Today I’m welcoming Linda Collison to my series of author interviews. Linda is the author of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series.
Q: Can you give us a brief description of your books?
A: Stripped to the bone, it’s about a girl pretending to be a man aboard a ship in the 18th century.
The series begins in 1761 during the Seven Years War and is told in first person by Patricia, the illegitimate daughter of a dissolute English sugar planter. When her profligate father dies, sixteen-year-old Patricia finds herself without funds, family or interest. How is she to survive? She chooses to portray herself as a young man and make her living at sea. Living in disguise aboard ship with so many men (and a few women) is fraught with its own risks and rewards and I’ve drawn on numerous historical accounts of 18th century women who really did pass themselves off as men.
Q: How did you come to write this series?
A: My first novel, Star-Crossed (Knopf;2006) was the inspiration for the Patricia MacPherson Series. Knopf originally published it as a stand-alone and they weren’t really interested in doing a series. But Tom Grundner, publisher and senior editor of Fireship Press was! He published Surgeon’s Mate, the sequel, and waited to acquire the rights to Star-Crossed, once I obtained the reversion of rights after it went out of print with Knopf. Tom recognized that Star-Crossed was adult historical fiction, not YA, and he was committed to publishing the series. Tragically, Tom died suddenly last fall, but his publishing company Fireship Press lives on. Star-Crossed will soon be republished as Barbados Bound, the first book of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series, and the third book in the series will hopefully see print early 2013.
Q: In 2007, Star-Crossed was named by the New York Public Library as a “Book for the Teen Age.” Did you write it for adults or teens?
A: Funny you should mention that! I didn’t write Star-Crossed specifically for young adults; I wrote it from the perspective of a young woman, a sort of coming-of-age historical. The character is impetuous and she doesn’t always make good decisions. But she does what she can to survive.
My agent at the time, Laura Rennert, was keen to sell it as YA. She assured me she could attract a big publisher if she marketed it as YA, and she did. I was thrilled to be published by Knopf and to be included on the Books for the Teen Age – but throughout the series Patricia matures, and if the series continues she will grow old –which makes it more of an historical maritime saga than YA. So it’s a “cross-genre, cross-gender” book.
I do write young adult novels. Looking for Redfeather, a contemporary young adult literary novel I’ve recently completed, is represented by literary agent James Schiavone. I’m also working on a YA paranormal thriller set at sea that I’m very excited about.
Q: You studied history in college. How has that influenced you as a writer?
A: I’ve been a life-long student of history but the first time I went to college I majored in nursing to become a registered nurse (there being more jobs for nurses than historians — and I with a family to support!) I worked in acute care for over a decade, specializing in emergency and critical care. At the same time I worked as a freelance writer and had numerous articles, essays and short stories published by various magazines including Ladies Home Journal, Caribbean Travel& Life, Sail, Cruising World, Sailing, Parachutist, Nursing, etc. I wrote two guidebooks with my husband, which were published by Pruett, back in the ‘90s.
Over the years I’ve taken many college level history courses, mostly in history and French. Studying history has helped me examine sources objectively; it has helped me approach my research more efficiently and given me a wider perspective.
Q: How did you come to write historical fiction with a nautical setting?
A: In 1999 my husband and I served as voyage crew members aboard HM Bark Endeavour, an Australian-built replica of Captain James Cook’s 18th century sailing ship. The Endeavour was the closest thing to a time machine I have ever experienced and one of the most accurately reproduced historical ships in existence. We voyage crew members helped to sail her from Vancouver to Hawaii, a crossing that took nearly three weeks. We were expected to stand our watches, climb aloft and go out on the footropes to make and furl sail, take our turn steering the ship and keeping a look-out, as well as other duties necessary to keep the traditional vessel in good working order. We slept in hammocks strung from the deckhead, just as sailors did in the 18th century.
In many ways the experience changed my life. When I got off the ship in Hawaii I had a much better understanding what it was like to have sailed on an 18th century sailing vessel. And I carried inside the seeds for a novel. I had lived the time period, and the setting; I knew the ship intimately. I was getting to know the main character, the cross-dressing surgeon’s mate. But I still had years of research and writing ahead of me before Star-Crossed would be published. What a journey that was! And Star-Crossed was only the beginning. Book three of the series is taking me into the period leading up to the American Revolution where Patricia and her lover will find themselves on opposite sides of the war.
Your whole series sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading about Patricia.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee, black! Except when I’m in England eating scones and clotted cream, then I’ll have tea.
Q: Ocean or mountain?
A: You might think I would choose the ocean because of my nautical books. But that isn’t necessarily the case! I divide my time between ocean and mountain. Today I’m at the ocean but next week I head for the Rocky Mountains. I need them both!
Q; Hiking or shopping?
A: Today I am hiking. Tomorrow I might be shopping. Life is broad!
Q: Violin or piano?
A: How about clarinet or cello? I played them both in high school, but maybe I should have learned piano, it’s so versatile and expressive. I do love piano — Adele, Elton John, Duke Ellington and Frederic Chopin jump to mind.
Q: Mystery or fantasy?
A: What about a mysterious fantasy? Actually, I don’t care for the mystery genre. Literary mysteries, such as Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, now that’s a different story!
Q: Darcy or Heathcliff?
A: Heathcliff, of course!
Q: Love scene or death scene?
A: The best love scenes are usually lovers’ quarrels. It’s all about the conflict! Throughout the series I’m writing, Patricia tries to get together with her lover, and only sometimes are the trysts successful.
Death scenes are the best. “Out, out brief candle!”
Learn more about Linda and her writing at Linda’s website and at the Fireship Press website.
You can also order her books and learn more about her at Linda’s amazon.com page
Thank you, Linda!