Today I'm welcoming someone new to my blog - Regan Walker- who is here to tell us about her novel Wind Raven.
It's lovely to have you visit, Regan. You've a great post for us, to give us some background, and wonderful images which you've gained permission to use here on my blog. (Thank you)
As an author of historical fiction I know just how much time the simplest of words take time to research when the setting is perhaps not one that's familiar enough. 'Splice the mainbrace'? Well, much as I know roughly what that might mean, and I've read the phrase often enough, I would still have to go and research exactly what that means before I would use it in my novels but since I love to research it's no hardship!
Over to Regan...
The Challenge of Setting a Story on a Ship
By Regan Walker
I love the sea and the ships that sail upon it. I also love a good pirate story. So, when I decided to set Wind Raven, the third book in my Agents of the Crown trilogy, a pirate Regency, on a schooner (well, among other places), it seemed like a grand adventure.
I had no idea.
Since I’m committed to making my stories historically accurate, I dove into all the ship terminology, pouring over my new 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word Book until late at night. But I realized just having the vocabulary was not enough. I wanted to be able to describe a storm at sea as huge waves crashed onto the deck and a battle that had shot bringing the sails down around the characters. And get all the ship parts right while doing it. So, I did gobs of research and studied diagrams of schooners and sail configurations until I was seeing them in my dreams.
But even that was not enough. I had to get the feel of the ship. I decided it was essential to take a ride on an actual schooner.
The schooner pictured right was painted by artist William Lowe. It’s the Californian, a reproduction of a topsail schooner that, fortunately for me, is berthed in San Diego where I live. It is the type of schooner Capt. Jean Nicholas Powell sails in Wind Raven. So, of course I had to experience the ship under sail. I wanted to listen to the sails luffing, feel the wind on my face as the ship’s bow cut through the waves and feel the moving deck beneath my feet.
In my half-day sail, I asked a hundred questions. I soon exhausted the knowledge of the docent aboard, at least as to the early 19th century. However, I found a jewel in the gunner, Chari Wessel, who became my technical consultant, and now my friend. Like my heroine, Chari is an impressive woman. Wind Raven is dedicated to her.
Chari led me through the things my research could not tell me. Even a simple question like whether the quarterdeck should be raised. You’d be surprised at how complicated the answer is. Some schooners were flush-decked, that is everything on the main deck is on one level, so that you could walk from the bow to the stern without going up or down any ladders—this despite the fact the ship had a “quarterdeck.” This is the case on the Wind Raven (yes the ship and the book have the same name!).
Some schooners had a raised foredeck (keeps water off the main deck) and a raised quarterdeck that did the same thing. The "break in the deck" would be aft of the last hatchway on the main deck. Some schooners would have the helm on the quarterdeck, while some would have a cockpit or sunken area around the helm. Ships with high sterns--quarter decks and poop decks above them often had their steering gear on the main deck so that the helmsman was only looking at the compass (binnacle) and receiving shouted orders from the decks above, completely unable to see the sails, the sea, the ship at all. The Californian has a small cockpit with the helm set down to "main deck" level, behind the quarterdeck. So to get from the bow to the stern, you walk up a small ladder to get to the quarterdeck, and then you walk down a small ladder to get into the cockpit. Whew!
See? Now was that simple? Or, perhaps not. If you compound that many times over with every issue from windows in the captain’s cabin (side windows in larger schooners), to what the captain might read (it’s in my novel!), to where the first mate bunks when my heroine takes over his cabin, to the size of the crew, you begin to get a picture of the depth of research required to “get it right.” The result was over a year of conversations between Chari and me and lots more research. But the end result, I believe, is an authentic sea faring romance.
I haven’t even mentioned the research I did on the ports of call…Bermuda (the picture above is of Elbow Beach, where one of the scenes takes place), Cabo Rojo in Puerto Rico and Baltimore. And then there was all the research for the real historic figures that are characters in my story.
The story is set in 1817, after the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 had ended. It was a time when piracy was on the rise. You’ll have to read my story to learn about why and how a tall, blond giant of a pirate decided he wanted the heroine for his own. Oh yes, he did. And few tangled with El Pirata Cofresí, a real historic figure, and lived to tell about it. But Capt. Nicholas Powell did!
The research sounds wonderful, Regan. I'd love to have joined you on that sail and learned even a fraction of what you did with Chari's help. Thanks for sharing such a great post.
As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego, California in the US with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
Ordered by the Prince Regent into the Caribbean, English sea captain and former privateer Jean Nicholas Powell has no time for women onboard the Wind Raven, especially not Tara McConnell. The impudent American forced herself aboard, and so she’ll get more than she bargained for: Instead of a direct sail to Baltimore, she’ll join their quest to investigate a rampaging pirate, the infamous Roberto Cofresi.
But the hoyden thinks she can crew with his men, and though he bans her from the rigging, Nick is captivated watching her lithe, luscious movements on deck. Facing high seas, storms, cutthroats and the endless unknown, he must protect his ship, his passenger, his crew. But on this voyage, with this woman, there is a greater danger: to his heart.
Buy Wind Raven from:
Regan’s Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Regan-Walker/e/B008OUWC5Y
Regan’s website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/
Regan’s blog: http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)
Regan- Best wishes with Wind Raven.