I’m delighted to welcome the wonderful author Emma Rose Millar to my blog. Her second novel, Five Guns Blazing is out now from Crooked Cat Publishing. It’s a thrilling adventure that takes the reader from London to the Caribbean, exploring life as a slave and as a pirate. It’s a work of fiction that weaves some historical characters and situations into its action-packed narrative. Five Guns Blazing was topping kindle charts just from its pre-release sales, so don’t miss out on this treasure (luckily not buried). Click on the book cover to purchase it or the links below.
- Why did you decide to write Five Guns Blazing?
Hello, Jeff. Thanks for inviting me over. My first novel was extremely dark and for some time I’d wanted to write something more up-beat. I love historical fiction and I wanted to write an historical adventure, something that I could completely lose myself in. Then one day I was at a barbeque and I had a chance conversation about an old Adam and the Ants song called Five Guns West, which contained the lyrics, Ladies can be captains and ladies can be chiefs, just like glorious Amazons, Anne Bonny, Mary Read. During that conversation I learned that Bonny and Read were both pirates. Not only were they pirates, some sources suggest they were lovers, and although John Rackham captained the ship, it was the women who were the most vicious members of the crew, wielding pistols and machetes, lighting fuses, cursing and swearing and ordering the men to kill their captives. Anne in particular was slippery as an eel and managed to escape execution on numerous occasions.
How does a woman become a pirate? I was intrigued. The more I read about the pair, the more fascinated I became.
- Tell us more about the main character and her dilemma.
Laetitia Beedham is a pauper from the backstreets of London, the bastard child of two thieves, who in 1710 is transported to Barbados along with her conniving mother, Molly. Laetitia is a vulnerable but surprisingly resilient character who survives two years in the workhouse, seventy gruelling days on the open sea and a punishing regime on a Caribbean sugar plantation. On her eighteenth birthday, Laetitia is sold to pirate captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham but soon finds herself torn between her admiration for the captain and her feelings for his beautiful but treacherous wife, Anne Bonny. As the King’s men close in on the pirates, Anne hatches a devious plan, set to speed Laetitia straight to the noose.
- How did you go about researching the sections about slavery and pirates?
Before I even got to that point I immersed myself in eighteenth century literature. I wanted an authentic feel to the book and for the narrative voice to be credible. I then carried out extensive research on conditions in eighteenth century London and in British workhouses. My grandfather was orphaned at age three and spent his childhood in a poor law school, so I’d grown up hearing stories of that type of communal living with its own doctrines and rules. I also read a lot about conditions at sea, especially for transported convicts. Luckily a friend of mine did his degree in Naval History and had a wealth of eighteenth-century maritime articles ranging from the treatment of scurvy to the fight against piracy and conditions on-board slave ships. I soon realised that slavery and piracy were intertwined. It was at that point I enlisted the help of Jamaican born author Kevin Allen, who had spent many years researching his own genealogy and the slave trade.
- What are the pros and cons of the ‘co-authoring’ process?
Co-authoring is great; it opens up all kinds of possibilities for a novel when two people from different cultural backgrounds work together. Five Guns Blazing is a story of a white woman from England who finds herself working among black slaves in the Caribbean. The story demanded co-authorship and I truly believe that without Kevin, the manuscript would still be sitting somewhere on my laptop, never to be read again. However, the writing has to be seamless, so once Kevin had finished his part of the story, I had to then weave that into the narrative. We have very different writing styles so it took a lot of adapting. You also have to put equal effort into writing and marketing, and you have to trust each other one hundred percent, which I think we do, and to be able to give, (and take) constructive criticism.
- How do you go about writing a novel?
I usually start a novel as a set of bullet points which I use as a basis for a short story of about five to ten thousand words. Then everything seems to mushroom out from there with me adding imagery and dialogue and incorporating bits of my research. It’s probably not a very methodical way of doing things, but I do seem to live in chaos most of the time, and this is probably reflected in my writing style.
- What advice do you have for less experienced writers?
I wouldn’t class myself as being very experienced at all, but along the way I have learnt that even if you think your manuscript is finished and ready to submit, it probably isn’t. Finding a good editor is so important; they can make suggestions about character and plot, about weaker parts in the storyline and point out clunky phrases and grammatical errors along with many other things. Even after several drafts, I’m still seeing things that could be improved upon. Also, when the writing stops, the hard work really begins; marketing. There are millions of books on Amazon these days. It’s so difficult to make any book stand out.
- What are you currently working on?
I’m writing a novel called The Women Friends, which is based on a painting by Gustav Klimt of the same name. It’s set in Vienna between the wars; it too could do with a co-writer though. I also write children’s picture book texts for my five year old. I’d say children’s stories are my favourite things to write. I’ve completed a series called The Amazing Adventures of Nathan Molloy, which is based on the antics of a little boy who simply can’t stay out of trouble. I can’t think where I got the inspiration for that!
- What would your perfect day be?
I waited a very long time for my son to come along and now that I’ve got him really every day is perfect. But if I was going to have a day all to myself I would have a luxurious spa day followed by some Italian food and wine and then either some live comedy or live music – with more wine. I may have that day in about thirteen years’ time!
- Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.
I love Alice Walker’s The Color Purple – book and film. I saw the film when I was fifteen and I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read the book. The story has so many themes but Celie’s journey and the strong female relationships really resonate with me, even though the novel is set in a completely different time and place.
Five Guns Blazing is now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Five-Guns-Blazing-Emma-Millar-ebook/dp/B014LPAQ76/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441922863&sr=8-1&keywords=five+guns+blazing