Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks?
Laurel Sills: As an English girl growing up on an island where all of our natural predators have been wiped out, the idea that something that powerful, something that might actually want to eat me, could just swan up to our beaches if it wanted, scared the living bejesus out of me as a child. Maybe that has something to do with our collective fascination. The ocean has few barriers, and although logic tells us that the great white is unlikely to be hanging out around Brighton pier, it’s hard to escape the idea that it could be. It goes back to the idea of something wanting to eat us. We have a rather reduced risk of being eaten by badgers, and the idea of being eaten is so alien, so bizarre, that perhaps we latch on to the one, tiny shred of possibility that we could be eaten by sharks on our bank holiday day trip. There are of course still a lot of other animals out there that would like to eat us, but, you know, lions can’t swim over and drag themselves onto our shores to feast on our blue goose-pimpled bikini-clad bodies...can they?!
SP: What was the inspiration behind your story Le Shark?
LS: As much as I love Jaws and other shark films, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking, how hard is it really to just stay out of the water?! So I wanted to play with that a bit. I also love a good old-fashioned deal with the devil gone wrong (that deal can never really work out can it?) so thought it would be fun to combine the two.
SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story?
LS: I think I went into it thinking I’d just write a silly story about a shark god, (which I did!) but it surprised me that it got a lot darker than I thought it would. There is a point in my story where you’re not sure whether The Shark is real or a figment of Carlos’ imagination, and I think a lot of the story is about Carlos’ inner shark. How far is he willing to go for success or to protect himself? I also wanted to make sure that Leslie, the other main character in the story, was not purely a love interest or a victim. I had to think hard about making sure I didn’t fall into the tired tropes women often fall into, and I hope I’ve achieved that.
SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
LS: Probably the basking shark, because me and a friend of mine found a dead baby one (which was still pretty big) washed up on the beach in St Ives when I was little. I liked the fact that they were gentle giants.
SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)?
LS: It would have to be Sharky of Sharky and George. I used to watch it with my dad and it reminds me of eating Rice Krispies in my pyjamas. Also, a shark detective? Yes. Just yes.