Like a lot of people, I dearly loved Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl. Mister Depp had owned my attention ever since Cry Baby in 1990. And I’d always had a soft spot for pirates, possibly dating back to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride I’d loved at Disney World.
I confess to being a geek, which is to say, I tend to fixate on the things I’m interested in. I immediately began to read up on pirates. And because I’m a costume geek as well, I made my own pirate costume, using real 18th century patterns.
Then the Exhibition Whydah traveling pirate exhibit came to my local museum. It changed my life.
I’d never seen pirates put into a social context before. Learning about Sam Bellamy, and his war against the world, and his dreams of a changed social order made me want to do something to spread this story. Government by the people, for the people, was an Idea whose time had come in the New World, and come a lot earlier than anyone knew. I’d been writing short stories for years, even had a novel I was shopping around. Now I wanted to write about pirates.
For months I did additional research… More non-fiction, reading the transcripts from 300-year-old pirate trials on the Old Baily website (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/) and also attending pirate festivals, where I had a chance to wear my costumes, and check out the costumes of more experienced reenactors. I hauled the ropes of a real wooden ship, wrote my name with a quill pen, and made a concerted effort to see every Treasure Island movie ever made. I knew I wanted to write about a female pirate, but the exact details of the woman’s personality escaped me.
Eventually, while I was putting on a costume for yet another pirate festival, I decided to try something new, and pin up the skirt for walking. This simple gesture gave me the personality of the female pirate captain I was seeking. She was busy. She had things to do, and no time to spend primping or preening or trying to make herself look pretty. If a man wanted her company, he had to take her as she was. If a woman wanted to sneer, she’d get laughter in return. Scarlet MacGrath captained a pirate ship. Why should she care what anyone thought of her?
The character was alive in a way that few modern people are. She savored every moment, because each one might be her last. She had hard times and loneliness behind her – no one becomes a pirate because they’re doing too well at life – and she had even more hard times, and a lot of heartbreak ahead of her (or I wasn’t doing my job as a writer.) But she’s never backed down, and she’ll never give up, and she would not, for one moment feel sorry for herself. She just wasn’t that kind of girl.
I’ve got two books published already, and another on the way in what will ultimately be a nine book series, telling the story of one woman’s life in a time when the world was trying out the idea of personal freedom for the first time.
But even the books weren’t enough. For years people had been telling me that I ought to blog, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. Now I had it… All the research that wouldn’t fit in the book would go into a blog.
January 24th marks the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ve put up 56 posts (due to a brief stint of trying to do two posts a week.)
One of the other things people told me was that, if I could keep up regular posts for a year, that good things would happen to me. And they have. My books increase in sales regularly, and my rakings have gone up and up until I’m one of the top pirate bloggers in the world. People seek me out for my expertise on the subject.
And I’ve just started a new gig, writing reviews for Den of Geek. Check me out here. http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/black-sails/232288/black-sails-episode-1-review-spoiler-free And definitely check out Black Sails on Starz.
I promise that there’s a moral to my little story… Follow your dreams, just like the pirates did. But stay in it for the long haul. Effort pays off. It’s paying off for me.
Author of the Pirate Empire series