Author pays homage to home state with ‘Waking the Merrow’


With more Gaspee Days festivities approaching, local author Heather Rigney is set to release her new novel – the Pawtuxet Village-based, dark historical fantasy “Waking the Merrow.”

Rigney’s novel blends local, colonial and maritime history – including the burning of the H.M.S. Gaspee and the John Oldham shipwreck incident – with Irish immigration to Rhode Island and modern village life.

“I wanted to write something fun, something chilling, something that paid homage to my home state,” said Rigney. “Rhode Island is steeped in quirky, nautical history, and a lot of the people who live or have lived here are characters themselves. Stephen King has Maine; I have Little Rhody. This is my dark take on our weird, little state.”

Rigney, who has been interested in the Revolutionary War since childhood, moved to Pawtuxet Village in 2003. While attending Gaspee Days, her love for history left her swept up in the excitement.

“I visited the Revolutionary War encampment by the Aspray Boathouse, and was brought to tears by the fifes and drums of the Pawtuxet Rangers,” she recalls.

While the text under her eighth-grade yearbook photo reads, “someday she would like to write novels,” Rigney only recently began her full-time writing career.

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a master’s degree in art education, Rigney taught visual arts in Warwick’s public schools for 12 years.

While working as a teacher and attending a faculty workshop, Rigney’s writing samples caught the eye of the English department. After being encouraged by her fellow teachers to write a book, Rigney left the school system in 2011 to pursue writing full-time.

Three years later, she is publishing her first novel, drawn from the love of her hometown.

“Pawtuxet Village is a hidden gem,” she said. “Adding a man-eating mermaid, or merrow, to the local flora and fauna seemed natural to me.”

“Waking the Merrow” will be released on June 9, the 242nd anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee. The novel will be available in paperback and eBook on

A pre-release party will be held on June 5 at The Elephant Room in Pawtuxet Village, with bourbon tastings provided by Cork and Brew Liquor Store.

Additional information about Rigney and “Waking the Merrow” can be found on her website at


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