Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Guest post from Helen Hollick, author of SEA WITCH

I'm honored to welcome Helen Hollick as part of her 2011 tour for the re-release of her exciting SEA WITCH series. I've been a fan of Helen's work since her debut Arthurian-themed novel, The Kingmaking; her pirate books featuring the rakish, sexy, unpredictable Captain Jesamiah offer a galleon-load of adventure, danger, and fun, and are now available in brand-new beautiful editions from Silverwood Books.

Please join me in welcoming Helen Hollick.

The setting sail of my Sea Witch series of pirate-based historical adventure fantasy books has not been all calm seas and fair winds. But it has been fun and immensely exciting! When historical fiction was foundering on the rocks of unpopularity a few years ago, my (ex) agent suggested I write something more “sellable”. “What about Harry Potter?” she said.
“Well I don’t really write teenage or fantasy do I?”I grimaced back. This was the Bespectacled Wizard period – prior to the Twinkly Vampire phase. It was also the opening manoeuvres of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, though. And a pirate novel appealed…Enjoying the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, I had become intrigued by the facts of the Golden Age of Piracy – a short-lived period in history, from the late 17th – early 18th Century.
Soon after my dispiriting chat with my agent, the entire plot and most of the characters came to me one afternoon in late October, while on vacation in Dorset, England. I remember the afternoon well.

It was drizzling with rain and I had the entire beach to myself. I looked out at the grey English Channel and saw instead the sparkling blue of the Caribbean (proves I have a fertile imagination!) I started writing as soon as I got back to the hotel, and didn’t stop for the next three months, except for Christmas Day when I took pity on my family who had almost forgotten what I looked like. My agent hated the result. “This isn’t for boys!” she exclaimed.
Er, no. I don’t write for children. I write adult fiction. I specifically wrote Sea Witch for the many adults (especially us swooning ladies) who enjoyed the movie, loved Jack Sparrow even more, and were desperate for similar pirate-based fiction to read.

There are plenty of nautical fiction books around; Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian – the fabulous Frenchman’s Creek… but nothing that came even remotely close to the excitement, humour, fantasy - and sex-appeal, of Captain Sparrow. As a writer the solution had seemed simple and obvious. Write the book I wanted to read. My agent did not believe me when I told her adults wanted to read pirate adventures, and historical adventure fantasy. She told me to write it for teenage boys. I stuck to my 9lb pirate guns and refused. I knew I had a good story. I knew my main character - Jesamiah Acorne - had the potential to, one day, become a winner.
So my agent and I parted company, and I was simultaneously informed that my UK publisher had decided to not re-publish my back list.

It looked like my writing career was finished. I sobbed for two weeks, then pulled myself together and found a small independent UK company who offered to take me on with their even smaller mainstream imprint. There were a few hiccups, and the books were not as well produced as I would have liked – but at least Sea Witch, and my backlist - having regained the rights, were in print. I went on to write two more Jesamiah stories and Sourcebooks Inc in the US picked up my serious historical fiction – the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, Forever Queen (entitled A Hollow Crown here in the UK) and I am the Chosen King (Harold the King in the UK) I was back in business again – plus I am co-scriptwriter for a planned movie 1066. Everything was looking good. Fate has a habit of bursting your bubble doesn’t it?

In early spring, my UK publisher hit financial problems and I found myself, once again, on the verge of being out of print here in the UK. I was not going to let that happen. I adore my characters and value my readers too much, so using a small legacy inherited from my Mum, I took my books to a UK assisted publishing house – SilverWood Books. Not having my files I have undertaken a mammoth re-edit of all my books. The Arthurian Trilogy is to be completed but Harold the King, Sea Witch, Pirate Code and Bring It Close are in print here in the UK, with the Sea Witch Voyages out very soon via (and hopefully in bookstores, although it is hard for UK writers to get books into US stores, even if I am officially a Bestselling Author with Forever Queen!)

I have faith in my charmer of a rogue pirate, so as soon as Amazon manages to list the books Jesamiah will be making full sail with all guns cleared for action! I describe him as Sharpe, Hornblower, Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow all rolled into one; and the books as a “sailors yarn”. They are based on historical fact – although I do bend accuracy a little (liberties are clarified in my author’s note.) My nautical scenes are as accurate as I can get them, thanks to editing by US maritime author James L. Nelson, and the fantasy elements are more akin to the Star Wars Force, not Harry Potter wizardry, for all that Jesamiah’s woman, Tiola Oldstagh, is a white witch!

There are storms at sea, pirate chases; fighting, humour and romance – the goddess of the sea, who wants Jesamiah for herself and Jesamiah’s ghost of a father - everything expected in an adventure series! As Elizabeth Chadwick kindly endorses (she loves the books, I am delighted to say): "A wonderful swash-buckler of a novel. Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean will love this to pieces of eight! Prepare to be abducted by a devil-may-care pirate and enchanted by a white witch. Helen Hollick has written a fabulous historical adventure that will have you reading into the small hours!" I hope so!

To learn more about Helen and her work, please visit her website
or visit the Sea Witch page


brokenteepee said...

I have this delightful book on my shelf and just wish I had the time to read it.

Pirates, aaarrgh.

C.W. Gortner said...

I know, I love pirates - and Helen's book is such fun!

Helen Hollick said...

Pricilla - I hope you get a chance soon! :-)

Thanks for inviting me aboard your blog Chris! Great to be here!

Cathy said...

Delighted that you're back- love both the 'serious' books, and also the pirate books! Looking forward to a 1066 movie too

Paula Lofting said...

Good luck with everything Helen, you've been a great inspiration to me.


Unknown said...

I have been looking for this kind of book.really find interesting and insightful.Everything else you describe, makes it seem like a book I'd love.I loved this book for the beauty of the writing!
High School Diploma Online

Helen Hollick said...

thank you for all the lovely comments.

Your Blog readers, Chris, might be interested to know that there is another competition open world wide (closes 8th August 2011) to win a CD - Songs of a Sea Witch - various songs of a nautical nature by UK singer/songwriter Bronwen Harrison - a CD to compliment the Sea Witch Voyages

You can find out more about Bronwen, listen to a few excerpts and enter the compettion by leaving a comment at the bottom of

good luck - and thank you again for showing such enthusiastic interest in Jesamiah and my books!