Know The Novel: Beneath a Starlit Sky Part One

It’s coming up to one of my favourite parts of the year, which is, of course, NaNoWriMo and the madness that is trying to finish a novel in a month (and though I’ve reached 50k twice out of three times, I have never finished a novel in November).

And since it’s October now, it’s time to introduce my project for this year. It is, obviously, called Beneath a Starlit Sky, which is just a working title for the moment, but I kinda like it.

Anyway, so let’s get into this!

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

I was reading a book about Captain Cook, and as it was talking about Cook arriving in Tahiti, it made an aside about some of the first white men to reach these islands. The expedition was led by Louis Antoine de Bougainville, and onboard the ship Etoile, was a young woman called Jeanne Baret. Baret was disguised as a man–the young assistant to the ship’s botanist, Philibert Commerson.

Though the Tahitians apparently recognised Jeanne as a woman and her disguise was revealed, she continued on the ship until Commerson, who was also her lover, died. He was consistently ill on their voyage, so much of his work was actually done by Jeanne. Their collection was very important to Western biology and botany, yet Jeanne’s name is practically forgotten today, despite being the first white woman to circumnavigate the globe.

Anyway, I found myself fascinated by this story, which I’d never heard of before and it kept turning around in my head. Eventually, I combined the story with that of William Dampier, a privateer and buccaneer, who was one of the first white men to draw and describe Australian flora and fauna.

And thus, my novel was born!

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary if you’d prefer)!

Mere has been publicly shamed and exiled to her aunt’s country manor. But she isn’t going to give up that easily, and desire for scientific renown is burning fiercely in her heart.

Desperate to make a name for herself, she makes a pact with her brother, Gabriel Atkins the botanist, and disguises herself as his male assistant to join a voyage of discovery.

Only, the voyage isn’t simply a voyage of discovery…this is a privateer’s ship and they are sailing to find Beach, the fabled land of gold.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

The story takes place on a large privateering ship, which also doubles as a scientific expedition. The ship is named The Orca, and is a rather fine piece of work.

My favourite aspect of the setting is definitely the ocean. I find the ocean rather fascinating but also rather terrifying and I’m looking forward to exploring this wild, sea-monster-full abyss with my characters.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

I have three main characters who I will proceed to tell you about with great exuberance.

Meredith Atkins is my main character. She’s called Mere for short, and she’s a thin little whippersnapper of a girl. She has a wild bush of fiery red hair and a temper to match. Mere has a logical, sharp mind and she loves nature. She’s particularly interested in plants and wants to be a botanist. She’s kind, clever, persistent, charismatic, and artistic–with a flair for painting and sketching. Despite her desire for wild adventures and independence on the open ocean, her deepest desire is to be in love and to be loved.

Gabriel Atkins is Mere’s older brother. He’s practical, logical and perhaps a little boring. He is tall with blond hair and blue eyes and is conventionally handsome, however has had no luck with finding a wife, so he’s dedicated himself to the study of botany. He is popular and has a lot of friends, but his sister is his favourite person in the whole world. He loves her with his whole heart. His first job is as a ship’s botanist onboard a ship named The Orca…which is, of course, a privateering ship.

Roe Langley is the final character. He is the navigator on board The Orca, and he’s thin, black haired and grey faced. He is an orphan who has worked his way up the ladder from a cabin boy, to the apprentice to the navigator. Then he falls ill and is abandoned in a random country, where he almost dies. Once he’s well again, he joins The Orca again, this time as the only navigator. He has a passion for science, botany, painting and taxidermy. He’s kind, quiet, but also struggles with dealing with people.

Pictures from Pinterest

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

So we have several antagonists, but we can’t talk too much about them, since they are supposed to be surprise villains. However, I can tell you that they are all very clever. The Orca‘s captain is not really the man for the job, since he’s much more interested in science and discovery than he is on gold, which the rest of the crew are not so keen on. So yes, there’s a mutiny. No, I won’t tell you who starts it.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Everything! I’m excited about writing about The Orca, about the animals and the botany. Mere is a great character and I’m fascinated by Roe and his story, and I’m excited by the general aesthetic…and, you know, all of it.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

This is part of a companion series of novels. The novels are all set in the same fantasy world and they are retellings of the lives of interesting women from history. This is the second book I’ve drafted as well (the first was Wattle Fires if you want to check that out. Wattle Fires is a retelling of Marie Antoinette’s life).

So yeah, it’s really a standalone, but its part of this series that’s loosely connected.

Also, if anyone has any brilliant series name ideas, hit me up. I have no ideas.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

I’m a plotter at heart, so I’ve done a plot for this book. Unfortunately, I’m not really a fan of my plot 😦 so I’m rewriting it. But I definitely feel like this is the sort of story that’s going to have many brilliant plot bunnies pop up though, and I’m definitely going to be chasing them.

9. Name a few unique elements about this story.

Hmm…this one is hard, but here goes…

  • Its a (fairly) historically accurate representation of the privateering life. Pirates, privateering, and buccaneers were not dumb criminals for the most part. Indeed, many of them, like William Dampier and Francis Drake, were well-educated, sponsered by royalty, and maybe even geniuses.
  • Brother and sister relationship! Not as unique as it used to be, but I still really enjoy the sibling dynamic and I’m excited to be writing it.
  • A love interest that has genius levels of talent and cleverness, but is not very good-looking. Roe almost died of smallpox as a teenager and this has left his face pock-marked and scarred. He’s also rather pallid and grey.
  • Botany! YA has really been branching out lately with the subject matter it deals with (novels about cooking, novels about art, novels about man-eating horses!) but I haven’t seen any books with botany as a centre piece.
  • The general aesthetic (yeah, I’m obsessed with the general aesthetic, aren’t I?)

10. Share some fun β€œextras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

Are you guys doing NaNoWriMo (or an equivalent)? If so,WHAT ARE YOU WRITING?? Tell me ALL the details? Or what’s your current WIP? Do you like pirates? Ocean stories? Are you in love with your novel because of “the general aesthetic”? Also, please do this linkup. I’m real keen to read your answers.

27 thoughts on “Know The Novel: Beneath a Starlit Sky Part One

  1. Never one participated in this challenge- never had a book idea that would reach 50,000 words.

    Technically, I am writing two books. I recently was able to start writing Lizzy the Lizard- but that got paused.

    Tale of the Cattail Forest is the WIP I am focusing on the most. A world of deer, chipmunks, birds, and obviously other forest animals. The characters are Fairy Frogs and Toads. The central locations in the book are Graysloup and Fairy Creek. Sparkle is the main character while Sarge is the antagonist. In simple terms, the book is about an unlikely friendship. It would take a while to go into detail about this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the sound of this WIP! I hope everything goes really well with it in November and beyond! Right now, I don’t really know what I’m doing for NaNo… I’d love to have a new idea ready to go in the next week or two, but with school and everything else, it seems a little unlikely that that’ll wind up happening. So I’m kind of getting prepared to just finish this rewrite of Clemency in November so that, hopefully, it’ll be one step closer to being what I want it to be!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness.

    I LOVE where the idea came from! I really didn’t know that bit of history myself, but that is most definitely the makings of story inspiration! Aaaahhhhh this is just brilliant all the way around. And the AESTHETIC. The aesthetic is gold and giving me all the heart eyes.

    Seriously, this sounds like SUCH a fascinating tale and I’m so happy you shared it with us! I hope writing it goes WONDERFULLY!!! Thank you so much for joining in the linkup! ❀

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s completely fine! It’s definitely not a challenge for everyone, and short books are beautiful and great too!
    I’m glad the Cattail Forest is getting so much attention at the moment!


  5. It is an absolutely fascinating story and I’m really sad that she’s so little known. But yes, you’re definitely right! Fiction has brought to light so many forgotten people, especially lately!


    It’s definitely a very interesting story and I think it’s just begging for a novel retelling. I can’t wait to dig into it.
    And thank you so much! I’m in love with that aesthetic and I really love staring at it πŸ˜€
    Thank you for hosting!


  7. AGH IT LOOKS SO PRETTY. Gabriel Atkins is already my favorite. I love Mere and Roe, too. But Gabriel.

    This is just….so cool. The aesthetic is amazing, I don’t blame you for being excited about it. And the TITLE. I like it muchly. Also botany. Botany is very cool.

    Can’t wait to hear more about this, Chelsea! All your novels excite me so and I’m happy to meet this one. πŸ™‚ I’m going to be writing more of my comedic space adventure this November, and I think it’s gonna be great fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the title of your story! Everything about this story sounds amazing! ^_^ I LOVE stories about pirates and oceans! The botany aspect of your story is fascinating! I also love your Pinterest board!!!

    My current WIP is a genderbent Cinderella Retelling that I’m going to be talking about when I join the Linkup soon! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  9. THANK YOU! Yes, I love Gabe. He’s exactly my favourite sort of character, loyal, smart and charismatic. πŸ˜€
    I had so much fun making that collage! And I squeal every time I look at it! Botany is cool πŸ™‚
    I can’t wait to see what happens with CSO! Good luck with it πŸ˜€


  10. Thank you! It took me a long time to come up with the title, so I’m glad to hear people like it so much!
    That sounds like an awesome premise! I really look forward to hearing more about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This??? Sounds so cool??? I love these kinds of stories so much, pirate/explorer-esque stories are my favourite thing. I basically like anything with an ocean haha, times 10 if there’s sea monsters involved. Also yay for botanists, it’s such an interesting field of study, and I always love scientist-esque characters.

    Mere sounds like so much fun, I love her already. All the characters sound so great, I love them all. The title is gorgeous, I love it! Also your Pinterest board looks so cool! Mine are mostly on private haha, so I couldn’t insert mine into my post rip.

    I’m so excited to get to hear more about this in November, I hope the writing goes well, it sounds like it’ll be very fun to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you so much!! I love sea monsters too and there will definitely be some involved with this story πŸ˜‰ Yes botany is incredibly interesting!
    I’ve had a lot of fun already developing her and I’m sure I’m going to have heaps of fun writing her!
    Thank you! I put a lot of effort into my Pinterest boards so it means a lot when people say they look good πŸ™‚


  13. Okay I love your ideas. Southern Cross, now this. This is…*words fail* It just sound so cool?? The real botanist who inspired it sounds so cool?? I kind of secretly love botany a lot and it is literally NEVER in stories (I don’t count The Penderwicks because even though their dad is a botanist it doesn’t actually come in besides the muttering of Latin phrases and making friends with the gardener) and the whole idea of there one day being a story I can read with botany in it made me SO HAPPY. I loved reading about this project, and I hope the writing goes exceedingly well! πŸ˜€


  14. OKAY THO.

    Chelsea, this is one of the COOLEST, most interesting sounding premises that I have heard about in a long time! A YA novel about botany and privateers and THE SEAAAA and sibling relationships and gold and a ship called The Orca???!!! It just sounds incredible.

    (also, I love how many of your stories take place in Australia cuz I know like zilch books that have Australian settings.)

    Can we all have a moment of silence in honor of Roe? Poor fellow sounds like he’s been through the wringer. 😟 I think he needs a hug.

    Your collage is beautiful! ❀️

    Thank you for sharing about your WIP! I really enjoyed hearing about it and I wish you all the best of luck come November!!


  15. I LOVE THIS. The whole idea of it– concept, characters, plot, everything– is FABULOUS. I haven’t read any YA novels that have to do with botany either, and it’s awesome that you combined it with a story set on a privateering ship!! The characters sound like loads of fun and I hope I might have the chance to get to know them one day!

    The concept of retellings modeled after real people’s lives in history? So cool. I’m actually really fascinated with Marie Antoinette, so excuse me while I go check that one out– and best of luck with drafting this November!


  16. Wow, amazing historical inspirations! And oh my word, I LOVE Mere’s character! Spunky, but LOGICAL? Fiery but still wanting to love and be loved? Kind, persistent, and all the rest? WONDERFUL complexity and averting SO many tropes!

    Oh, and I love the acknowledgment that even the conventionally handsome aren’t guaranteed to have a million love interests swooning at their feet. πŸ™‚

    Your three protagonists sound interesting and complex! And retelling history via a fantasy world? Absolutely inspired!


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