This week’s behind the story features Michael Greenhut, author of Watermark. One of the reasons we loved (and published) it is that the story implies a great deal by saying very little. We asked Michael about the background of the tale and how much of the backstory he had worked out before he wrote it.
Watermark is actually a small drop in a very large pond, pardon the pun. Years ago, I wrote a novel called The Memory Graveyard and planned several more, all of which I still hope to publish one day. It was a pretty involved epic with quite a few character arcs and backstories. One of the supporting characters was Etinaye, who eventually became the protagonist of Watermark. So, I pretty much had her story down in my head, and some of it in words, before I told this part of it.
As for Etinaye’s background, I was inspired by Loreena Mckennit’s song “The Bonny Swans”, which was in turn inspired by an old Celtic murder ballad called “Binnorie”. The story is that a woman drowns her younger sister out of jealousy. The young girl becomes a swan. A harper kills the swan and makes a harp from its bones, which plays by itself and reveals the older sister’s betrayal. I took the core plot element of this ballad — a girl drowning her younger sister out of jealousy — and wove my own story out of it.