People ask if Mara Tusconi, my protagonist, is modeled after me. My answer is “yes and no”. Like Mara, I am a marine scientist, which is why I am able to write in detail about the marine environment. While Mara is an oceanographer who goes out to sea in research ships, my own research has focused on coastal environmental issues. That’s because, like Mara, I get terribly seasick! (She just deals with it better than I do.) We both also share a passion for sea kayaking, live in Maine, love teaching, and have an Italian heritage. But, while Mara is in her early 30’s, I definitely am not.
Mara displays wonderful qualities of many women scientists I know. She’s very energetic and works hard, sometimes too hard. She’s smart and successful at getting grants for her research and landing competitive research jobs. At times, she’s been frustrated with male scientists who don’t take her seriously. She’s a caring, exciting teacher and her grad students feel lucky to be in her lab. Finally, she has translated her passion for the outdoors into joy at discovering the intricacies of marine ecosystems.
Of course, Mara is far from perfect. She is often stubborn to the point of being tenacious, rash in her decisions, and overly fixed on the idea that evidence is everything. But Mara learns through her mistakes, partly with the help of others such as Angelo, her godfather, and Harvey (Harvina). her best friend.
Cold Blood, Hot Sea takes place in Mara’s hometown, Spruce Harbor, Maine and aboard Research Vessel Intrepid, owned by the Maine Oceanographic Institute. In the next book in the series, Demon Spirit, Devil Sea, Mara, Harvey and Ted travel to Haida Gwai, a beautiful and mysterious archipelago fifty miles off the coast of British Columbia. In book three, Secrets Haunt the Lobsters’ Sea, Mara is back in Spruce Harbor where her cousin Gordy has been accused of killing another lobsterman.
Each book concerns actual marine environmental issues. Cold Blood, Hot Sea deals with climate change and harassment of scientists who study the climate. In Demon Spirit, Devil Sea the controversy is illegal dumping of iron into international waters, ostensibly to stimulate salmon runs and provide money for the Haida people from carbon credits. Impacts of the changing climate on lobstering is the issue in Secrets Haunt the Lobsters’ Sea.
The fourth book in the series Glass Eels, Shattered Sea (2019) deals with spring/early summer eeling in Maine rivers. Glass eels, also called elvers, are shipped to Japan. They can be worth upwards of $2000 a pound – and that has lead to trafficing. It’s a marine environmental issue I can’t ignore! Also, eel’s life history is amazing. The delicate little creatures drift from the Sargasso Sea to the SE coast and swim into rivers all along the eastern seaboard.