It’s a really good day when I have the opportunity to host historical fiction author and Indie champion Helen Hollick on my blog, and even better day when she releases a new instalment of the Sea Witch series! I’m a huge fan of these books featuring bad-boy pirate Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his wife, White Witch Tiola. I’ve been haranguing Helen for some time now for another Sea Witch instalment and I’m happy to report that Gallows Wake was worth the wait!
Today, Helen is here to discuss the challenges with writing a series. Welcome, Helen, and over to you!
The Trouble with a Series is . . . by Helen Hollick
Anyone who was an avid watcher of Game Of Thrones on TV will know that a series, a popular series, that is, gains momentum and can then, alas, run out of steam. In the case of GoT the (fabulous) TV series ran on ahead of what the (equally fabulous) G.R.R. Martin could write, so other writers came up with the scripts for the final series. Which didn’t go down well with many of the fans because, let’s be honest, they were not as good. The same happened to the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney franchise. The first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl was good fun, exciting and a huge pleasure to watch – several times over, in fact. The second movie, Dead Man’s Chest wasn’t quite as good. The others … were dreadful.
Books too, can run into trouble. The characters, plot, adventures become repetitive and tired. The ‘wow’ factor loses its shine and gets swallowed up in clichéd writing.
I have to say, this has not happened with my host’s wonderful Quest for the Three Kingdoms series, Rebel’s Knot, Severed Knot and Traitor’s Knot, but then, that is not surprising as Cryssa Bazos is a very competent, skilful writer. I hope readers think the same for my Sea Witch Voyages – the sixth of which has recently been published.
My problem is the (admittedly rather shallow) hole I dug for myself in the very first Voyage, Sea Witch. I wrote it way back in 2005/6 and had only intended it to be a one-off nautical adventure, but it did rather well, and, confession, I fell totally in love with my protagonist, Captain Jesamiah Acorne. So Voyage Two was written, then three and four, five and now six, with an additional short-read prequal adventure as a bonus. I hadn’t wanted to write ‘straight’ nautical fiction, though, so for Sea Witch added in a touch of supernatural fantasy. The love of Jesamiah’s life (in addition to his beloved ship, Sea Witch,) is Tiola. And she is a White Witch, a Wise Woman of Craft.
And therein lies my dilemma.
Thinking up more, different, supernatural/fantasy elements to keep the series alive and bubbling is proving not to be that easy. I have no difficulty with conjuring up plots – there’s plenty of real early eighteenth-century history drama to draw upon as background, and given that Jesamiah seems to always be coerced into spying in one form or another –– my tagline for the series is ‘Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake’ – I can always find different ways to drop the poor guy into the proverbial do-do. I have no predicament with my sailing detail either. But what to use for the make-believe bits in the next Voyage (Jamaica Gold)? And the next (tentatively called The Tides of Time.)
That’s the BIG trouble with these larger-than-life multi-ego fictional characters who stroll into your life, take it completely over and demand you get on with writing their life story while they swan off, in my case, to look for another bottle of rum. They leave you to it, and we sit here wracking our mortal brains for some sort of inspiration for the next story…
If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be pleased to consider them.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sea Witch Series in order
SEA WITCH – Voyage one
PIRATE CODE – Voyage two
BRING IT CLOSE – Voyage three
RIPPLES IN THE SAND – Voyage four
ON THE ACCOUNT – Voyage five
WHEN THE MERMAID SINGS – A prequel to the series (short-read novella)
And just published…
GALLOWS WAKE – The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne
About Gallows Wake
Where the Past haunts the future…
Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.
Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.
Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.
But is this the past calling, or the future?
Praise for Gallows Wake
“Hollick’s writing is crisp and clear, and her ear for dialogue and ability to reveal character in a few brief sentences is enviable. While several of the characters in Gallows Wake have returned from previous books, I felt no need to have read those books to understand them. The paranormal side of the story—Tiola is a white witch, with powers of precognition and more, and one of the characters is not quite human—blends with the story beautifully, handled so matter-of-factly. This is simply Jesamiah’s reality, and he accepts it, as does the reader.”Marian L. Thorpe, author
At a harbour near you
Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures! Available in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback.
Or order a paperback copy from your local bookstore!
About Helen Hollick
First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Talesand Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…
For more information about her work, check out Helen’s Website or see what she is sharing through her Blog and her fabulous Newsletter. Connect with Helen on social media through Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for hosting my Port of Call today Cryssa!
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It was my pleasure! Captain Jes and Tiola will always be welcome here. Gallows Wake was well worth the wait!
Nice article Helen – and I agree with your comments about Cryssa’s series too! I’m sure Tiola will find a way to let you know what’s next for her and how she might use her Craft!
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Oh Tiola will, she’s kind and helpful. Jesamiah however… well he tends to follow his own agenda but forgets to tell ME what it is! *laugh*
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and we wouldn’t want him any other way 🙂
Thank you both!