a novel at its very beginning

i’ve only been thinking about it for about a month.  a pirate novel.  with a woman pirate.  set in the caribbean.  there are about a million pirates of the caribbean stories out there.  why on earth would i want to enter such a crowded genre?

so i ordered all the library books on pirates.  i got books on grace o’malley.  i got books on port royal, jamaica.  i got books on the spanish empire and piracy.  yummy yummy.  and of course i spent days sitting looking up pirate strongholds like tortuga and providence, and researching the spanish main, and reading up on pirates.  there’s so much basic research to do it’s daunting.

jim and i were thinking about what if grace o’malley set sail after her meeting with queen elizabeth, and instead of living her last decade in her cold and musty tower, she sailed off to the caribbean with her ships and her sailors, and started over in the colonies?

grace o’malley lived from 1530 to 1603, supposedly.  not a whole lot is known, but she’s one hell of a character.  there are a few other novels about grace o’malley – here and here and here.

they say the golden age of piracy was the last half of the 1600s.  grace’s time, the last half of the 1500s, was the infancy.  during grace’s time, there wasn’t much for an english, or an anti-english pirate to do in the caribbean.  but, since i don’t know much, i had better check my facts.

i’m not sure what to call my pirate novel.  i’m not sure when to set it, or where.  and the more i think of it, the more i just want to make up someone entirely and put her on a fantasy pirate island and make her responsible for a chunk of faux history.  but no bodice rippers.

and then this crazy idea comes into my head – why don’t i have a modern pirate in the same waters?  or why don’t i have an archeologist in the ruins of these pirate strongholds that dot the sea?  or why don’t i have someone catapulted back to the golden age from some mishap in the bermuda triangle?  why don’t i have a whole dynasty of pirate queens starting with grace (who was too old to have kids) and going all the way up to the modern day, when someone very like suzie from my novel, splat, is being a modern pirate, which i guess means running some sort of contraband stolen from some passing criminal.  and then somehow she’s transported back to grace’s day.

and it kind of stalls there.  i could do a dynasty, i could even present some of them at the same time as the others.  but mixing them?  adding science fiction?  or fantasy:  time travel, anyway.

i know i need a twist.  something to make it drastically different from other pirates of the caribbean stories.  i’m not really that interested in submerging my readers in a swashbuckling tale full of pirate speak, either.  that’s why i like a modern transgressive  protagonist.  quaint speech and customs can be made fun of, and local conditions can be reported with breathless horror.  but i’m  not sure about time travel.  or psychic, or other mystical.  the easiest for me to imagine is a modern pirate thrown into history by the bermuda triangle.

it could happen.

what appeals to me now is a fictional pirate island thru the entire 150 years of official piracy, and on until today and the modern version of piracy.  a dynasty of pirates.  a family, a clan of pirates.  a pirate state.

and today, right now, they’re opening up a pirate theme park on the island, with buccaneer raids on passing cruise ships where the passengers willingly hand over money and jewels.  everybody on the island is a real pirate, but nobody takes them seriously.

they change their strategies with every passing generation.

i like it told from the present perspective.  i want real characters way back in the 1500s and every period of pirate history since then.  i want them meddling in all sorts of real history and melting away into the mists afterwards.  i want them to be able to trace the line back to ancient mediterranean pirates, and further, to chinese pirates.

wherever there are riches, there are pirates.  pirates by sea, bandits by land.

jim wants to end the story with a teenager holding up the ticket booth of the pirate theme park, the new generation making its move on the establishment.


About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on January 23, 2010, in author's note, pirate, research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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