Wednesday 27 July 2011

Interview andGiveaway: Helen Hollick - Sea Witch

I have posted reviews of the Sea Witch books this week and now it is time for an interview with the author Helen Hollick. And you can also win a book today (open to all).

Tell us something about yourself, so we can get to know you better…
I live in the outskirts of London, England – between a busy suburban town and the 6,000 acres of Epping Forest where all the Kings and Queens of England used to hunt, indeed, Queen Elizabeth I’s hunting lodge can still be seen. I live with my husband Ron, adult daughter Kathy; a dog, Rum and cat, Mab. In the back yard we have Ron’s homing pigeons, my three hens and a variety of goldfish and Koi. There is just about room for a few flowers and a small vegetable patch! We also have three horses, but fortunately for our patch of grass that I grandly call a lawn, they are kept at a nearby livery yard.

I have always wanted to write and was accepted for publication back in 1993 – a week after my 40th birthday.

Could you tell me about your Pirates series?
I had the inspiration for the first book – Sea Witch – soon after falling for Johnny Depp’s wonderful Captain Jack Sparrow. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was so exciting and such fun to watch, pure enjoyable escapism, that I wanted to find something similar to read. There were plenty of nautical-based novels: Hornblower, Patick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, James L. Nelson’s series of novels – Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, and several books for children and teenagers, but there was nothing that matched P.O.C. for adventure, entertainment -  sex - and fantasy. So I wrote my own; the book I wanted to read. What I did not expect, was to fall head over heels in love with my main character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, or have the inspiration to turn the one book into a series. At the moment there are three “Voyages” as I call them, with a fourth half written. I plan at least six – maybe more, but that will depend on how well the others do.

The series is set in the early 1700’s - Sea Witch starts in January 1716, and I intend to travel forward with the series to about 1725 or maybe a little beyond that. Although I have a slight fantasy element – the Goddess of the Sea, Tethys, for instance, and Jesamiah’s girlfriend, Tiola Oldstagh, is a White Witch, I try to stay within the bounds of the believable. I don’t use “Harry Potter” type magic, mine is more along the lines of the Force in Star Wars.

My nautical detail is as accurate as I can get it, thanks to the assistance of author James L. Nelson who kindly edits the sailing detail for me. I have based the Sea Witch (the ship) on the Rose, now known as HMS Surprise. Technically she is a little later in date than my books are set, but I am not writing historical fiction here, these are historical adventure novels. I do, however, research the history thoroughly and use a factual background where I can. Occasionally I will shift the facts slightly – but I always make a note of the “poetic licence” scenes in my author’s notes.

In Bring It Close, for instance (Voyage Three) the story revolves around that most famous of pirates, Edward Teach – Blackbeard himself. I even went to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to research the history for this book, investigating the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol building and the gaol. I so enjoy blending the reality of facts in with the adventure fantasy, in this instance things worked very well. Jesamiah is arrested and tried for acts of piracy – in exchange for his life he is coerced into helping rid the seas of Blackbeard. (Trouble follows Acorne like a ship’s wake)  We know great detail about Blackbeard and his demise because records were kept – Lt Maynard who attacked him in the shallows of the Ocracoke kept a meticulous log of the events, and the pirates, once captured were taken for trial (and hanging) to Williamsburg. It was so easy to assume that my Jesamiah was behind the planning and involved in the fight – as he states in the novel, he wants no mention of his name been recorded. So that is why you will not find him in the records, Maynard complied with the request and took the credit for himself!

Since most like pirates and would surely love a movie, then who would play the main characters?
Oh this is difficult as I’m not really a movie-goer (despite being co-screenplay writer for the proposed movie 1066) I only know of a handful of actors and actresses, and most of them are from the old movies.,,,, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn…. *laugh* hopeless aren’t I! There’s Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner… Johnny Depp of course, but he is Jack Sparrow, it wouldn’t be right to have him play a different pirate.

I think I would rather have the Sea Witch Voyages as a TV drama series though, not a movie – to not compete with Pirates of the Caribbean, and because you can go into more depth with a TV series. I’m thinking of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series here – Sean Bean (now there’s one sexy actor!) I would love Sea Witch to be made with the same quality of that series – and with such fantastic actors.  One can but dream and hope….

Maybe your Blog readers could make some suggestions for who they would choose to play Jesamiah and Tiola?

What is the best thing about writing the Pirates series?
The books are fun to write, I don’t have the restriction of having to stick to historical fact and I can be as imaginative as I like. I adore my Jesamiah, so its fun “being” with him a lot of the time (he does get himself into some dreadful scrapes – nasty and nice ones! He needs to learn to keep his breeches buttoned more often though!)

The best thing of all – unlike my historical novels about real people of the past….. Jesamiah gets to stay alive at the end of each book!

Do you usually do a lot of research for your books?
Yes. Apart from researching the historical facts, I do a lot of research about the places used in various scenes, and shipping and sailing detail as well. I look into the correct clothing, food, drink. Any books I mention that Jesamiah might be reading I make sure were available. For the ship herself, the “facts” do not quite fit the period, as the Rose (HMS Surprise) was built about fifty years later – but I si love that ship, I just had to use her as a “template”.

I have also researched a lot about midwifery. Tiola Oldstagh (pronounced Teo-la Oldstaff), Jeamiah’s girlfriend – and later in the series, his wife -  is a White Witch of Craft, but she is also a healer and midwife. You will find that the scenes where she is helping a woman give birth, particularly in Bring It Close are highly accurate. I am fortunate in that my step-granddaughter, Nicola, is a qualified midwife!

Could you tell me about a little about all the other books you have written?
I have several historical fiction novels published in the UK with SilverWood Books and in North America with Sourcebooks Inc. My Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King are about King Arthur – the what might have really happened story. There is no magic, no Lancelot, Merlin or holy grail, just the down to earth story of a man who had to fight hard to gain his kingdom, and even harder to keep it – and the woman he loved, Gwenhwyfar.

I also have two books about 11th century Saxon England. The first is The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) the story of a remarkable woman – Queen Emma. I am proud to announce that this book has recently entered the US Today bestseller list, so I am officially a bestselling author! Following directly on from where Forever Queen finishes is the next chapter of history – the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Harold the King (UK title) / I am the Chosen King (US title) is about the turmoil of dramatic events that culminated in the Norman Conquest.
(note up to date UK covers of these books available upon request)

Are you writing something exciting at the moment?
I have had a lot of editing to do to get my books ready for the US market – with that completed I did not expect to have to start all over again with my UK editions, but my previous UK publisher had financial problems and I recently had to change to a new publishing house – SilverWood Books. Because I did not have any updated, usable files returned to me I had to re-edit all my original ones – a mammoth task! Hence the updated Sea Witch books are very new into the publication process, and may not quite yet be available from Amazon,com…. But they will be very soon!

I have the Pendragon’s Banner books to complete for the UK, but I am taking a bit of a break from editing at the moment so that I can get on with completing the fourth Sea Witch Voyage Ripples in the Sand. This story brings Jesamiah and Tiola to Devon, England, where Cpt Acorne hopes to legally sell a cargo of tobacco – and illegally pass on several barrels of brandy. He gets mixed up in a jail-break, smuggling, and a planned Jacobite rebellion. Meanwhile, Tiola must look into the past – time slip – to establish just why Tethys, the goddess of the sea, is so determined to have Jesamiah for herself.

I hope then to write another serious Historical Fiction novel…. And I would love to do a spin-off adventure series based on my Arthur books!

Any advice for aspiring writers?
For one thing – if you don’t write it, it will not get published!
Everyone can write a novel, but not every novel is readable, so if you are intending to self publish it is essential that you have a professional edit your book – and not just a “copy edit” for spelling, punctuation and grammar. You will need someone to be honest about the content, to correct the flaws in continuity, or point of view changes (head hopping) or to point out where there is too much “tell” not “show” – and too much “author’s voice. Writing, you see, is not just being able to tell a story, there is a technical side to it as well. But don’t be put off – the technical stuff can be learnt!

For anyone interested I have an article about hints and tips for writing called Discovering The Diamond As soon as I get a chance I intend to also have it available, for free, on Kindle.

Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for having me – and my pirate!

You are welcome to visit my website
join me on Facebook -
or come aboard the Sea Witch page

Giveaway time

Open worldwide!
The prize: Sea Witch, book 1.Hardback or e-copy, your choice
(but if you already got it then I am sure we can get you book 2 or 3 instead)
And Helen will also send a gift by mail to you

1. Ends August 4th
2. Open to everyone in the world
3. Just enter
or answer Helen's question
"Maybe your Blog readers could make some suggestions for who they would choose to play Jesamiah and Tiola?"


  1. It's great that the author was inspired to write this series after watching Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow - the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are so much fun. I love the idea of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn as the main characters :) I agree that Sean Bean is quite a hottie!

  2. Ok I enter but, as I haven't read the book, I really can't tell you anything about the cast. Just please, please, not Keira Knightley ;)

  3. Nice interview ladies! It's ncie to learn a bit about Helen Hollick.
    I'm adding this series to my wish list.
    It does seem like Sea Witch Voyages would make for a great TV drama series.
    As for Jesamiah and Tiola ...maybe James Franco and Natalie Portman?

  4. anachronist. I can promise you : NOT Ms Knightley! I went off her at the UK prem of Dead Man's Chest. We had waited several hours to see the stars. Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom were wonderful, happily signing autographs and chatting to everyone (Mackenzie crook and Mr Gibbs (ha forgotten his real name!) were also lovely. Ms Knightly ignored everyone except the press and the disabled people waiting in wheelchairs to one side (where the press was) We got a wave and that was all. Without the fans actors, musicians - and yes authors - are nothing, that's why I value everyone who reads my books, or bothers to add a comment on a blog!

  5. I always am in for a good pirate story! Thank you so much for the giveaway!


  6. Please enter me in the draw! I always enjoy a good tale on the high seas!

    My email address is darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. I don't read ebook so I won't enter the giveaway but I'd love to weigh in on the casting. I'm also an old movie buff - how about Fred MacMurray and Ingrid Bergman (circa 1945)

  8. Great interview Helen and Blodeuedd, I enjoyed reading it. I have not read the book yet, so winning it would be fun.
    I don't watch many movies or tv, so to suggest an actor is difficult. I do remember a very old pirate movie with Erroll Flynn and fell heads over heals in love with him.

    How about that actor that played a young captain James T. Kirk in the last Enterprise movie?

  9. These sound good. Please enter me.
    Thanks for hosting


  10. I am like Ms Hollick as well -- when the flavor or feeling of something grabs me, I just want to drown in it! I've heard great things about her other historical novels but unlike most, pirates aren't quite my thing. I'm not entering but I will toss out James Purefoy as my idea of a dashing pirate. MM! ;)

  11. The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of my favourite books so any book inspired by that film is one I would love to read! Count me in for the giveaway!

    For the Captain how about James McAvoy? I like the idea of him in breeches and an open shirt - or is that just me?! :)

  12. Sean Bean! *melts*

    I've been enjoying Linda's reviews for this series, and the interview definitely made me more curious to find out if a pirate's life is for me.

    missie at

  13. I don't think that I could cast it until I've read it...but I'd love the chance to read it! Please count me in for the giveaway!

    mk261274 at gmail dot com

  14. I mean I think you had me at Johnny Depp. I mean can you not think of anyone else to play a pirate? lol

    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

  15. What fun! I love the idea of a book series based on the Pirates movies :-) Thanks for the giveaway.

    smaccall AT

  16. I would have loved Heath Ledger as a pirate -- so sad. Other than that, I'd really need to be more familiar with the characters before I could cast them. I think this would be a wonderful series to read this fall/winter. Thanks so much for the peak at Ms. Hollick's homelife and for the chance to win a copy of her new book.

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  17. Thanks for the interview Helen :D

    Pirates, well Orlando was one fine pirate at the end with that bandana ;) As for Tiola, hm, dunno really

  18. I never do well with casting. In my mind's eye, I have a certain look/character/attitude. Its hard to recreate that at times! I'd love to win this book! I'd die!!!!

  19. Because I've had such fun on here - and you are all so lovely - if anyone entering the contest would prefer a hard copy book, rather than an electronic version, I'll be happy to send one!

  20. Fantastic interview! Helen's interviews are always so interesting. I can certainly attest to her other novels being terrific which makes me even more anxious to get to this series. No need to enter me.

  21. Another great interview Helen! You are sailing along very nicely. I am glad you are a London-er just because Englad and Scotland are two places I love to read about and wnat to visit.

    I really enjoy reading paranormal and fantasy books, but at the same time I also want to be believable. It's ironic but I do want the out-of-the world to be something I can easily see happening to me. Since that is your aim with your Voyages books I think I'm really going to enjoy it.

    I'm not sure who should play Jesamiah and Tiola. I need to read a book to connect with them and to gain a visual. Usually though my visual of a character doesn't come from anyone I "know", actors or famous people but a mash-up of people.


  22. I vote for Gregory Peck – he would make a gorgeous pirate! But he seems too much of a gentleman to play Jesamiah.

  23. Can't wait to read this story. =)
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  24. I've been hearing a lot about this Jesamiah of late and I have to say I'm now very curious about him?! And who doesn't love Captain Jack Sparrow? He did wonderful things for pirates:)

  25. I like Hollick and after your reviews and highlights of this series I must read them too!!!

  26. This book sounds neat. :) I love pirates! Thank you for the interview and giveaway.

    ceeenndee at gmail dot com

  27. Please enter me in contest. I havent read any of the series and I would like to very much.

  28. I'd love to be entered!


  29. Oh... I can totally relate with Helen about Johnny Depp being Jack Sparrow! :)

    Cherry Mischievous
    (not an entry)

  30. I wondered if visitors here would be interested in another stop on my Sea Witch Blog Tour - a couple of excerpts from Bring It Close

    and featuring old Blackbeard himself....


  31. I have to second the please not Kiera Knightly comment. This book sounds really good :) Count me in the giveaway. juliecookies(at)

  32. What a great post! I love learning all the back story about how a book comes about. I wish I could help you out with actors, but I haven't read the book yet, so I don't know who I would want to play the characters. I love what you said about a TV series vs a movie, and I want to let you know that I for one would definitely watch that series!

    Thanks for a great giveaway, too :)
    jwitt33 at live dot com

  33. I LOVE pirates so I'm definitely going to have to add Sea Witch to my list of books to buy. Since I haven't read it yet I can't cast based on the characters but for a movie, I imagine Daniel Craig might make a good pirate and Gywneth Paltrow could make a good healer type while still managing to be the girlfriend/wife of a pirate.
    I don't know TV well enough to cast for a TV series. :-/
    teawench at gmail dot com

  34. Please enter me in the giveaway. I really enjoyed the interview and I am looking forward to reading the book.

  35. Hi i love the old time stories of pirates and i would love to read this book and series. Please enter me into the giveaway, thanks Joannie

  36. @Misha
    Sean Bean is such a hottie so he would be mighty fine ;)

    Lol, ok no more Keira

    You're in

    Ohhhh, I like those choices, a lot!


    They sure are fun

    There were just something about them

    You can get a hardback if you win :)

    That guy would be good...but I can't remember his name either

    Thanks for stopping by

    Now we are talking, I think I like your choice the best ;)

    Well I do like him shirtless too. And I have a friend who would watch the movie at once

    Thanks Missie!

    I agree, hard to say anything before you have read them

    Lol, aye Depp is good

    Good luck bookwyrm

    Yes he would have been good :(

    I am the same :)

    She is such a great writer :D

    it sure is hard to say anything before you have a read a book. And even then it is hard since you got that image in your head :)

    You might just be right there


    He is a pirate who is everywhere these days for sure

    Glad to hear!

    Thanks for coming by

    Tore, Yvonne, Joni
    You're in :)

    Lol, there is just something about him

    Julie S
    I am in on that too ;)

    I would love a good pirate show, as long as the pirates are nice

    Well let's say there is enough money for them to take part in a series ;)

    Thank you all for coming by :D

  37. Oh, now I have to enter for this one. :) It sounds like a great series to get into. And after reading your reviews.... well, I think I need it. :) Thank you!

    Great interview. Sounds like a great series. And I love Pirates with Johnny Depp. ;D

    Thank you!


  38. James Franco as Jesamiah
    Bryce Dallas Howard as Tiola

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  39. I have enjoyed The Forever Queen and I Am the Chosen King which I devoured. I have been dying to get my hands on the Arthur series but haven't yet. I hadn't heard of this series until last week. I would love to be entered.

    About the cast I am not too sure, but I would have to second the suggestion above to not have it be Keira Knightly.

  40. I would love to win this book! Please enter me into the giveaway. Thanks
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  41. I love the plot to this, how much fun!

  42. I want to enter to this giveaway! this book seems to be a goodone and since I haven't read this book (:((() I can't answer the question. Thanks for the giveaway ;)... I am putting this in my wishlist hehehe.

  43. Oh sounds like a good book although I haven't read it so can't really answer the question!

    Count me in for the contest though!

  44. Fabulous interview! This series sounds so amazing and you're reviews really did the books justice. I am very partial to Orlando Bloom as a pirate. Put some facial hair on him even longer hair and a scruffy appearence and I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off the screen. Now since I haven't read the books no one pops out to me for the lead female role...Natalie Portman maybe. Great question though. :-D

  45. I love pirate stories!! Please count me in!!



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