Tuesday 12 July 2016

Guest Blog by Helen Hollick: Pirates, Night-Walkers and White Witches!

The Nautical Fiction genre has many different sub-genres within it and once of the most entertaining – and original – has been virtually created by one writer, my friend Helen Hollick. You may have encountered her previously as a guest in my blog and I’ve invited her back to mark the launch of her latest novel in a series she herself describes as “Nautical Adventure with a touch of Fantasy”. There’s a message in her blog also for aspiring writers – don’t be put off by refusals and hang in there doggedly! Though I operate at the other end of the Nautical Fiction spectrum (gritty and linked to real events) I can endorse her advice wholeheartedly.
                                                                                                        Antoine Vanner 

The Fascination of Fantasy

By Helen Hollick

I wrote the first Voyage of my Sea Witch series because I had enjoyed the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl. (Have to admit I didn’t think much of the others.) The movie was fun. It was not meant to be taken seriously – a sailor’s yarn of a tale.

I wanted to read something similar, a nautical adventure to be read with a large pinch of salt. Something written for fun, to be read for fun. I also wanted something with an adult content. I’m not talking erotica or OTT horror or violence, just an adult book for adult readers with a bit of realists adult content. I found plenty of young adult novels (Pirates! By Celia Rees as a good example). Plenty of ‘straight’ nautical fiction – and as much as I love C.S. Forrester and Patrick O’Brian they are somewhat lacking in the make-believe department, and even in the ‘romance’ side of things. (Not  exactly many women taking major roles in their books are there?)

So, simple solution. Write the book I wanted to read.
Sea Witch was the result, followed by Pirate Code, Bring It Close, Ripples In The Sand and now, released on 7th July 2016 the Fifth Voyage, On The Account.

Rather frustratingly, though, no publisher or agent wanted Sea Witch. They loved the story, but all said the same two things:

Adults do not read pirate novels.
It will not be easy to market a cross-genre novel.
(Heavy sigh from me.)

The first is utter nonsense. Adults adore pirates, whether it be movies, TV shows (look at the popularity of Black Sails) Re-enactments, pirate festivals – Talk Like A Pirate Day….

The second? Maybe a good point, but deciding to go Indie after these sort of comments I have had no problem whatsoever with marketing. Publishers like their novels to be square pegs in square holes – Indie authors can be any shape we like! I market the series as Nautical Adventure with a touch of Fantasy. They are a blend of P.O.B., Hornblower, Indiana Jones, James Bond and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe.

The fantasy in my series I try to keep as believable as I can – there are no mermaids, but there is, spread through the series, a ghost, a Night-Walker and the spirit of the sea, Tethys. Plus my lead female protagonist, Tiola Oldstagh, the ‘love interest’ for my pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne. She is a white witch, a Wising Woman, the last of the Old Ones. I think of her powers as having more of ‘the Force’ as in Star Wars rather than the magic spells of Harry Potter.

As for Maha'dun the Night-Walker, who has a considerable part in this fifth Voyage, no he is not a vampire. Night creatures are not restricted to handsome guys (or gals) who wander about afraid of the sun baring very sharp fangs. Owls are night-dwellers. Bats are night dwellers, so are my Night-Walkers.

Alas I am not going to reveal what he is here, as that is to come in Voyage Six, Gallows Wake. But no, he does not have fangs and he does not drink blood. He was also great fun to write, especially as Jesamiah assumes that he is Tiola’s lover – that causes a stir between husband and wife I can tell you!

So why the interest in fantasy? Why not just stick to the straight nautical romps? Why do readers like dragons, elves, fairies, witches, wizards, vampires, mermaids… lah lah lah….?

Simple answer. Escapism.

We all like to believe that there is magic around us, in whatever shape or form. Perhaps because ordinary life is too boring, mundane or plain normal. Who can deny looking at a rainbow and automatically thinking of that pot of gold which is supposed to rest at its end? Who cannot gaze up at the stars and think of alien worlds?

Mind you, I still haven’t quite figured out the attraction of pirates and vampires – aren’t they supposed to kill people? Ah, perhaps that is the point – there’s safe danger lurking behind their smiles! No matter how dark, how fearful the narrative of a book (or a movie) it is all make-believe, we can enjoy being thrilled, frightened – or fall in love – knowing our real lives are perfectly safe.

So it is like I said. Escapism.
Although maybe I could add ‘Romantic’ Escapism! 

The Sea Witch Voyages – swashbuckling nautical adventure yarns for adults
Sea Witch : Voyage One
Pirate Code : Voyage Two
Bring It Close : Voyage Three
Ripples In The Sand : Voyage Four
On The Account : Voyage Five  


Twitter: @HelenHollick
Author Page on an Amazon near you : http://viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick

1066 Turned Upside Down (e-book) https://1066turnedupsidedown.blogspot.co.uk/


  1. Thank you Antoine for welcoming me onto your blog!

  2. Inspiring, as always, and I'm enjoying On the Account. I like your bold style, Helen, and your very engaging writing style. Looking forward to posting about it on my blog next week!

  3. As an honest-to-goodness descendant of Jean Lafitte I can say; yes, yes and yes. LOL

    Initially, I was hoping that Tiola had a touch of Anne Bonny and Mary Read in her, with a tad of Jeanne de Clisson thrown in. But "a Wising Woman, the last of the Old Ones?" Should be interesting.

    1. Anne Bonny will appear as herself in a future Sea Witch Voyage - probably Voyage Seven!