Author Interview: Shakirah Bourne

A little while ago I had the pleasure to read and review an arc of Josephine Against the Sea (previously published as My Fishy Stepmom) and absolutely adored this book! When I got the chance to interview the author, I couldn’t pass this opportunity and today I will share the interview with you all!

Eleven-year-old Josephine knows that no one is good enough for her daddy. That’s why she makes a habit of scaring his new girlfriends away. She’s desperate to make it onto her school’s cricket team because she’ll get to play her favorite sport AND use the cricket matches to distract Daddy from dating.

But when Coach Broomes announces that girls can’t try out for the team, the frustrated Josephine cuts into a powerful silk cotton tree and accidentally summons a bigger problem into her life . . .

The next day, Daddy brings home a new catch, a beautiful woman named Mariss. And unlike the other girlfriends, this one doesn’t scare easily. Josephine knows there’s something fishy about Mariss but she never expected her to be a vengeful sea creature eager to take her place as her father’s first love! Can Josephine convince her friends to help her and use her cricket skills to save Daddy from Mariss’s clutches before it’s too late?

1. Hi Shakirah! First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me, I’m so honoured! Could you introduce yourself and your book a bit? 

Hello! Thanks for having me. I’m Shakirah, a Barbadian author currently residing in Barbados in the Caribbean. I enjoy staring out at the sea, eating mangoes and taking walks through old graveyards.

I’m a big fan of folklore and mythology, and my debut, Josephine Against the Sea, is a MG contemporary fantasy about 11 year-old cricketer Josephine, who discovers that her Dad’s new girlfriend may not be human. It’s full of adventure, mystery and inspired by Caribbean folklore. 

2. What’s a life lesson you wish you learnt sooner? Something that helped you become who you are today. 

I think I wish I had learned to embrace fear earlier. I realized that when I get scared about a new opportunity, it just means that change is about to come. That I’m about to step out of my comfort zone and face challenges that will push my creative boundaries. Now when I feel fear about a new project, I immediately get excited afterward. 

3. How did you get the idea for Josephine Against the Sea? 

I read a story in English class at school about a fisherman who became obsessed with a mermaid. She would sit on a rock by the river, combing her hair and singing. Though villagers warned him to stay away, he’d visit her everyday and soon she took over his dreams; he stopped eating, providing for his family, and one day, the villagers found his clothes on the riverbank and he was never seen again. I wondered, who was that mermaid? What happened to that fisherman? And how did his family react? When I decided to write a book for kids, I knew I wanted to answer those questions. 

4. Why did you want to write this story?

As a kid, I loved reading mysteries and adventures in books like Nancy Drew and the Famous Five. There is a significant lack of middle grade books set in the Caribbean, much less in Barbados, and I really wanted a fun, fantastical story of a Bajan girl going on adventures and saving the day. I also really wanted to document our folk stories and superstitions and make them accessible to a wider audience. 

5. What is your favourite scene in the story?

I have many favourite scenes! But the one that just sprung to mind is the scene after she meets Mariss, her Dad’s new mysterious girlfriend, and attempts to scare her away with an overly-complicated prank called “Operation Sticky Buns.” The whole plan backfires in a very humorous way, and it’s the first time Josephine realizes that she has met her match. 

6. What’s your favourite myth and did you draw inspiration from other myths beside Caribbean mythology for this book? 

I don’t have a favourite myth but I am drawn to mythology around the sea. I love mermaids, and any tale that speculates about life under the sea. As I did my research into Caribbean mythology, I discovered that our lore is rooted in African mythology, and are stories that were brought across to the Caribbean during times of slavery, and were adapted according to the culture and landscape of each Caribbean country. I did a lot of reading into the manifestations of Mami Wata mythology, and gave my characters some of their skills and abilities. 

7. What is something you hope your readers will get from reading Josephine Against the Sea? 

I hope that they get some thrills and at least one big laugh. I also hope younger readers will rally around Josephine’s determination to pursue her cricket dreams, and realize that once you keep learning, practicing and never give up, then one day, your dream may come true.

8. What is an author’s dream of yours that you’re hoping will be fulfilled?

I would love to write a graphic novel one day! I’ve experimented in various forms of writing but I haven’t explored that genre. I’m also waiting on the day that a stranger recommends my own book to me.

Again, a HUGE thank you to Shakirah Bourne for answering my questions and a massive thanks to the publisher for sending me an arc of Josephine Against the Sea. I already can’t wait for the sequel to come out!



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