Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pirate Giveaway: Lisa Jensen

Avast ye scurvy swabs! For the lead up to to "Talk like a Pirate Day" a few of my fine fellow nautical writers have banded together for the most swashbuckling book giveaway on the internet! Huzzah!

You can follow daily interviews by hopping through our blogs.

Today it's an absolute pleasure to welcome aboard a fine colonial lady - Lisa Jensen.


What made you want to write about pirates in the first place? What is it about them that intrigued you as a writer?

I've always had a thing for pirates. Who knows why? Maybe it was watching too many old Errol Flynn movies on TV with my mom when I was a kid. Anyway, there's something appealing about the idea of being on a ship, away from landlocked society with all its rules and manners.

Then, of course, there's the cool costumes! Who doesn't want to wear those boots?

Tell us a little about your book, The Witch From the Sea, that you’re giving away for this event.

Pirate stories have always been my favorite guilty pleasure. But I could never see myself as the typical heroine of traditional pirate stories, some disapproving high-born lady flouncing around in her petticoats while the men go off and have all the fun. I thought it would be so much more interesting if a woman was a working member of the crew, who joins up for the same reasons as a man—for the freedom and independence she can't get from her restricted female life ashore.

A swashbuckler set in the West Indies of the early 19th Century The Witch From the Sea is a love story, a coming-of-age adventure and an eccentric comedy of manners about a woman who runs with the pirates to free herself from the conventional "rules" of gender, race and class. 

Tory Lightfoot, an orphan of mixed white and Mohawk blood, flees the stifling gentility of 1823 Boston for the freedom of the open sea. But the merchant ship on which she stows away is boarded by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Tory is forced to join the pirate crew to save her life. Making herself useful as both log-keeper and spy, she begins to earn a measure of the independence she craves. But fate, fever and the relentless U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron close in, and Tory must risk her hard-won freedom to save the man she loves.

In reality, pirates were awful people that most of us wouldn’t want to run across if we were sailing a ship, but in our culture they’ve been romanticized so often that it’s almost expected by some folk. Do you have trouble balancing reality with the romanticized aura of the pirate, or do you not worry too much about that when crafting your tales?

I always think of pirates as a metaphor for freedom, the free life out on the open sea, far away from the land with all its rules and regulations. This was especially true in The Witch From the Sea, whose female protagonist has even more reason than a man to "run away to sea," given the highly constricted nature of a woman's life ashore.

The lives of real-life pirates were not so merry, of course, they tended to be nasty, brutish and short. But in fiction—at least, in my fiction—pirates are characters of self-determination, seizing a chance at a better life than the one Fate has dealt them. As readers, isn't that what we love about pirates? They refuse to settle for second-best and carve out the life they want.

How often do you turn to real-life pirates for inspiration in creating your characters or plot?

The pirate characters in The Witch from the Sea are entirely made up! But the U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron was a real-life fleet of twelve warships dispatched into the waters off the coast of Cuba in 1823 to hunt pirates. It was commanded by Commodore David Porter, a hero in the War of 1812; a junior officer on the expedition—and Porter's young protégé—was Lt. David G. Farragut, later the renowned Civil War Admiral. 

I blithely plundered many incidents from the Squadron's log book to use in my story—like Farragut's raid on what turned out to be an abandoned pirates' lair near Cabo Cruz while the pirates were away at sea. I also made my pirate crew responsible for the raid by unknown marauders on an American-owned warehouse on the island of St. Thomas that almost cost Porter his command.

I also read a lot of pirate history when I was creating the backstory for Captain James Hook in my new novel, Alias Hook. Yes, most of the novel takes place in the Neverland, but for the early, alternating chapters detailing his piratical past, I studied the biographies of real-life "Golden Age" pirates operating in Hook's era, the 1720s. I was able to chart his course from Jamaica, Hispaniola, and New Providence in the Caribbees, to the trading port of Cape Coast and the Gold Coast of West Africa. 

What makes your series (or book) different from other piratical adventures out there? What’s your main goal with your pirate stories?

At the time I first wrote The Witch From the Sea, it was unusual to feature a female pirate—especially one who was NOT based on the most famous real-life pirate women, Anne Bonny and/or Mary Read. These days, now that kick-ass action heroines are all the rage, I suppose there are more swashbuckling women out there. But I'm still pleased that my heroine, Tory, does not end up either as the pirate captain's wench, or the Pirate Captain herself. She's a working member of the crew and she has to forge her own path.

I guess the main goal of my stories is to tell rollicking adventures I can live out vicariously in my head!

Bonus Question: If you had to design a pirate flag for yourself, what would it look like?

Ooh, great question! Pirates like to feature the tools of their trade on their flags (swords, pistols), but I suppose an image of a keyboard wouldn't look very dynamic! (Besides being totally the wrong era.) How about a silhouette of a quill pen with a big, poofy feather. Black flag with a white quill pen. Dripping blood?

Short Bio: Lisa Jensen is a veteran film critic and newspaper columnist from Santa Cruz, California. Her reviews and articles have appeared in Cinefantastique, the Los Angeles Times, and Paradox Magazine. She also reviewed books for the San Francisco Chronicle for 13 years. Her swashbuckling historical novel, The Witch From The Sea, was published by Beagle Bay Books in August, 2001. Her adult fantasy novel, Alias Hook, was published by Thomas Dunne Books in July, 2014. 


The contest begins on Monday, September 8th and runs through September 19th (Talk Like a Pirate Day).

To enter, just sign in below. You can earn additional entries by liking the authors’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The more of our social media accounts you follow, the more entries you get. The more entries you get, the better your chances are of winning. Simple as that.

UPDATE DAY 1: Dan Eldridge's interview - check out his lovely book cover too!

UPDATE DAY 2: The lovely Christine Steendam and the wonderful SK Keogh answer some questions today - both have eye-catching artwork...

UPDATE DAY 3: I host Californian author Lisa Jensen.

UPDATE DAY 4: The famous and wonderful Helen Hollick, and the dashing yet modest Nick Smith - I mean me.

UPDATE DAY 5: Interview with The Captain of the Ship Justin M Aucoin.

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