What can you tell us about Patricia's new adventures in Surgeon's Mate, without spoiling the plot for readers?
Let’s just say, life isn’t easy for the cross dressing surgeon’s mate -- either aboard His Majesty’s frigate Richmond, or on liberty in the bustling colonial town of New York. Patricia faces death, dismemberment, disease, smugglers, and French privateers – yet the ultimate danger for the surgeon’s mate is more insidious than any of these.
Can you describe your writing path to naval fiction.
In 1999 I saw an article in the local newspaper about HM Bark Endeavour replica, a floating museum that was sailing around the world and soliciting crew for various passages. My husband and I jumped at the opportunity to be voyage crewmembers for a three-week crossing from Vancouver to Hawaii. We have a small sailboat of our own, but neither of us knew the first thing about sailing square-rigged vessels. We were assured (like so many landsmen during the age of sail) that our inexperience was no problem; we’d be taught everything we needed to know once we were at sea. Hands-on training!
The Endeavour was a time machine and for three weeks we lived the life of 18th century sailors. (Well, OK, except for the 20th century heads, showers, and two enormous Caterpillar diesel engines which were only used when we had no wind.) Thank God there were a handful of permanent crew onboard who actually knew what they were doing, and taught the rest of us lubbers “the ropes”, of which there were many. As I learned to climb the ratlines and go out on the footrope to make and furl sail, as I took my turn on watch, at the helm and in the galley, I started to really get into the role of 18th century sailor. I started reading some of the books in the ship’s library and when I got off the ship in Kona, Hawaii on October 30, 1999, I had a new life passion, and the beginnings of a story of my own. In the six years that followed I began reading maritime history and naval fiction in earnest. Now I’m hooked.
Honestly, it’s been a daunting experience in many ways. I wasn’t a retired naval officer or a history professor, so I wrote from the viewpoint of my naïve protagonist, and learned right along with her. Susan Stark and Joan Druett’s work gave me great insight into the female experience aboard ship in the age of sail.
Your concept of a Naval Fiction series with younger female readers in mind is unique. How did you reach this decision?
Actually, I just started writing from the viewpoint of a young woman in dire straits, who chose a rash way to deal with her problem. She sneaked aboard a ship, a decision that was to change her life in many ways. Because my protagonist is a teenager my erstwhile agent thought the young adult market was the way to go, and sold it to Knopf as a “YA.” But judging from the letters and feedback I’ve received, it’s been slightly older women and a fair number of men who are most enjoying and appreciating the first two books of the series. (I think the younger female readers would be more enthusiastic fans if Patricia had been a vampire or Brian, a wizard...)
Happily, my new editor and new publisher (Fireship Press) understand where I’m coming from. This is not a young adult series, per se, but I hope young female readers will be able to relate to the resourceful, resilient Patricia.
What intrigues you about the period in which your series is set?
The series begins toward the end of the Seven Years War, which was really a world war, and the repercussions of that war led to the American Revolution thirteen years later. It was a time when there were women aboard naval ships, though often against Navy regulations. And there aren’t too many nautical fiction series set in this time period.
In the course of the series I plan to take the reader from the end of the Seven Years War through the American Revolution.
What inspired you to begin writing?
In sixth grade I entered an essay contest sponsored by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. My parents encouraged me in my efforts. When I won first place for my entry about Maryland’s Brigadier General Mordecai Gist, I thought for sure I was on my way to becoming an author. I didn’t realize I’d have to keep a day job (and in some cases a night job) to support my writing habit, but I’ve been hooked too long now to ever give it up.
I worked as a registered nurse for more than 13 years, mostly in Emergency and Critical Care. As a nurse I published articles and essays and had many experiences that lend some verisimilitude (I hope!) to my writing.
How do you undertake your research?
In a random fashion, it seems! Reading history books, pertinent websites and blogs, visiting maritime museums and old ships. N.A.M. Rodger’s The Wooden World and Lloyd and Coulter’s Medicine and the Navy 1200-1900 Vol. III 1714-1815, have been particularly helpful Oh, and I enrolled in University again, to obtain a second degree -- in History.
But research isn’t all work and no play. In the name of research I booked us passage aboard the Lewis R. French, an historic Maine schooner, and aboard the Lynx, a replica of an American privateer. And I had plenty of time to read and write on several other ocean voyages with my husband aboard Topaz, our own Luders 36’ sloop.
What’s next in the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series?
As things heat up in the American Colonies, Patricia and Brian will find themselves on opposite sides on the conflict. With my new publisher, Fireship Press, I’m no longer constrained to keep Patricia forever young, so she will mature as the series progresses. I envision a muti-generational saga with Patricia, the aging matriarch, in the van.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I welcome feedback from readers, and discussions with other authors and I’m very open to constructive criticism.
Surgeon's Mate is published by Fireship Press.