Mastodon The Writing Desk: An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)

4 August 2018

An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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 and answers a few piratical questions…

Tell us about your latest book

Hello everyone! First of all, thank you Tony for inviting me as a guest on to your blog: I’ve had a look around and you have some very interesting articles here. I’ll try to match the standard!

I’m here to talk about my latest release, a non-fiction light-hearted read: Pirates: Truth and Tales which is due for publication in in paperback by Amberley Press in July 2018 and a little later in the year in the US – but already available for pre-order, I believe.

I usually write fiction, some ‘straight’ historical fiction  – the 1066 era and a trilogy about King Arthur, and a nautical adventure series about – well, pirates. One pirate in particular, a made-up scoundrel of a loveable rogue who gets into all sorts of swashbuckling scrapes – and manages, somehow, to get out of them again. My tag line is: ‘Trouble follows Captain Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake.’

The love of his life is Tiola, a healer, midwife and white witch, but he is often torn between loyalty to her and the pull of the sea and his ship, Sea Witch. I wrote the first in the series (titled Sea Witch) because I enjoyed the fun of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and wanted to read something similar. I couldn’t find what I wanted for adults, so wrote my own. I am currently writing the sixth Voyage, Gallows Wake.

Amberley Press, however, approached me to write a non-fiction book about pirates to explore the truth and the tales of these dastardly rogues. Why is it that we adore tales of pirates, dress up like them, have pirate festivals and fun days, when in reality they were the terrorists of their age, the early eighteenth century? Although this ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ only lasted a few short years, those years almost brought the cross-Atlantic trade to its knees.

I was a little hesitant about producing a non-fiction book, having never really written one before. (I did produce a ‘tips on writing a novel’ booklet, but I don’t count that.) Then I figured I had posted quite a few interesting (I hope!) articles on my own blog and as guest posts for other blogs, so why not give it a go? My aim was to be light-hearted, maybe a little tongue-in-cheek and to explore this nautical world of cutlasses, treasure and high-sea Chases with a touch of fun, interspersed with the serious side of pirates. Many of them, despite our romantic view, were not very nice people. To break up the factual sections in the book I also delved into the fiction that we enjoy, including excerpts from some popular fiction. Fingers crossed.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I wish I could say I have one, but I don’t. I try to do the ‘admin’ type work of a morning: Facebook, Twitter, answering emails, and I run an historical novel review site called Discovering Diamonds which primarily supports indie/self-published writers but we also review traditional mainstream and the occasional non-fiction book.

I try to write of an afternoon – if the dogs don’t need walking, the garden doesn’t need weeding, the horses don’t need attending to. I live in an eighteenth century Devonshire farmhouse surrounded by thirteen acres of land, with my study windows overlooking the beautiful Taw Valley. It’s no wonder I get distracted!

What advice do you have for new writers?

Get professionals to edit your work and design your covers. Yes I know it costs money, but you have put a huge amount of effort into getting your book written, doesn’t that effort deserve the best quality when it comes to the final production stage?

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Marketing can be time-consuming, but marketing is essential. Having a fabulous on-line ’shop window’ website, blog, Facebook or Twitter page etc., and encouraging potential readers to ‘come inside and browse’ often seems a hopeless task, but the trick is to be interesting and varied, and don’t keep on and on about your books. I generate most interest through my blog Let Us Talk of Many Things (link below) and I think I draw in the visitors because I vary my own posts and also host guests. Whether anyone actually reads any of it is another matter, *laugh*.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

One of the chapters in Pirates: Truth and Tales relates to the book A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson. It was written circa 1724 and the thing is, we do not know who Charles Johnson actually was, the name is a pseudonym. Usually, the author is assumed to be Daniel Defoe but while researching this section I came to realise that Defoe knew nothing at all about seamanship or pirates, so why would he write this book? And I came up with a very logical, and I’m convinced, correct, conclusion. Except I’m not divulging it here. You’ll have to read the book.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The final scene in my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. Set in post-Roman era the trilogy is based on the earlier Welsh legends, not the Medieval tales, so there are no knights, no holy grail, no Lancelot, no Merlin, just the story of the boy who became the man, who became the king, who became the legend. Except we all know what happened to Arthur in the end. He dies. And writing his death, after being with that character for something like ten years was very hard to do.

What are you planning to write next?

More of Jesamiah, and I have recently completed a non-fiction about smugglers which is due to be published in early 2019. I’m quite excited about it!

Thank you, again Tony for being one of the hosts on my Virtual Book Tour, I haveenjoyed my visit to your blog.

© Helen Hollick
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About the Author

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. For more information visit Helen's website and blog and follow her on Facebook
and Twitter @HelenHollick.

Sign up for Helen’s Newsletter and be entered for an annual prize draw. 
One name ‘picked from the hat’ in December will win a £10/$10 Amazon gift voucher.
Subscribe here:

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


  1. Thank you Tony for hosting me on your blog - I'm thoroughly enjoying Voyaging Round the Blogs and meeting so many nice people!

  2. Thank you Helen and Tony. am enjoying following you, Helen, on your nautical tour een if I do have the Hardback!

    1. Thank you Richard - and the wonderful thing about 'Virtual' Voyaging - no one has suffered any seasickness! :-)


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