I would like to introduce Author Helen Hollick, winner of the BRAG Medallion. She has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to give me the pleasure of a second interview.
Helen, I would like to begin by asking you about your reading interests. What was the last truly
great book you’ve read?
The last book I read from cover to cover without much of a pause was Elizabeth Chadwick’s Lady of the English. I was fascinated because, although I know a little about the war between Stephen and Matilda, I had absolutely no idea that Adeliza, widow of Henry I had even existed. It was a great thrill to read a beautifully written novel, and learn some accurate history at the same time.
Have you ever read a book and afterward wish you’d never read it?
Yes. I used to plod on, hoping that something would get better, but I now rarely continue reading books that have not grabbed my interest by page 50 – my sight isn’t so good and I have too big a “to be read” pile to waste time reading something that has not enticed me into the story. What is also disappointing is to read a good, exciting, novel only to find the end falls flat!
What were your favorite books as a child?
Mostly pony stories. I so desperately wanted a pony of my own – reading about ponies was the next best thing. Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson was always my favourite. I was given it as a birthday present (I think I was about 9) I still have the book (and I still enjoy reading it!)
What is on your night stand?
I am reading Jenny Barden’s debut novel Mistress of the Sea
Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?
This is an unfair question LOL! It’s like asking a mother which one of her children is her favourite! The Kingmaking is special because it was my first published novel; Harold the King (entitled I am the Chosen King in the US) is favourite because Harold is a hero of mine. The Forever Queen is special because that is the first of my books to hit the bestseller listings, and Sea Witch is a favourite because I put my soul into writing it.
So if I had to choose I’d pick…. Um….
I recently read, Sea Witch and enjoyed it very much! Please tell your audience a little about it.
Sea Witch is a blend of Sharpe meets Indiana Jones with a mix of Hornblower and Pirates of the Caribbean. It is the first of a pirate-based adventure fantasy series: with the fantasy being on the “plausible” side (as opposed to something magical like Harry Potter). I planned the series as an adventure romp at sea, with romance, action, a touch of mystery and a journey for my two main protagonists – Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his girlfriend/wife, Tiola.
Think of it as a sailor’s yarn – fun to write, fun to read.
I wrote Sea Witch because I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie (and Jack Sparrow swept me off my feet). I wanted to read something that was similar, but all the sea stores were straight historical nautical fiction – Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forrester, Julian Stockwin. Great books, but there’s not much “romance” and no fantasy – Jack Aubrey and Hornblower are wonderful characters but they aren’t Jack Sparrow! I couldn’t find a “pirate fix”…. So I wrote one myself.
I was born and raised in Florida and we have lived near the ocean for over half of my life. So I have always been drawn to nautical theme stories for as long as I can remember. What sets your book apart from other novels with nautical themes?
As I said above – that element of fantasy. I know these are movies, not books, but Indiana Jones and Star Wars are fantasy adventure tales – no way can they be real. But they are exciting. I wanted to add the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again romance; I wanted Tiola to not be an ordinary girl – she is a white witch (in the sense of the Force in Star Wars, not magic as in Harry Potter). I wanted to incorporate some of the old myths – so we have Tethys, the spirit/goddess of the sea who also wants Jesamiah for herself. I wanted the ship – Sea Witch – to almost be alive. (Any sailor will tell you that a ship is alive!) I wanted to write something fun and exciting with a drop-dead gorgeous sexy rogue of a charmer for a hero, a female character to balance his masculinity and a story that kept you turning the pages to find out what trouble Jesamiah is going to find himself in next…. And how he gets himself out of the sticky situations.
What is some of the research that was involved to write your story?
For the straight historicals – the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, and the two Saxon books, I researched the periods and the events thoroughly, adding my own interpretation on the whys and wherefores of various events. For the Sea Witch Voyages I have researched the nautical details as well as I can, and the background historical events – but it is nice writing the rest of it because I can just make it up. And the wonderful thing about non-historical characters – they get to stay alive at the end of the book!
Who is your favorite/least favorite character in Sea Witch?
Oh Jesamiah. I absolutely adore him – the rogue. To me he is real, I hear him talk, catch one of his chuckles, am aware of him tutting in the background if I don’t get on with the next chapter. Talk about a bossy-boots captain! LOL
Least favourite? Hmm I don’t think I have a least favourite. I don’t like some of the characters because they are not very nice people (Jesamiah’s half-brother, Phillipe, for instance – or Edward Teach, Blackbeard himself – now he was a horrible person in fiction and in fact, but I enjoy writing these dastardly blackguards because they are fun to create!
Was there anyone or anything that inspired you to write your story?
Jack Sparrow, and the reality of pirates. I decided to research the reality of the Golden Age of Piracy after watching the P.O.C. movie – just how much was fiction, how much was fact? The events I uncovered were fascinating: the sinking of the Spanish treasure fleet off the coast of Florida in a storm, for instance. Eleven or so ships went down and sailors swarmed like flies to salvage the gold. One privateer, Henry Jennings, however, decided to wait for the Spanish to retrieve most of it, then raided their warehouse, coming away a rich man. What a wonderful plot for a story! Jesamiah Acorne introduced himself too me – and what if Jennings was not the brains behind the enterprise? What if it was my character….? And the idea for Sea Witch was born.
Will you be writing anymore novels with nautical themes?
I have plans to write at least six Sea Witch Voyages – possibly more. I also want to do a few “spin-off” adventure tales based on my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner. Then I must write a third in the Saxon series – finishing off the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings…. Beyond that – who knows?
You won the B.R.A.G Medallion for Sea Witch. Could you tell us how you discovered indieBRAG?
Geri Clouston approached me with the idea because I am involved in reviewing indie and self-published historical fiction for the Historical Novel Society – I am the UK editor. I have also championed indie publishing for a few years now. For some writers self-publishing is the best, and only option. I happen to believe that indie novels can be every bit as good as – if not better at times – than traditionally published books. As long as the writer has the talent to write, and is prepared to produce the book to the highest standard and quality which means paying a professional editor and cover designer, and ensuring the book is produced and published to a high standard. To be good as a self-published author you have to think professional quality throughout.
The B.R.A.G. medallion project intends to award their “accolade” on only the better quality books – I hope the idea takes hold, because it is an excellent goal for Indie writers.
I must add the books that I had self-published with my previous UK company were poorly produced – the original edition of Sea Witch, for instance, was printed in Comic Sans and the first paragraph was centrally justified! The covers were very “self-published” in appearance and the overall quality rather poor. What a surprise that the company went bust and went out of business!
I am now with SilverWood Books UK, an assisted publishing company – and although there are still one or two missed typos (I swear that gremlins put them in after the final proof read) the books are of a superb standard in production. I have learnt from my errors though – I hope!
Helen, thank you so much for this lovely interview! It is always a pleasure to chat with you.
On the contrary – thank you
I live on the outskirts of NE London, England, close to Epping Forest with my husband and adult daughter – and a variety of pets. I have been passionate about books and writing all my life. My first employment was in a local library, where I discovered the history behind the legends of King Arthur, which eventually led to the writing of my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, the first of my historical novels.
I have been Chair of the local Dyslexia Association and worked part-time as a School Librarian in a Special Needs school. I especially enjoy encouraging new writers to achieve their dream of writing a novel. My best advice? ‘To finish, you must first get started!’
I was first published by William Heinemann (Random House UK) but when my books were not to be re-printed I obtained the copyright and re-published with a small UK independent company as part of their even smaller mainstream imprint. The company recently closed, however, so rather than fall out of print again here in the UK I republished with an assisted publishing company, SilverWood Books, based in Bristol.
My Historical Fiction novels are also published in the US by Sourcebooks Inc and I was delighted to make the USA Today best seller list with The Forever Queen in the summer of 2011.
I have recently volunteered to become the UK editor for the Historical Novel Society Online Review section, with the ultimate aim of improving the standard of self published historical fiction novels.
I firmly support writers who decide to publish their books as either “self” or “independent”, as I feel too many excellent writers are being overlooked for various reasons. It must be emphasised, however, that to be taken seriously self published authors must produce their books to a professional standard. There is no reason why a self published novel cannot be as good as any mainstream book. Which means professional editing and production. This costs money, but quality is never cheap.
The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy
(the ‘what might have really happened’ story of King Arthur)
Published by Sourcebooks US
And Silverwood Books UK
A Hollow Crown (UK title) / The Forever Queen (US title)
Harold the King (UK title) / I am the Chosen King (US title)
(The first two books of a proposed trilogy regarding the people and events that led to 1066 and the Battle of Hastings – probably the most famous date in English history)
The Sea Witch Voyages:
Voyage One: Sea Witch
Voyage Two: Pirate Code
Voyage Three: Bring it Close
Pirate-based adventure with a touch of fantasy.
Hornblower meets Richard Sharpe and Indiana Jones – at sea
If you enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you will love these.
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Helen Hollick who is the author of, Sea Witch, one of our medallion honorees at http://www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Sea Witch merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
BRAG Medallion is owned and operated by indieBRAG LLC, a privaltaly held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, throughout the United States, Canada, and the European Union. IndieBRAG’s mission is to recongnize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both in print and digital books.
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