I have posted reviews of the Sea Witch books this week and now it is time for an interview with the author Helen Hollick. And you can also win a book today (open to all).
Tell us something about yourself, so we can get to know you better…
I live in the outskirts of London, England – between a busy suburban town and the 6,000 acres of Epping Forest where all the Kings and Queens of England used to hunt, indeed, Queen Elizabeth I’s hunting lodge can still be seen. I live with my husband Ron, adult daughter Kathy; a dog, Rum and cat, Mab. In the back yard we have Ron’s homing pigeons, my three hens and a variety of goldfish and Koi. There is just about room for a few flowers and a small vegetable patch! We also have three horses, but fortunately for our patch of grass that I grandly call a lawn, they are kept at a nearby livery yard.
I have always wanted to write and was accepted for publication back in 1993 – a week after my 40th birthday.
Could you tell me about your Pirates series?
I had the inspiration for the first book – Sea Witch – soon after falling for Johnny Depp’s wonderful Captain Jack Sparrow. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was so exciting and such fun to watch, pure enjoyable escapism, that I wanted to find something similar to read. There were plenty of nautical-based novels: Hornblower, Patick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, James L. Nelson’s series of novels – Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, and several books for children and teenagers, but there was nothing that matched P.O.C. for adventure, entertainment – sex – and fantasy. So I wrote my own; the book I wanted to read. What I did not expect, was to fall head over heels in love with my main character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, or have the inspiration to turn the one book into a series. At the moment there are three “Voyages” as I call them, with a fourth half written. I plan at least six – maybe more, but that will depend on how well the others do.
The series is set in the early 1700’s – Sea Witch starts in January 1716, and I intend to travel forward with the series to about 1725 or maybe a little beyond that. Although I have a slight fantasy element – the Goddess of the Sea, Tethys, for instance, and Jesamiah’s girlfriend, Tiola Oldstagh, is a White Witch, I try to stay within the bounds of the believable. I don’t use “Harry Potter” type magic, mine is more along the lines of the Force in Star Wars.
My nautical detail is as accurate as I can get it, thanks to the assistance of author James L. Nelson who kindly edits the sailing detail for me. I have based the Sea Witch (the ship) on the Rose, now known as HMS Surprise. Technically she is a little later in date than my books are set, but I am not writing historical fiction here, these are historical adventure novels. I do, however, research the history thoroughly and use a factual background where I can. Occasionally I will shift the facts slightly – but I always make a note of the “poetic licence” scenes in my author’s notes.
In Bring It Close, for instance (Voyage Three) the story revolves around that most famous of pirates, Edward Teach – Blackbeard himself. I even went to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to research the history for this book, investigating the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol building and the gaol. I so enjoy blending the reality of facts in with the adventure fantasy, in this instance things worked very well. Jesamiah is arrested and tried for acts of piracy – in exchange for his life he is coerced into helping rid the seas of Blackbeard. (Trouble follows Acorne like a ship’s wake) We know great detail about Blackbeard and his demise because records were kept – Lt Maynard who attacked him in the shallows of the Ocracoke kept a meticulous log of the events, and the pirates, once captured were taken for trial (and hanging) to Williamsburg. It was so easy to assume that my Jesamiah was behind the planning and involved in the fight – as he states in the novel, he wants no mention of his name been recorded. So that is why you will not find him in the records, Maynard complied with the request and took the credit for himself!
Since most like pirates and would surely love a movie, then who would play the main characters?
Oh this is difficult as I’m not really a movie-goer (despite being co-screenplay writer for the proposed movie 1066) I only know of a handful of actors and actresses, and most of them are from the old movies.,,,, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn…. *laugh* hopeless aren’t I! There’s Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner… Johnny Depp of course, but he is Jack Sparrow, it wouldn’t be right to have him play a different pirate.
I think I would rather have the Sea Witch Voyages as a TV drama series though, not a movie – to not compete with Pirates of the Caribbean, and because you can go into more depth with a TV series. I’m thinking of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series here – Sean Bean (now there’s one sexy actor!) I would love Sea Witch to be made with the same quality of that series – and with such fantastic actors. One can but dream and hope….
Maybe your Blog readers could make some suggestions for who they would choose to play Jesamiah and Tiola?
What is the best thing about writing the Pirates series?
The books are fun to write, I don’t have the restriction of having to stick to historical fact and I can be as imaginative as I like. I adore my Jesamiah, so its fun “being” with him a lot of the time (he does get himself into some dreadful scrapes – nasty and nice ones! He needs to learn to keep his breeches buttoned more often though!)
The best thing of all – unlike my historical novels about real people of the past….. Jesamiah gets to stay alive at the end of each book!
Do you usually do a lot of research for your books?
Yes. Apart from researching the historical facts, I do a lot of research about the places used in various scenes, and shipping and sailing detail as well. I look into the correct clothing, food, drink. Any books I mention that Jesamiah might be reading I make sure were available. For the ship herself, the “facts” do not quite fit the period, as the Rose (HMS Surprise) was built about fifty years later – but I si love that ship, I just had to use her as a “template”.
I have also researched a lot about midwifery. Tiola Oldstagh (pronounced Teo-la Oldstaff), Jeamiah’s girlfriend – and later in the series, his wife – is a White Witch of Craft, but she is also a healer and midwife. You will find that the scenes where she is helping a woman give birth, particularly in Bring It Close are highly accurate. I am fortunate in that my step-granddaughter, Nicola, is a qualified midwife!
Could you tell me about a little about all the other books you have written?
I have several historical fiction novels published in the UK with SilverWood Books and in North America with Sourcebooks Inc. My Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King are about King Arthur – the what might have really happened story. There is no magic, no Lancelot, Merlin or holy grail, just the down to earth story of a man who had to fight hard to gain his kingdom, and even harder to keep it – and the woman he loved, Gwenhwyfar.
I also have two books about 11th century Saxon England. The first is The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) the story of a remarkable woman – Queen Emma. I am proud to announce that this book has recently entered the US Today bestseller list, so I am officially a bestselling author! Following directly on from where Forever Queen finishes is the next chapter of history – the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Harold the King (UK title) / I am the Chosen King (US title) is about the turmoil of dramatic events that culminated in the Norman Conquest.
(note up to date UK covers of these books available upon request)
Are you writing something exciting at the moment?
I have had a lot of editing to do to get my books ready for the US market – with that completed I did not expect to have to start all over again with my UK editions, but my previous UK publisher had financial problems and I recently had to change to a new publishing house – SilverWood Books. Because I did not have any updated, usable files returned to me I had to re-edit all my original ones – a mammoth task! Hence the updated Sea Witch books are very new into the publication process, and may not quite yet be available from Amazon,com…. But they will be very soon!
I have the Pendragon’s Banner books to complete for the UK, but I am taking a bit of a break from editing at the moment so that I can get on with completing the fourth Sea Witch Voyage Ripples in the Sand. This story brings Jesamiah and Tiola to Devon, England, where Cpt Acorne hopes to legally sell a cargo of tobacco – and illegally pass on several barrels of brandy. He gets mixed up in a jail-break, smuggling, and a planned Jacobite rebellion. Meanwhile, Tiola must look into the past – time slip – to establish just why Tethys, the goddess of the sea, is so determined to have Jesamiah for herself.
I hope then to write another serious Historical Fiction novel…. And I would love to do a spin-off adventure series based on my Arthur books!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
For one thing – if you don’t write it, it will not get published!
Everyone can write a novel, but not every novel is readable, so if you are intending to self publish it is essential that you have a professional edit your book – and not just a “copy edit” for spelling, punctuation and grammar. You will need someone to be honest about the content, to correct the flaws in continuity, or point of view changes (head hopping) or to point out where there is too much “tell” not “show” – and too much “author’s voice. Writing, you see, is not just being able to tell a story, there is a technical side to it as well. But don’t be put off – the technical stuff can be learnt!
For anyone interested I have an article about hints and tips for writing called Discovering The Diamond http://www.helenhollick.net/culpa41.html
. As soon as I get a chance I intend to also have it available, for free, on Kindle.
Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for having me – and my pirate!
You are welcome to visit my website
join me on Facebook –
or come aboard the Sea Witch page
The prize: Sea Witch, book 1.Hardback or e-copy, your choice
(but if you already got it then I am sure we can get you book 2 or 3 instead)
And Helen will also send a gift by mail to you
1. Ends August 4th
2. Open to everyone in the world
3. Just enter
or answer Helen’s question
“Maybe your Blog readers could make some suggestions for who they would choose to play Jesamiah and Tiola?”