Sea Witch by Helen Hollick
The first voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, pirate, scoundrel and charming rogue. A meticulously researched, full-blooded adventure full of heart-stopping action, evil villains, treasure and romance. “Everything we want in a grand pirate adventure … a terrific read” (James L. Nelson, author).
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) My latest scribbling is a novella, a prequel story about how my pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, became a pirate. The first of my Sea Witch Voyages (also called Sea Witch) opens with Jesamiah, a young man in his early twenties, aboard a pirate ship, the Mermaid. The crew is about to attack a Dutch East Indiaman merchant ship off the coast of Africa – but Jesamiah suddenly has a bad feeling about the looming fight. (No spoilers – sorry!)
Now that there are five Voyages in the series, with a sixth soon to be started, I thought it would be fun to go back a few years and explore why Jesamiah ran away from his home in Virginia, aged not quite fifteen, and how he learnt his ‘trade’. Writing When the Mermaid Sings, as the novella is called, turned out to be great fun!
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) I was approached by the company which produces my UK books, SilverWood Books Ltd, who are an assisted publishing company for indie writers based in Bristol, England. They wanted to produce a series of quality e-book novellas as traditional published e-books (i.e at their expense) which were to be ‘tasters’ for their authors who had various series of novels published with them. Of course, I jumped at the chance to write something new about Jesamiah. (And I am pleased to say, I have a whole fleet of fans eager to read more about my charmer of a nautical hero!)
Ideas and enthusiasm is one thing, the doing is another.
The first snag I came to was remembering all the small details which are mentioned in the Voyages about Jesamiah’s past. This meant reading through all five books again. I do have a notebook where I keep a record of the important facts, but I needed to be sure of all the little things to ensure (as best I could) continuity.
I also had to work in the element of fantasy that is within the Voyages in such as way as to remain plausible and believable. I mean, mermaids do not exist in real life, but to be able to suspend belief in a story, and bring the unreal to feel real is the craft of a good writer isn’t it? (I hope I’ve achieved this!)
But believe me, bringing backstory to the fore is not as easy as it seems! There were quite a few re-writes and I discovered one major blooper in one of the books of the series – the third, Bring It Close, which is based around that dastardly pirate, Blackbeard.
I was horrified to find a continuity error – but the book has been published for several years now (and so far no one else has noticed – or are they all too polite to mention?) I agonised one night through to the wee small hours, then a solution hit me: I will make it a deliberate error which causes all sorts of repercussions for Jesamiah in a future Voyage.
After all, the tag line for my series is ‘Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake!” So you’ll have to wait for Voyage Six, Gallows Wake, or maybe even seven, Jamaica Gold to find out what that (deliberate) blooper is!
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Elizabeth Chadwick – her Greatest Knight novel about WilliamMarshal. Sharon Penman’s Here Be Dragons. Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga, Alison Morton’s Roma Nova thrillers. Susan Grossey’s Sam Plank Mysteries and Annie Whitehead’s latest Cometh the Hour.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) Pony stories. I wanted a pony, but we could not afford one, so I immersed myself in pony stories instead – Ruby Ferguson, Monica Edwards, the Pullein-Thompson sisters, Joanna Cannon, Pat Smythe… then I discovered history and the most wonderful writer, Rosemary Sutcliff. Her Mark of the Horse Lord always makes me cry, even though I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. Incidentally, we now have four Exmoor ponies, two showjumpers and a donkey! Dreams do happen!
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) It’s momentS, plural, I’m afraid.
Hearing from new writers that their books are doing well, and thanking me for my time and input into helping them reach that stage. Yes of course I would love to have awards and accolades for my own books, but you know what? These achievements by others mean even more to me. When a writer who started out doing everything wrong but was determined to learn how to do it right, and then starts to climb that rickety old ladder to the very top, well that is fantastic. I gave some of them a few hefty pushes I can tell you, but the reward of helping someone achieve their dream is absolutely wonderful.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) Especially, Sharon K. Penman who gave me that figurative shove to get me#y feet on my ladder, and Elizabeth Chadwick has remained such a good friend and ‘confidence booster’. Otherwise, apart from stalwart friends – writers and non-writers – I’ve done it on my own. My husband and daughter are both dyslexic and struggle with reading and the written word, so neither can help with my writing (even down to reading my books.)
But what they lack in that area they make up for in others: when I’m writing I don’t have to think about the everyday things such as shopping, housework and cooking. Mind you, I reckon my daughter has had to become a good cook because it was a matter of survival – cook or go hungry… I’m hopeless in the kitchen!
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*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.