NOVEL SPOTLIGHT: Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

“A monster from the sea,
a rare beast capable of coming on land. “

Halloween season is upon us, with only 5 days until the spooky holiday! Fall is always my favorite time of year, but Halloween is just something…more!

It’s such a fun time, filled with witches, demons, and things that go bump in the night. And with that comes spooky books. Books that make you look under the bed before you sleep, leave the light on, and lock every door and window in your house. Twice. Books that creep into your subconscious, making you jump at every turn.

While I am NOT a scary movie fan, I absolutely and utterly love books that do this to me. When I’m in the mood for the spooky season, one of the novels I recommend was actually written by a familiar author not usually connected to the genre. Take this, for instance:

“They are gone.
I can just feel it.”

While Sarah Marsh is highly recognized for her stunning Reign of the Fallen/Song of the Dead duo and adorable picture books (ALICE ACROSS AMERICA IS OUT SOON, Y’ALL!), Fear the Drowning Deep is her first novel. In honor of the Halloween season, and my desire to reread this watery mystery, I sat down with Sarah – okay, fine, I sent her an email – to ask her a bit about the novel, her writing, and more. Check it all out below!


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Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea.
In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

People disappearing, island witches, innocent girls, sea monsters, and mysterious men washing up on shore? Yeah, this book has it all. Add to that its definitively dual creepy/mysterious and beautiful/thrilling text, and you have a book worth reading every fall!

Marsh’s 2016 debut novel serves up a delicious romance alongside a puzzling whodunit, and showcases true loss of love with a simultaneous loss of answers. As the reader is transported back to the time of the Titanic, therein lies a young, curious girl (Bird) desperate for answers to a daunting puzzle and a world of even more curious, magical folk fed by the locals.

Bird is a wonderfully dynamic character, glowing with life and beauty. The layers of her personality, desires, fears, and struggles give her a depth that is sometimes lacking in similar YA novels. Her willingness to fight for friends, family, and self is a quality that I will never tire of indulging in.

Bird wrestles with reality: what she knows is not in agreement with what everyone else tells her, highlighting the underlying struggles of the time, like gender and mental health.

A theme through all of her works, Marsh tackles real-life issues in paranormal or fantastical ways, greatly easing the usually hard obstacle of relating to the YA age range and age-related issues.

‘I have to go now.’
Still smiling, he raises his arms and arcs his body into a diver’s pose
and let’s the waves swallow him one last time.

Author Spotlight: Sarah Glenn Marsh

First, I know we kinda talked about why water is important for you, but for the readers who aren’t familiar, what is it about water that you feel makes such a versatile setting, being that both FTDD and Reign both had water as some kind of barrier, character or otherwise important setting?

I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean. It’s vast and mysterious–many people spend their lives looking up, wanting to know more about what’s out there among the stars, but I like to think about what’s hiding at the bottom of the ocean, about the places here on earth we have yet to explore. The ocean is so immense in my mind, I suppose it’s no wonder that it comes up again and again in my writing.

Elaborating on the author note, what made you choose the the time period you selected? 

The reason I chose to set Fear the Drowning Deep in the early 1900s can be summed up by one important point: I wanted the story to take place at a time when most of the islanders still believed in fairies. Belief is a powerful thing, and you’ll find that the fairies’ existence factored in to people’s daily lives in the smallest and strangest of ways, and helped shape their culture over the centuries. What is it about the Isle of Man that encouraged its people to hold onto this belief for so long? I like to think it’s a combination of their nearness to the ocean and the wild, natural beauty of the island itself.

I loved how the mythology of the Isle of Man was woven through the story: without spoilers, was your creature part of the direct mythology or what this something of your creation? 

The creature(s) in the book are not my own; I drew from less common mythologies to find them, although I’ll admit I didn’t limit myself to only Manx myths. Since the ocean enables travel over great distances, I borrowed from other cultures as well; the creature in question here comes from Norse mythology.

Bridey trusts Fynn extremely easily – even when there are red flags all about. To some, this could come across as a love story, to others a tale of caution, to be wary of who and what you trust (relating to more than one character) – what was this for you? A love story? A warning? Both?

It’s a little of both; spoiler alert–Fynn isn’t a bad person, as it were, and he and Bridey are good to each other, but I still remember all those dizzying feelings of a first crush, when emotion pushes all else to the background, even when it shouldn’t. At the end of the day, we all keep secrets, and we should all guard our hearts to some extent when we meet someone new.

Finally, you are of course someone I consider a friend, but you seem to have a very good relationship with your readers. You are always a ray of sunshine. Does your relationship with your readers have any influence over the types of projects you tackle, be it topic, audience, etc?

Thank you! I’m glad we’re friends, too 🙂 I’m actually attending one of my readers’ weddings in Maine in a few weeks, so consider yourself warned: if you invite me, I will come! Ha. I’ll admit that I write first and foremost for myself, so my relationships in general don’t factor in to the early stages of my ideas–that initial ‘spark’ has to be purely for me; however, where my readers come in is that I try to make sure they can see themselves represented somewhere in each of my books. If you can’t imagine yourself entering whatever world I’m writing, then I’ve done something wrong, because the moment a book publishes, it belongs to all of you, and you deserve to feel welcome in the worlds I’ve built.

Whether you’ve read her fantasy duo, any of her picture books, or not – I highly recommend adding this brilliant sea novel to your TBR, along with the titles below:

Reign of the Fallen/Song of the Dead
Selfie Sebastian
A Campfire Tale
Ninita’s Big World
The Bug Girl
Alice Across America
Diabetes Doesn’t Stop Maddie
Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution

Sarah Glenn Marsh is an author of young adult novels including the Reign of the Fallen series and Fear the Drowning Deep, as well as children’s picture books like Selfie Sebastian and Ninita’s Big World, among others. An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their tiny zoo of five rescued sighthounds, two birds, and many fish.
When she’s not writing, she’s often found in the pottery studio, volunteering her time to sighthound rescue, or engaged in nerdy pursuits from video games to tabletop adventures. You can visit her online at, and follow her on Twitter @SG_Marsh.