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  • Writer's pictureJade Shyback

Q&A with Deborah Kalb

Updated: May 6, 2023



Q: What inspired you to write Aqueous, and how did you create your character Marisol?

A: The inspiration for Aqueous was found on a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with my three daughters, just before my eldest “abandoned” me for university. The specifics of that life journey can be found in “Aqueous, an Idea” at www.jadeshyback.com.

Marisol was also developed in the rental car on that highway. She is a hybrid of all of the women that I love. They are young and old, loyal, smart, caring and kind without conceit or maliciousness. They are the wheelhouse of our society.

Q: The author Kerry Anne King said of the book, “Aqueous is a coming-of-age story set against the harshly exotic backdrop of a life beneath the sea in an all-too-possible post-apocalyptic future.” What do you think of that description, and how did you create the world in which the novel is set?

A: I like Kerry Anne’s description of Aqueous—it’s accurate. I didn’t know what world-building was when I began writing Aqueous (amateur hour), but as a debut author, I wanted my characters to exist in a setting removed from the wildfires that had decimated North America, in a place causing Marisol to be separated from her mother. The ocean was an obvious choice.

Then, I worked the problem backward: my characters needed oxygen, power, and protection from the weight of the ocean itself. It took an enormous amount of research to make my habitat viable and at the end of the process I realized that I had created a work of science fiction. Surprise!

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I knew how the story would end very early in the writing process, but I finessed the ending as the story developed. I am very proud of it. It’s a goosebumps ending.

As I recorded the audiobook there were many emotional storyline moments where it was hard for me to speak and the last line of Aqueous was one of them. I had to rerecord it over and over until I could stop my lips from quivering.

Q: You've said, “I didn't set out to write a feminist story, but it makes sense that I did.” Can you say more about that?

A: Writing a feminist story was very similar to writing science fiction—it just happened. I have a very capable mother. I am a very capable mother. I have very capable daughters. I value my sisterhood of very capable girlfriends. In similarity to my life (write what you know), the women of Aqueous are running the show, and that will become more evident as the series progresses.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: At the moment, I’m editing the audiobook. I made the decision to narrate it myself (despite my publisher’s kind offer to hire a pro) because I desperately wanted to produce the songs that I wrote for the novel. Instead of having to listen to the narration of the lyrics (boring), listeners will hear instrumental melodies recorded with vocals as audiobook bonus material. Exciting!

I’m also writing the sequel to Aqueous. The Aqueous series will consist of three books. (Yes, I already know how the whole thing ends, and no, I’m not telling you.)

Next steps include film adaptation and a theme park world—the logical evolution of Aqueous—because every girl (Marisol and myself included) can dream.

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