Thursday, 18 January 2018

Myths, Legends, Books, Coffee Pots… and a Pirate! By Helen Hollick #HistFic #Pirates @HelenHollick

Please welcome back the fabulous
 Helen Hollick!

Author’s Inspiration

Myths, Legends, Books, Coffee Pots… and a Pirate!

Pirates. I write about pirates. The real ones (on occasion) and the fictional romantic/heroic ones more often – well regularly actually. I have my very own fictional pirate, you see and I must admit I’m not sure if he is a blessing or a curse!

Jesamiah Acorne (Captain Jesamiah Acorne) came into my life over ten years ago (is that a relationship or a sentence?) soon after I had seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean Movie – The Curse of the Black Pearl. (We won’t talk about the others in the franchise. Frankly, they were not very good.) The Black Pearl was fun. It was not meant to be taken seriously. Originally Disney intended it as a children’s film to boost flagging interest in their Pirate Ride attraction. They reckoned without Johnny Depp and his portrayal of Jack Sparrow, however.

As with nearly every other PoC fan, from the instant we saw that scoundrel drifting into Port Royal standing atop a mast – and we realised that the boat was rapidly sinking – Sparrow’s nonchalance and wit had us hooked. The action, the plot, the dialogue, the drama, the romance: all of it was absorbing. I have lost count of how many times I have watched – and laughed through – that cheer-you-up movie.

There was a snag, however. I like movies but… I prefer novels. Good, exciting page-turning novels where we, the reader, can enter a different make-believe world, where we can picture the hero and heroine, the scenery and the accompanying characters for ourselves. And once smitten with a topic I like to indulge in a binge of reading about it, so I looked for some novels that would match PoTC. I could not find any. There were plenty of Young Adult novels, but I wanted something with some (tasteful) ‘Adult’ spice included. There were dozens of ‘straight’ nautical adventures as well… I devoured Frenchman’s Creek, C.S. Forester’s Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey… Alexander Kent, Julian Stockwin, James L. Nelson…all exciting novels, but most of them have very limited female character scenes – and not a single dash of fantasy anywhere.

Solution. I decided to write my own.

I researched the period – early 1700s – made copious notes, jotted down ideas. I had my main plot (based on actual events circa 1715-1717) my fantasy element; my Female Lead was to be a White Witch, midwife and healer, she was Tiola Oldstagh, a pretty, gentle soul, whose spirit had been in existence for centuries. I had most of the dastardly ‘baddies’ lined up, an entire crew, and a couple of ships for them to be pirates in, the main star being Sea Witch, based on the replica ship HMS Rose, now more widely known as HMS Surprise. But problem. No protagonist hero had stepped forward to make himself known.

He appeared out of the blue (well grey) one rain-drizzled afternoon while I was on vacation. Strolling along an English south-coast beach I sat on a rock, thinking about the story I was planning to write. I looked up, and there he was. I saw him quite clearly (either for real or in my mind, I’ll leave you to decide.) Dressed in full pirate regalia he had royal-blue ribbons laced into his black hair and a gold acorn-shaped earring dangling from his ear. He nodded, touched his pirate hat in salute.
I nodded back, said aloud, “Hello Jesamiah Acorne.”

And that is how we met. He has been the love of my life (and the bane of it!) ever since!

I wrote that first tale, Sea Witch in less than three months expecting it to be a one-off single novel, but once a pirate plunders your heart, mind and keyboard, you are held hostage. 

 I am about to start writing the Sixth Voyage in the series: Gallows Wake, although I have recently brought out a short novella prequel When The Mermaid Sings, which, technically, comes at the start of the adventures, although I would recommend begining with Sea Witch.

I have also produced a non-fiction book, Pirates: Truth and Tales, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing, (although the publisher messed up for the first edition and printed from an uncorrected proof. Fortunately there were not too many horrid bloopers.)

Until Jesamiah took over my life, heart and soul I wrote plain historical fiction. For my C.V., I have an Arthurian Trilogy (The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy) set firmly in post-Roman Britain with not a squidgeon of myth or magic in it. No turreted castles, no Lancelot, Merlin or Holy Grail, just a ‘what might have happened’ tale of the boy who became a man, who became a king, who became a legend. Then I wrote my version (the English view, not the Norman propaganda) of the story of events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings,  and following on, the story of Emma, Queen to King Aethelread and then King Cnut (Canute). This one, under it’s US title The Forever Queen was listed as a USA Today Bestseller.

I enjoy writing my pirate adventures, though because I can have fun with them – as with that movie they are meant to be read with a tongue firmly in the cheek. My sailing detail is as accurate as I can get it (I’m no sailor, I have never been in anything other than a North Sea or Isle of Wight  ferry.) I do my historical research as thoroughly as I can, although I occasionally mix-and-match the facts a little (but always mention where I’ve spliced a few different things together in my author’s notes.)
My intention is to write a series of romping nautical adventure yarns for adults, populated with memorable characters.

I describe Jesamiah as a blend of Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones, James Bond and Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharp, while my tag line for the series is: “Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake” which is why I am not sure whether Jesamiah is a blessing or a curse. That darn pirate gets himself into trouble at every turn of the tide – then expects me to get him out of it!

About Sea Witch

The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716.
The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the sun drenched Islands of the Caribbean.

Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.
He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of "all that is good." Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.
When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.
In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?
Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne's soul and bones as a trophy.

Links for Purchase

About Helen
Helen Hollick moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse surrounded by fields and woodland. A variety of pets include horses, Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, a donkey, chickens, ducks and geese.
First published in 1994, her passion now is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) – the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. While her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely acclaimed as a more historical version of the Arthurian legend.
She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates - Truth and Tales; a book about smuggling (due to be published 2018) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers interested in self-publishing. She also runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of wonderfully enthusiastic reviewers. 

Helen is published in various languages including Turkish and Italian.

You can find Helen…



  1. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing your inspiration with us!

  2. Thank you Mary Anne for inviting me - and my pirate - onto your blog. I hope he behaves himself, doesn't drink all the rum, and I apologise for the fact that he probably hasn't had a bath for several weeks.... :-/

  3. I'm an absolute Jesamiah groupie. I'll keep sailing with him on every voyage! And Tiola is divine! Love her strength and wisdom! Really enjoyed hearing how you two met!

    1. Thanks Cryssa - more groupies always welcome! LOL


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx