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Friday, 2 March 2012

Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

The agent sat in her office puffing at her cigarette. "What you need to do, darling, is write a fantasy novel."
"But I don't do fantasy, do I? I write historical fiction."
"Yes but Harry Potter is all the rage. Why not write something for teenagers?"

The author trudged down four flights of stairs and out into the London rain wondering if she could afford tea at the Ritz. She really didn't want to write fantasy. Nor for teenagers. She liked writing historical fiction, she liked character interaction, the what motivates people, what makes them tick. She liked writing about rugged heroes that were the sort of men you wouldn't want to get into a drinking contest with, but who would, all the same, be there to fix the fuse, and know where the torch was!

A Holiday. A wet, windy October afternoon. The rain had poured all morning, but by early afternoon an apologetic sun was squinting from behind a barricade of grey cloud. The author decided to walk the dogs on the beach.
All week she had been researching her latest interest; the truth behind pirates. Now the film she had seen was all very well, but it was not historically accurate was it? Tortuga, for instance, was cleared of pirates in the late 1600's; Port Royal was just a naval base. Pirates did not turn into skeletons. But they did wear bright ribbons, wave cutlasses about, get drunk and have an awful lot of fun.

As she was walking down the steep cliff-path, minding the bunny-burrows and reminding one of the dogs that it was not a good idea to get stuck down one again, she wondered; "What would happen if a charming rogue, such as Jack Sparrow, met up with a white witch? Not someone like Hermione in Harry P.,  someone more like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars? A good witch, who had the Craft. She can't do magic, has no wand or spells, but she can summon a wind, or talk to her lover via telepathy.

At the bottom of the cliff, the author crossed the stream and stepped onto the beach. Immediately, she was almost knocked over by a blast from the wind, and the dogs went haring off after those two seagulls that had been bugging them all week.
The tide was ebbing, the breakers all white foam and rolling excitement. She walked along listening to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, cursing because the earpiece kept falling out of her ear.
Sitting on a rock, she gazed out at the ocean. It was the English Channel really, but an author has a vivid imagination. It was not too difficult to picture the hot Caribbean sun; waving palm trees; the rich turquoise blue of the sea. It rained again. Quickly, she switched to a different scene. The Florida reefs, 1715. Eleven Spanish galleons went down laden with treasure.

What if... her mind was racing, her heart beginning to thud with excitement. What if there was a 12th ship? A pirate ship? A ship that a young, handsome rogue had just commandeered? His first captaincy... he survived the storm, would want to get another ship as soon as possible.... he had a brother, a half-brother, who had bullied him as a child. A brother who had burnt his only possession, a boat called.... Acorn! The author was getting really excited now! The boy fled the Virginia tobacco plantation and became a pirate. He had a few adventures, got rich on plunder, but was, underneath all the swagger and pretence, lonely. It was alright having crumpets and strumpets, but there was also the horror of the hangman's noose dangling over him. Then one day he meets a girl. He was in deep do-do, wounded and being chased by East India Company agents and this girl... no, not a girl... the white witch... rescues him. They fall in love, but he misses the sea. Because of er, because of (the author decided to think of a because of later) because of dah-di-dah happening, there is a mix up. The pirate assumed the girl didn't love him anymore. And the girl, who was really a white witch, thought the pirate didn't love her anymore. So they were both miserable for a few months. The pirate found solace in a rum bottle (as pirates do) and the girl gave in and married the rich creep who had been pestering her all this time. Then the pirate's brother caught up with him (very annoyed because the pirate had stolen his ship)

The author's backside was getting a bit numb, so she walked on up the beach.

The annoyed bully-brother is in league with the creep who married the girl... Tiola! the author thought, her name is Tiola. (Say it as ‘Teeola’, not ‘Tee…Oh…La’)Tiola what? Tiola is all that is good - a.l.l.t.h.a.t.i.s.g.o.o.d. An anagram! Of... furious muttering... an anagram of Tiola Oldstagh!

The author walked on, she was nearing the far side of the bay now and the tumble of rocks that were full of fossils and things. Or so the guide books said. She had never found one.
OK, so the annoyed bully-brother is in league with the creep. The two men are plotting to capture the pirate and have him hanged - Captain Woodes Rogers, a real figure in history, has just become Governor of Nassau and is offering a pardon to all pirates. The two creeps arrange to meet at Nassau, guessing that the pirate will turn up looking for amnesty. Which he does - but the bully-brother nabs him and  chains him up in the bilge of a ship and heads off back to Virginia. He wants to have his fun first and punish the pirate for stealing his ship.

Tiola loves her pirate. She tells her husband to go jump in a lake and boarding the pirate's ship (which he has called Sea Witch) sets off in pursuit of her true love - having to conjure up a wind to do so. Meanwhile, the author could see a small sub-plot coming here… something about Tethys, goddess of the sea who wanted the pirate for herself?

The author was quite pleased. Lots of action, adventure and character interaction. The chance to get to know these two young lovers, the tried and trusted boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl then finds her again plot.
So all she needed was her pirate.

The wide sweep of the beach was deserted. She looked at the wet sand where the tide was scurrying in with lace-edged patterns of foam. Saw a man standing there, twenty yards away. He was tall, rugged. Had an untidy chaos of curled, dark hair with a few blue ribbons fluttering in the wind tied into it. He wore knee high boots, a faded coat and a three cornered hat. He was looking out to sea but he turned, grinned at her, showing the flash of two gold teeth. With his right hand he gave the author a small, acknowledging salute. An earring dangled from one ear. An earring shaped like an acorn.
"Hello Jesamiah Acorne," the author said.

And the author swears that every word is true.
Helen Hollick 
Amazon US 


CelticLady said...

Interesting how an authors mind it..

Holly Weiss said...

Great story. Never discount the creative process.

Helen Hollick said...

Thank you for inviting me onto your fantastic blog - great idea to feature the commoners for a change!

Helen Hollick said...

oh and thank you CelticLady and Holly Weiss for adding comments. I love writing my Sea Witch series, the whole idea was for the books to be fun to write and fun to read.
And how many people can actually claim they have their very OWN pirate!

Christy K Robinson said...

I found your blog through Helen Hollick's links in Facebook. If this space weren't royalty-free, I'd be making a deep curtsey to you for the brilliant idea. :)

I love historical fiction, but frankly, am burned out on fantasy fiction about royalty and their associates, particularly the 15th and 16th centuries. Not that I read that genre, but I have many author friends who debate it endlessly.

I'm about 90% finished writing my second book (first HF) on some of the major characters of America's Great Migration, set from 1629-1660. My next novel isn't plotted, but I know its subject: non-royals of a similar period in England. The characters actually existed--and did remarkable things in extreme circumstances and repeated disasters. No way were they "common." And whether or not we carry their DNA, we reap the benefits of their heroism.

Jenny Q said...

What a great story! Gave me chills! I loved Hollick's Pendragon trilogy and I've got Sea Witch sitting on my shelf but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Sounds like I need to!

Jessica McCann said...

Isn't it wonderful how inspiration strikes when you least expect it? Sea Witch sounds like a fun read. I'm off to look it up on Goodreads and put it on my "to-read" shelf. Thanks for sharing the story of how it came to life.

Helen Hollick said...

thank you for all your lovely comments - good luck with your book Christy, and Jenny & Jessica, I hope you enjoy the romp with my pirate! (Let me know what you think)

Connie Jensen said...

I love this story Helen- just as with many other posts on this super blog, it really makes me want to read it- and I don't have a lot of time for pirates normally!

William said...

This just seems like a perfect story, Helen. Your narrative of how you came to the story is so strong, I can only imagine how good the novel will be! It sounds very exciting.