Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Little Something for the Weekend - Inspired by the Choctaw

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Debbie Herbert, as she talks about how Native American legends inspired her latest Harlequin Nocturne...

“The track of the sun across the sky leaves its shining, eternal message.
Illuminating, strengthening, warming . . . all of us who are here.
It shows us we are not alone. We are not alone.
We are yet alive. And this fire, our fire, shall not die!”

-  Choctaw Prayer

I’ve always been fascinated by Native American legends because of their creativity and wisdom. So I knew that in one of my books, I wanted to feature a Native American hero and highlight some of their culture. At the time, I was in the midst of writing a mermaid romance trilogy for Harlequin and in the last book of the series, I created Nashoba Bowman, a member of the Choctaw nation, since my story settings were in an Alabama bayou where the Choctaw nation once flourished.

I did a bit of research, intending to find something of their customs to incorporate in my book. Imagine my excitement when I read that the Choctaw had a legend about mermaids! 

Called the Okwa Naholo, or ‘white people of the water,’ with skin as pale as trout, they were believed to live in clear patches of water deep in the bayou. Should you accidentally fall into the water, the Okwa Naholo would take you to their underwater world. If you stayed with them longer than three days, you could never again return to land.

I was hooked. Aha, I thought, this book will write itself. Um . . . no, writing a novel isn’t a piece of cake, as all writers know. But it did spark my imagination and the book is based around this legend. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I combined the Choctaw mermaid legend with their forced exile on the infamous Trail of Tears. 

I first started writing about mermaids because I see them as archetypes of feminine strength and beauty. So it was a joy to write about them, and now I’m equally excited about exploring more of Native American tales in future books. While mermaids represent the feminine quality of the water element, I created a Native American hero who represents a deep connection to land. The mixing of land and sea, combined with the Choctaw reverence for the sun and the mermaid connection to the moon and the pull of the tide, made for interesting contrasts. 

Native American tales are abundant with supernatural elements. In the Choctaw Nation, there are stories about mischievous fairies or little men, Bohpoli, who play pranks on those who wander nearby them. Hunters might be scared by the sudden appearance of Kashehotapalo who was half man and half deer. 

And there are more ominous shadow beings such as Nalusa Falaya who was a soul-eater and could shapeshift into serpent form. Another, Hoklonote, could shapeshift into any form and read a person’s thoughts. At night, one might see strange glowing objects deep in the woods that they called Hashok Okwa Hui'ga (Grass Water Drop) who would lead you astray and were not to be trusted. The Hashok Okwa Hui’ga are similar to European tales of will-o-the-wisps. 

The connection to land and spirit of early Native American cultures inspires me. It’s something I hope to explore more of in future books.

Are there certain legends or mythologies or supernatural beings that fascinate you? I’d love to hear about it!

Debbie's latest book, Siren's Call, is out now:

Mermaid mythology meets Native American lore.

For the first time in her life, Lily Bosarge – siren extraordinaire – meets a man immune to her enchanting voice. Determined to discover his secret, she pursues Native American Nashoba Bowman. But the closer she grows to him, the more her life is in peril from a string of increasingly dangerous events. Unless they work together and solve the mystery, both their lives – and their secrets – are in danger.

Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories. Unlike the mermaid characters in her Sirens Trilogy, , she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. To find out more information about her and her books, check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Thanks Charlene! I appreciate the Pink Heart Society inviting me over today! Hope everyone is having a relaxing, inspiring Sunday.

  2. Fascinating article, Debbie! Looking forward to Siren's Call.