Monday, August 6, 2018

Pirates: Truth And Tales - Guest post: Why Pirates? by Helen Hollick

Why Pirates?
by Helen Hollick

Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today,  Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs with a pirate or two for company… but Helen… why pirates?

Why do many of us – readers, writers or just plain enthusiasts – have such a fascination with pirates? Let’s face it, the real men (and women) of the early 1700s so-called ’Golden Age of Piracy’ were not nice people. Leaving aside that they must have stank to high-heaven, were full of fleas and lice and probably had unpleasant sexually transmitted diseases, most of them would as soon cut your throat as look at you. Those of us who enjoy reading pirate-based novels, watching swashbuckling movies or dressing up in pirate costume to attend a party or one of the pirate festivals that happen in the UK and US, tend to  turn a blind eye (complete with pirate-patch) to the gruesome reality.

I blame Johnny Depp, or more accurately, Jack Sparrow. Apologies. Captain Jack Sparrow. Between them they resurrected the interest in pirates that had first been set in motion during the great days of Hollywood when actors such as Errol Flynn cut a dash with his cutlass across the Silver Screen. The Disney Pirates of the Caribbean franchise let the genie (pirate?) out of the bottle again, and no one has re-stoppered it since. (I only include the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, the others varied from not very good to downright terrible.)

We do not want reality, we get enough of that in our everyday lives. We want our heroes rugged and ‘fresh from the fight’, as the song lyric goes. We enjoy these adventures because they are not real. It is the danger the hero must face, the within-an-inch-of-his-life death-defying scenes. The ability to keep on fighting / running / bedroom antics even though shot / wounded / kicked in a vulnerable place where real men would be curled up on the floor clutching their nether regions howling in agony. You know these heroes are going to get out of trouble; the thrill, the excitement, is not knowing how they do so. It is the journey that intrigues, not the destination. Pirates doing piratical things is exciting. We want them to succeed against all odds, although they have to go to hell and back first. Our heroes have to be tough, maybe a bit mean, but they must also be loyal and dependable.

As for the inclusion of fantasy, the suspense of belief is a part of the entertaining escapism. What I found frustrating after I had watched POC#1 for the nth time, was not being able to find an adult novel to match the fun. There were plenty of ‘straight’ nautical adventures – O’Brian, Forrester and such. Several very good young adult adventures included fantasy, but YA tends to be subtle (or entirely lacking) on the ‘adult’ content. I wanted a hero to die for, a handsome rogue of a pirate. I wanted a believable element of fantasy for his girlfriend and I wanted the ship itself to be as much of a character as the crew, but I couldn’t find the novel I wanted to read. So I wrote my own. Sea Witch

Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake. He is a pirate, a scoundrel and a charmer of a rogue. Tiola Oldstagh is a healer, a midwife and a white witch. Will she capture his heart - or will the call of the sea drown their love? Will he get his girl, or will the hangman get him first?

I originally intended Sea Witch to be a one-off single novel but I am currently writing the sixth in the series, Gallows Wake – seventh if you include a short ‘prequel’ novella, When The Mermaid Sings. You see, my hero, Jesamiah, strode into my life several years ago and stole my heart. He still hasn’t returned it, nor is he likely to, but then, he is a pirate and that’s what pirates do isn’t it? Steal things!

© Helen Hollick
Pirates: Truth And Tales published in paperback in the UK July 2018 and November 2018 in the US – but available for pre-order.

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Follow Helen’s Tour:
These links will take you to the Home Page of each blog host – Helen says thank you for their interest and enthusiasm! For exact URL links to each article go to Helen’s website:  which will be updated every day of the tour.

30th July: Cryssa Bazos Dropping Anchor to Talk About Pirates
31st July: Anna Belfrage Ships That Pass…
1st August: Carolyn Hughes Pirates of the Middle Ages
2nd August: Alison Morton From Pirate to Emperor
3rd August: Annie Whitehead The Vikings: Raiders or Pirates?
4th August: Tony Riches An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)
5th August: Lucienne Boyce Anne and Mary. Pirates.
6th August: Laura Pilli Why Pirates?
7th August: Mary Tod That Essential Element… For A Pirate.
8th August: Pauline Barclay Writing Non-Fiction. How Hard Can It Be?   
9th August: Nicola Smith Pirates: The Tales Mixed With The Truth
10th August: Christoph Fischer In The Shadow Of The Gallows
11th August: Debdatta What Is It About Pirates?
12th August: Discovering Diamonds It’s Been An Interesting Voyage…
13th August: Sarah Greenwood Pirates: The Truth and the Tales
14th August: Antoine Vanner The Man Who Knew About Pirates


Helen moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse. 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 (UK title A Hollow Crown) the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (US title I Am The Chosen King) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely praised as a more down-to-earth historical version of the Arthurian legend. She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales, Smugglers in Fact and Fiction (to be published 2019) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers. She runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of enthusiastic reviewers.  

Helen is published in various languages. 


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  2. Thank you for inviting me to drop anchor here in harbour - so far I am thoroughly enjoying Voyaging Around the Blogs, it is wonderful to meet so many interesting new people!

    1. The pleasure was all mine!!:)Also...pirates, how could I say "no"? ;)

  3. Fascinating blog. As you suggest, the historical reality might not be all that appealing when you take a closer look - all those lice and diseases! But you can't beat a good adventure.

    1. Thank you Lucienne. A lot of people make a fuss about not having historical accuracy in movies, TV drama and such but I think as far as pirates are concerned let's not stick to reality!

  4. Johnny Depp has a lot to answer for. A meeting between him and Captain Acorne would be interesting...

    1. Believe me if I could get away with it re Disney franchise I would! As Sharon Kay Penman very kindly wrote for me: 'In the sexiest pirate contest Cpt Jesamiah Acorne gives Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow a run for his money'