brings me so much joy. Words are my passion. I love the intricacies of the English language, and having it as an aspect of my life in so many ways makes me happy. Mark My Words Editing is an extension of that passion in a way that helps others.
If someone was interested in your editing services, how could they apply or reach out?
I’m on Fiverr, Facebook, and I have a website. Fiverr and Facebook are the easiest ways to get in touch with me for editing services, but my website has a lot of great information that can answer many questions people might have for me. Here are the links:
You’re an active member of the writing community on Instagram. What is your favorite part of being a writer online?
This community is so supportive of one another. Instagram and Facebook have been such great resources for me as an indie author, and I love how authors on both platforms encourage and support each other endlessly. There is always someone willing to help or give guidance. In this industry, we know we’re in this together and have to rely on each other, and it’s so comforting to think that someone will always be in your corner, even if you’ve never met in person or they live on the other side of the world. I’m really big on communication and doing what you can to help others, so being in this community and having the opportunity to converse with and share ideas, concerns, tips, and recommendations with others that love writing and books as much as I do has been so amazing.
Anything else to add?
Thank you, again, Madison, for having me as a guest author! It was a pleasure. And to the readers, thanks for reading my interview! If you’re interested in learning more about myself or my books, check out this link to stay in touch! Best wishes and much love! https://www.deidresequeira.com/links