Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Wayward Voyage, a fascinating story of female pirates in the early eighteenth century. Today I’m delighted to host a Qand A session with Anna M Holmes, the author of Wayward Voyage.
Q: What was the seed of the idea for WAYWARD VOYAGE?
I first heard about real-life pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read more than twenty years ago. As a feminist I was fascinated by these women embodying ‘girl power’. I didn’t have the slightest ambition to write about them, but I wanted to find out more. This was before the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out and there were few pirate books in print, and the internet was in its infancy.
Q: So, what happened next?
I found a reference to The General History of Pirates by Captain Charles Johnson which was first published in 1724 so contemporaneous with the so-called Golden Age of Piracy. I ordered it from the British Library Stacks and when it came it was an ancient crumbling tome. It must have been one of the earliest editions, and I felt honoured to have this in my hands. Now reprints are widely available, and one click on a web retailer page will do the trick. It is in The General History of Pirates that Anne’s and Mary’s stories are first told, along with Jack Rackham’s. How much is founded on ‘fact’ we don’t know, but this is what we have to go on.
Q: And did this spark you to write?
Yes! I have a background in journalism, dance and theatre and could image this vividly. I love film so first I wrote a screenplay. But getting screenplays read, never mind produced, is a long shot. Years later I returned to the story and wondered if I had it in me to write a novel.
Q: What kind of research did you do?
I revisited many books (political history, social history, sailing in the age of sail) and much more. I returned to the National Archives at Kew, South London, to read historical documents and letters from Woodes Rogers who was Governor of The Bahama’s at this period. Snippets of what he actually wrote made their way into my book. It was at the archives that I first handled an original copy of the 1720’s pirates’ trial in Jamaica.
But research wasn’t all about reading. Years ago, I signed on as voyage crew on the Lord Nelson, a tall ship owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust. That week sailing in the Canary Islands learning to handle ropes and (in the safety of port) going aloft to take in or drop sails will stick in my mind forever. You are in a world of your own out there. I recall my wobbly legs going aloft for the first time and inching tentatively along the lower yardarm. By the end of the week, I had ventured to furthest reach of the higher yard. I make use of this experience describing Anne’s first time aloft.
Q: Who is your ideal reader for WAYWARD VOYAGE?
Before beginning, I thought of what books I liked to read as a young woman. So, women readers and young women readers best of all. That said, my partner who is neither female nor young enjoyed the book and he can be super critical! As a young woman I enjoyed many of Daphne du Maurier’s and Mary Stewart’s books. And Anya Setons. I loved getting caught up in the stories. Those titles are from earlier generations of authors. My worldview belongs to this era and I am writing for women readers in 2021 who can deal with strong language and some gritty scenes. This is not a bodice-ripper.
Q: Tell us about your main character, Anne Bonny?
I have accepted the ‘backstory’ given her in The General History of Pirates, that she was born in Ireland and went with her parents to Carolina in the early 18th century. Part One of my story is about Anne growing up on the family plantation just outside Charleston (or Charles Town as I write it). These experiences shape Anne’s character. It is sometimes a harsh life, and Anne is not sentimental. I will be interested in readers’ response to Anne. Not all her actions are commendable. Mary provides a mature counterbalance to Anne.
Before I started drafting Wayward Voyage I reread Gone with the Wind to remind myself why I love this book with the flawed protagonist’s story set against the sweep of history.
Q: And Jack Rackham? Does he feature?
Certainly! Jack has a big role in the story. I have written from different perspectives: Anne, her father William, Mary, Jack, and Woodes Rogers. Seeing the world just through Anne’s eyes would be too limiting and I am interested in how other characters see Anne – which is not always flattering.
Q: Do you have more novels you are working on?
It is like a production line at the moment. I’ve reworked another screenplay I wrote 15 years ago. Blind Eye is an environmental thriller about illegal logging of tropical forests and government corruption. My screenplay of this same name was joint winner of the 2020 Green Stories Screenplay competition and during the past 18 months I worked this into a novel. Many specialist contacts supported my research. I am thrilled that The Book Guild are publishing both Wayward Voyage and Blind Eye (due out in autumn).
I am working on a third novel about a bog body discovery. This is from scratch, so there is a mountain to climb, though I have almost finished a first, very rough draft.
Q: If readers want to follow you, what is the best way?
On my website https://www.annamholmes.com you will find links to Twitter and Facebook and you can sign up to receive a monthly newsletter on the Contact page. I am keen to engage with readers and welcome questions. The Book Club page has links to further reading and there is a PDF with suggested questions and discussion topics.
If you enjoy reading Wayward Voyage, I would love you to leave a review on the retailer’s website and recommend to friends.
Bon voyage and happy reading. Anna M Holmes
Anne is a headstrong young girl growing up in the frontier colony of Carolina in the early eighteenth century. With the death of her mother, and others she holds dear, Anne discovers that life is uncertain, so best live it to the full. She rejects the confines of conventional society and runs away to sea, finding herself in The Bahamas, which has become a nest for pirates plaguing the West Indies. Increasingly dissatisfied with her life, Anne meets a charismatic former pirate, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, and persuades him to take up pirating again, and she won’t be left onshore. The Golden Age of Piracy is a period when frontiers were being explored and boundaries pushed. Wayward Voyage creates a vivid and gritty picture of colonial life in the Americas and at sea.
Anna is originally from New Zealand and lives in the U.K. with her Dutch partner.
WAYWARD VOYAGE is Anna’s first novel. She has been fascinated by the lives of women pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, for a long time. Some years ago, she visualised this story as a screenplay before exploring and building their world more deeply as a novel. WAYWARD VOYAGE made a longlist of 11 for the Virginia Prize in Women’s Fiction 2020.
BLIND EYE an eco-thriller, will be published by The Book Guild in September, so this year, 2021, Anna will have two novels coming out. Her screenplay, BLIND EYE, is joint winner of the 2020 Green Stories screenplay competition.
A documentary about pioneers of flamenco in the UK that Anna produced and directed was screened in Marbella International Film Festival and in London. This passion project ensures a slice of cultural history has been captured. It is available on YouTube and via a portal on her website.
She holds a Humanities B.A, a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and an M.A. in Dance Studies. Initially she worked as a radio journalist before a career in arts management working withU.K. Arts Councils and as an independent producer, dance history lecturer and she has run a dance development agency.
Anna is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and enjoys practising flamenco. Writing, dance, and yoga shape her life.
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Thank you to Anna for her fascinating Qand A session!
If you would like to find out what other bloggers thought of Wayward Voyage, here is the full blog tour schedule: