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.
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 “extras” 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.