In all honesty, if I was somehow transported back into the early 18th century, I don’t think I would love – even like - a real pirate. They were rather a horrible lot – thieves, murderers, uncouth – and smelly. But then I doubt any of us today would survive back then – we are too used to health and hygiene. (Where and how, I wonder, could I take my daily shower on a pirate ship? :-)
Fictional pirates are another matter entirely of course!
I think most of us who enjoy historical fiction, historical adventure and fantasy, enjoy a good book for its escapism, excitement – and maybe for the echoes of the past that linger in our DNA? The charmer of a rogue, the dashing gallant wielding pistol and cutlass – be he prince, knight, highwayman or pirate is a lure to the sense of romance. He has to be brave, strong, dependable – with only a hint of roughness. Capable in any situation, never flinching, but with that underlying vulnerability - and loyal to the one he loves or serves.
The typical hero.
I fell in love with my Jesamiah Acorne the moment I “met” him on a beach on the south coast of England. I had been walking in the rain, thinking up the plot and characters for Sea Witch, the first Voyage in my historical adventure fantasy series. I had the whole thing planned out, but not my dashing Pirate Captain.
I sat on a rock and gazed out at the cold, grey English Channel, imagining it as the Blue Caribbean. I looked up, and there, a few yards away was a man in pirate clothes – complete with cutlass and pistol, and a gold acorn as an earring. He touched his three corner hat in salute. “Hello Jesamiah Acorne” I said.
And that was it. I’ve been besotted by him ever since.
Now, whether I was seeing a vision of someone I knew in the past, or I just have a very fertile imagination, I don’t know. I did see him though.
irates – highwaymen, knights in armour, they are all characters that form the basis of an engrossing story. They are big and bold and have lots of daring-do adventures. Indeed, trouble follows Jesamiah like a ship’s wake. He is, in fact, only a true pirate in the first novel, Sea Witch, in Voyage Two, Pirate Code, he has accepted a government grant of amnesty (amnesty for the pirates was a true historical fact) but he gets embroiled in spying on the Spanish – and ends up with a beautiful woman of course. (He is rather a so-and-so for the ladies, I’m afraid). Voyage Three, Bring It Close, sees him again coerced into helping the right side of the law. He is arrested in Williamsburg, Virginia, for acts of piracy, where Governor Spotswood gives him a choice: help put an end to Edward Teach – Blackbeard himself – or hang. Spotswood’s campaign against Blackbeard is all fact – you just won’t find any reference to a certain Captain Jesamiah Acorne in the surviving records. But then, as you will read in the book, Jesamiah specifically asked for his name to be left out…. I so love binding real history with imagined make-believe!
I also love Tall Ships and anything nautical. I can’t, in reality, go off sailing the Seven Seas in a beautiful ship, but there is nothing to stop me doing so within the pages of a good book.
The trouble was, I couldn’t find the right book…. The Hornblower stories are great, but there’s not much, “romance” in them – the same with Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey books. Frenchman’s Creek was the closest to what I wanted – adventure and romance (well Ok, a bit of sex as well.) Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe was a superb character in book and TV form, with all the right ‘qualifications’ for an adventure romp – and on the movie screen there was Indiana Jones, James Bond – and Jack Sparrow to set the heart fluttering.
I took a pinch of all those characters and mixed them together with a hefty dash of historical fact and an exciting blend of supernatural fantasy, to create Jesamiah – and the books I wanted to read.
I so hope they are the adventure romp books you enjoy reading as well!
You are welcome to visit my website www.helenhollick.net
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You can win a copy of any of the Sea Witch books by Helen Hollick (in either print or ebook) by leaving a comment on this post telling us about your favourite pirate.
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- the contest closes on 7 August at Midnight GMT