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The Inspirations Behind Oceansong with C. W. Rose

Hi again, Jordan, Kori, and reader! Thanks so much for joining me on part 2 of this blog post, and I’m elated to have you along with me on my writing journey. If you missed part one, Romantasy Recs with Author C. W. Rose, go check it out!

The Origins of Oceansong

I don’t remember exactly what year I had the idea to write a mermaid romance.

It was more than a decade ago and stemmed from my interest in all things mermaid-related.

That started after I saw Disney’s The Little Mermaid as a child, and later Splash with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah.

I had always loved the sea and, well, water in general. I have had bad knees since I was a young teen and asthma since birth. Being in the water made me feel free and weightless. Though my endurance on land wasn’t good, I could swim for longer than I could jog or run before my exercise-induced asthma flared up. The sea breeze has always helped me breathe and deep water never scared me; I loved to snorkel on vacation. A few years ago, I became certified as a scuba diver and lifeguard.

All of that came together for Kiss of the Mermaid, about a young dock worker and his forbidden love for a mermaid princess in the midst of a human-merfolk war. I didn’t understand much about character motivations at the time, so I had no reason for the war other than them hating each other. It turned into a 30k-word long novella. It might have been something I was going through at the time, but it had a sad ending: humans killed the mermaid as she tried to save her lover, who was forced to move on without her. I wrote the story for myself, and when I was done, I tucked it away and never showed it to or told anyone.

I went on to write Nightsworn, the first manuscript I queried. After four years of querying with countless revisions to the manuscript, query letter, and synopsis, I ended up with sixty rejections, one partial request, and one full request, which both turned into rejections. Looking back, sixty queries isn’t a lot, but my heart wasn’t into querying any more.

About two years ago, while still querying Nightsworn, I went on a cruise vacation with my family. I remember staring at the rocky seas, wondering what might be hiding beneath the surface. The sea is the least explored place on Earth, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the world below. I thought back to that mermaid novella I had all but forgotten.

Ocean waves from National Geographic Society

What if I could expand on that story, or even overhaul the entire thing? As it usually happens on vacations, more ideas came, and I jotted them into my phone notepad. I suppose creativity flows when it’s not hindered by the stresses of everyday life and work. By the end of the week, I had enough ideas to expand it into a full-length novel.

Kiss of the Mermaid became Oceansong. The spunky mermaid princess became a kind, inquisitive merman prince named Kaden. The dock worker was swapped to a snarky and tough but soft-inside young woman named Angie. The setting became a fictional town in Alaska (I didn’t have a specific setting for the initial novella), a state I visited over a decade ago but whose mysteries and natural beauty I never forgot.

The forbidden love and war are still there, but I fleshed them out much more. Wanting to share my culture, the central characters are now Asian-American like myself, and they have more motivation—the loss of sea life and how it affects both humans and merfolk, inspired by my interest in environmentalism and sustainability. And Oceansong has a happy ending.

This was my first official romantasy novel! I queried for a year and a half and racked up over 150 rejections before I finally signed with Hey Hey Books in October 2023.

My Writing Process

A new term I learned recently is “quilter.” I’ve heard of “plotters” and “pantsers,” but I was kind of…neither of these, yet both?

My process starts with random scenes scattered all over the place. Usually on my phone’s notepad. I write everything, and I mean everything in there, and sometimes even I’m scared to decipher the gigantic walls of texts I come up with. I thrive in organized chaos. I then organize those scenes into something coherent—adjusting, adding, and changing along the way, until it becomes some semblance of a plot. When I have an outline of each chapter, I start writing.

The very first scene that came vividly to mind was the protagonists’ first meeting. At the time, I didn’t have character names or a title. In the midst of war, where humans and merfolk alike were being killed by the other, a merman was halfway out of the water. A young woman stood in a defensive position above him on the shoreline, reaching for her gun, but her hand was shaking. They couldn’t take their eyes off each other as they measured the other up. From there, the scenes came one after the other.

Since Oceansong is based in a real-life location (a fictional town in modern-day Alaska and under the sea), a lot of research went into this. I knew I wanted to set it in a rural, isolated area where the existence of merfolk could remain a mystery until they’re discovered by our protagonist, Angie. Because my last manuscript was set in a warm-weather region, I decided to set this one somewhere cold. The story takes place in Creston, a coastal town in southwest Alaska, over the summer between college and graduate school for Angie.

(Source: Wikipedia)

I hadn’t been to Alaska in over a decade, and with my work schedule and amount of time off being the way it was for so long, I haven’t gone back since my first visit. But it’s on my bucket list to return.

So to make the setting as authentic as possible, I scoured the web and various forums for what summers in southwest Alaska are like. I would look up temperatures for a given day, week, or month on my weather app. How much rainfall or snowfall there typically was. The expected population for a rural town in that area. Knowing that certain regions in Alaska experienced atypical day and night times, I used my weather app to see when sunrise and sunset were.

I looked at hundreds of photos for everything. Towns. Natural geologic formations like mountains, fjords, forests, and islands. Animals, both marine and land. Where I work, I knew quite a few people who had recently vacationed in Alaska, lived there at one point, or had family living there, and I would ask them questions. I asked about everything under the sun, including what I had researched online. Understanding how they handled longer days or nights was of great interest to me. Most were eager to share their answers, and I excitedly soaked it all in. Real-life accounts are invaluable when writing something you don’t have extensive, personal experience in, and I’m eternally grateful for my friends and colleagues who shared their and their families’ experiences.

I’d also never worked on a dock, even if I’d been on many. I wanted my protagonist to be constantly near the ocean, so I kept the dock worker profession from Kiss of the Mermaid. I enjoy reading and hearing about women performing traditionally male jobs, so it felt rewarding to have her do a lot of physical, manual work. She’s around a lot of men, which contributes to her tough-as-nails exterior. I looked up photographs and layouts of docks around the world to get an idea of what one would look like, what buildings it would have. To learn what Angie would be doing, I researched a day in the life of a dock worker and their duties on job opening posts.

I researched how to moor and unmoor boats, how to drive one, and boat anatomy to ensure I used the correct terms. Being an avid cruiser helped with the latter, as well as having been on my share of boats for snorkeling or scuba diving.


Have I mentioned being around water makes me happiest and most relaxed? Maybe I was a mermaid (or a fish) in a past life, but I digress.

My protagonist studying to be a marine biologist was the most sensible explanation for why she would be so interested in merfolk, marine life, and the sea. At the time of Oceansong, she already has her bachelor’s degree, so she’s knowledgeable about the ocean and its flora and fauna. She is gunning to get her PhD in marine biology when the summer ends. For this, I searched as many details as I could get my hands on. I looked at university curriculums for marine biology programs and semester start and end dates.

Finally, there came the research about the vast ocean itself. I had plenty of experience in it, but I’ve never been a deep-water diver. Chalk it up to inexperience and apprehension. I prefer to see the surface, or know it’s not far away, though I plan to go a little deeper on my next dive outing. But for the merfolk to hide from humans, they had to live hundreds or thousands of feet below the surface, where it’s dark, cold, and isolated.

With Angie being a scuba diver as well, I used my experience to describe what she saw, felt, and heard, down to equalizing every few feet to prevent barotrauma and what equipment they used. I also used my experience with compass diving to the story’s benefit.

But I needed to research the differences in deep sea diving. I learned a bit during my certification courses, so I padded my knowledge with research of specialized equipment, suits, how to breathe at those depths, approximate timeframes for getting to and back from certain depths, and what colors they could or couldn’t see as they descended.

But like Angie, I was most excited to research deep sea flora and fauna. What types of life would they find at each depth? Were there coral reefs? Plant life? How did those animals live, what was their behavior like, and what did they eat? I was determined to leave no stone unturned.


Injecting environmentalism and sustainability into Oceansong was a choice I sat with for awhile. I eventually decided to go with it because it’s an important cause to me (in tandem with animal and women’s rights), to my characters, with the consequences of ocean pollution and overfishing being of particular interest. I suppose I have a personal investment in this, as well.

I’ve seen my share of trash floating around the ocean and on the beach, despite cleanup efforts. I’ll never forget going for an ocean swim and being hit in the head by a floating York peppermint patty still in its wrapper. I saw how polluted some of our oceans, lakes, and rivers have become, and worst of all its effect on marine wildlife.

It pained me to see these beautiful seascapes ravaged by human interference. Learning about overfishing’s devastating effects on the sea’s ecosystems broke my heart. Not only that, but it threatens food security for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

These issues created the big question for Oceansong: what if sea fish were disappearing and merfolk were responsible?

Well, that brings me to the end of my blog post! If you read to the end, thank you for sticking with me and my meandering thoughts, and I hope you enjoyed this.

Oceansong is slated for release with Hey Hey Books in the summer of 2024. It’s an Asian Little Mermaid x Romeo & Juliet, set in the grittiness of the real world with themes of feminism, environmentalism, and sustainability. Set in southwest Alaska, it tells the story of twenty-four-year-old aspiring marine biologist and dock worker Angie Song, who becomes caught in a war between humans and merfolk for control of the sea. In the midst of this conflict, she falls into a dangerous, forbidden love with a Mer-Prince, risking everything and everyone dear to her.

If you’re interested in learning more about me or my upcoming releases, please give me a follow. You can find links to my socials, website, and newsletter sign-ups on my Linktree.

Author C. W. Rose inspirations behind writing Coffee, Book, and Candle

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