See that there person hiding their light under a bushel? That must be my old mate Elin, and it’s a pretty big bushel cos she’s got a pretty big talent. Delighted to have her here today. Over to you, my dear…
Hi Charlie, thanks so much for the invitation to talk about books and pirates. Not the ones who have been all over Facebook lately but their eighteenth century brethren who were, it must be said, often equally dishonest and grasping but sometimes with a little more reason other than blatant entitlement.
When you were her previously we chatted about watching your first book fledge. What does it feel like with subsequent ones?
Every single book is edgy but some of the surprise is gone. All the same things need doing, there are the same decisions to be made. For instance there’s the very fine line to walk between spamming the internet with appeals to ‘buy my book’ and doing not quite enough so nobody knows about it.
What do you think you’ve learned since you were first published?
There’s the perennial – not everyone will like your book and that’s FINE. One star reviews are inevitable because all people are different and what makes one person clap their hands with glee will have another clapping his/her hands over their eyes with a scream.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first published?
See above. Also there’s no point trying to please the market if you’re a slow writer. Shifter stories might be big now but who knows what will be big in 2/3 years’ time when I finish the book I start now? Best to write a story that really interests me and write it as well as I possibly can, than rushing it to try and please a mythical reader who probably doesn’t exist.
Did you know where On a Lee Shore was going from the start or did it take an unexpected turn?
I knew the start, some of the more exciting bits in the middle and the last page. For instance the very first scene I wrote was the beginning of the pirate attack on the Hypatia. But the route I took to get from one scene to the next was a bit unexpected. There were also more jokes than I thought there would be. Dr Saunders took me by surprise a few times, likewise Lewis and Protheroe.
How would Kit Penrose have got on if he served with Sir Edward Pellew?
Kit would have been such a Ned fanboy. He’d have hung on every word, repeated his reminiscences, re-enacted his engagements with bits of ship’s biscuit and the cruet until Griffin grew too exasperated to put up with it any more and insisted Kit pay attention to HIM. Now, Griffin – no, I don’t think he would have done well under Pellew. He’d have insisted on knowing ‘Why” and thought he knew better.
If you could borrow a fictional Age of Sail hero to put in your books, who would it be and why?
Stephen Maturin. He and Saunders would have a marvellous time just generally bitching about everything and sounding out each other’s ideas on political philosophy. Also experimental surgery, assuming they could persuade anyone to let them give it a try. They’d both love that.
On A Lee Shore
by Elin Gregory
Blurb: “Give me a reason to let you live…”
Beached after losing his ship and crew, and with England finally at peace, Lt Christopher Penrose will take whatever work he can get. A valet? Why not? Escorting an elderly diplomat to the Leeward Islands seems like an easy job, but when their ship is boarded by pirates, Kit’s world is turned upside down. Forced aboard the pirate ship, Kit finds himself juggling his honor with his desire to stay alive among the crew, not to mention the alarming—yet enticing—captain, known as La Griffe.
Kit has always obeyed the rules, but as the pirates plunder their way across the Caribbean, he finds much to admire in their freedom. He deplores their lawlessness but is drawn to their way of life, and begins to think he might just have found a purpose. Dare he dream of finding love too? Or would loving a pirate take him too far down the road to ruin?
Amidships the party was getting rowdy as the musicians sawed, pounded or whistled. One crew challenged the other to wrestle and made wagers on the outcome. It looked like anarchy but there were men in the waist of the ship who stepped in if the struggle got too aggressive. Kit found himself laughing as he watched Saunders, bottle held safely out of the way, battering a brawny pirate about the shoulders with the despised volume of Homer.
Saunders spotted Kit, abandoned the brawlers and made his way to his side. He offered O’Neill a swig from his bottle and leaned back against the transom.
“What a to-do,” he said. “Damn fellow knocked my bottle over, would have spilled it if I hadn’t looked sharp.”
“So inconsiderate,” Kit nodded to the book, “and he made you lose your place.”
“Hanging is too good,” O’Neill commented as he offered the bottle to Kit who shook his head. O’Neill passed it back to Saunders.
“Barbuda,” Saunders said suddenly. “That is our destination. There I should be able to replenish our medicine chest—try as I might the men will keep catching things. While we are in port they will have the opportunity to catch some more I wouldn’t wonder. ”
“Something to look forward to then—you and your syringe.” O’Neill grinned as Kit shuddered. “And what will you do, Mr. Penrose?”
“He will give his parole,” Saunders said, “as befits an officer of His Majesty’s Navy, and will accompany me to Willaerts coffee house to see if we can trade this unlovely item for something more elevating.” He waved the book again. “Or he will not give his parole and will spend our time in port chained to a long gun—possibly. It depends on our lord and master’s whim.”
Kit’s spirits had sunk to hear that and he shook his head. “You must see that I can’t give my word not to try and escape?” he said. “I can promise to guide the ship to safe waters but I won’t take part in acts of piracy or neglect my duty to return to my post.”
“You’re a fool then,” O’Neill said, without rancour. “This can be a fine life for those of us cast out. Half the men on board here would be hanged or starving, else. True there are a few who would knife a blind beggar for half a groat but most are just getting along.”
“Indeed we are,” Saunders said. “I too, Kit, was once part of your glorious institution,” he said the word with great relish, “His Britannic Majesty’s Royal Navy, but I too fell foul of the authorities. I lost the life of a man rather than, as in your case, Kit, losing a mere boat. That I had a drink or two taken was seen as the reason for his demise, though a far better and soberer doctor than I would have been hard pressed to save him. So—they consigned me to Gehenna.”
“Gehenna? I wouldn’t have described the Africa as Gehenna,” Kit said. Saunders had mentioned the wreck of the Malvern so he was half expecting a reference to the cities of the plains. Gehenna had thrown him.
“Hah! No! You’re right. The Africa is an abode of angels. I was referring to the Army!” Saunders rolled his eyes and took a drink to wash away the memory. “No wonder I ran away to sea. Come, Kit, you must have a drink with me to celebrate our disgrace and our subsequent escape from tedious respectability.”
Kit took the bottle, containing God knew what. “To tedious respectability,” he said and made a creditable mime of taking a sip until O’Neill slapped him hard on the back. Kit choked down a mouthful and coughed.
“Well done, Lieutenant Penrose, sir,” Saunders crowed. “We’ll make a pirate of you yet.”
“If I live!” Kit wiped his tongue on the back of his hand. “Trying to drum up trade, sir? That’s truly awful.”
“Isn’t it though?” O’Neill said taking the bottle. “Now you hit me while I take a swig.”
“The thing is,” O’Neill said when Saunders had gone for a refill, “that the people who start the wars, who tell us they are necessary and just and glorious, aren’t the ones fighting and dying. Nor are they the poor damn sods holding a man down on the table while some other poor sod, like old Will Saunders there, digs a musket ball out of his privates with a blunt knife. If they were they might not be so quick to break the treaty or cross the border or decide we need a change of government.”
Kit eyed him anxiously because that was deeply seditious talk and at home could have O’Neill and anyone who listened to him taken up in short order. But O’Neill was staring into the distance lost in thought and Kit stepped aside to check the compass.
“If we are going to Barbuda,” he said, “I’d better check our heading.”
“Wait a bit,” O’Neill said. “La Griffe needs to say his piece. Here, take the tiller, I need to piss.”