Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Trevor Atkins to the blog to talk about his latest Childrens Adventure book The Day the Pirates Went Mad.
Of course! I live on the west coast of Canada with my family and I’ve been working with words for much of my life, but have only recently pursued historical fiction. Even writing with the aim to publish has only come about recently. I was first motivated to show my daughter that nowadays there are easily available platforms through which you can share your creative ideas with the world. That’s how we ended up writing our three-act play, “The King and Queen’s Banquet”.
This latest story, “The Day the Pirates Went Mad”, was intended to be just a short story with nuggets of real life from the Golden Age of Pirates woven in – to help make learning fun. But as the scenes were outlined and the historical research progressed, it grew into a proper-sized novel!If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Day the Pirates Went Mad, what would it be?
“The Day the Pirates Went Mad” is an entertaining ‘cozy’ historical fiction set at the turn of the 18th century during the Age of Sail. Although intended for ages 10-12, older readers can also enjoy this story and it’s suitable for sharing with younger readers when supported by an adult. (You know your kids’ reading-level best!)
Now she is on her way to the West Indies, the setting of so many of the stories she has heard, about exploration and pirates. After being blown off course to a deserted island, the crew recovers a cursed pirate treasure. As the situation aboard ship worsens, Emma and her friend, Jack Randall, must dare to confront the growing danger before it’s too late.
While exploring a theme of greed/wealth vs. family/friends, “The Day the Pirates Went Mad” also conveys a ‘boatload’ of learning about the life and times of those sailing the seas 300 years ago – but without dwelling on the grittier realities (that’s the ‘cozy’ part). Entertainingly educational!
In that vein, we also have a Teacher’s Guide on the website, and are adding behind-the-scenes and research-related posts in an on-going basis. In the New Year, we’ll be putting more of a STEAM focus on these resources.
That’s the gist of it without giving away the details!
What attracted you to writing historical fiction for children? And/or where did the concept for the Emma Sharpe Adventures series come from?
Well, as you can probably tell already, we like to make learning fun. And telling stories is a great way to pass on learning and lessons, as we have done for many, many generations.
Pirates, dinosaurs, aliens, and monsters are all things children often find fascinating. Of all of these, pirates are the most real – they existed only 300-500 years ago and they are part of our human history. This has always had great appeal to our daughter. The more real the story and the more real the people, the more she liked it.
I also remember once commenting on how Captain Hook was portrayed in Jake and the Never Land Pirates – his hook isn’t even sharp! That led to the question of whether real pirates had hooks or not. So we started looking into actual pirates, their ships and equipment, the world they lived in, and the role they played in history versus how they’ve been popularized. Then, with a little inspiration from R. L. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Y. E. Allison’s poem “Derelict”, Emma’s first adventure was born!
Describe Emma in three words.
A challenge! If I can only pick just three: Emma is curious, plucky, and caring…
Of course, Emma is also independent, adventurous, frequently stubborn, impetuous at times, and… well now we’re definitely over three…
Put another way, Emma wants to know about the world and though she loves a good story, to see it first hand is better than hearing about it. She will do what needs to be done, whether it is a chore or a challenge – even if she is nervous or scared; including stowing away aboard a sailing ship, travelling to distant lands, or breaking into the captain’s cabin. She will also take risks to satisfy her curiosity and will willingly put herself in danger if she thinks it will help save others.
The ship's crew are a motley bunch, which character did you have the most fun creating?
In the beginning, the characters were just a list of roles: main character, main character’s ally/friend, captain, cook, best sailor, etc. Then each was defined in relationship to Emma – to pose a challenge to her, to inspire her, to help her, to be there for her, to be her family, or those who helped her grow to where she is today. Next came descriptions, voices, motivations, etc. As each character’s backstory developed, they became interesting in of themselves.
Old Mossy is a good example as he had been around a fair bit before Emma met him. I had to understand who had he sailed with, where had he have travelled, and what historical events did he participate in? However, the two most interesting to me right now, aside from Emma herself, are Korede and Catherine. I think it would be really fun to write a spin-off story for either of them in which they pursue their own goals.
But there is still a lot of tale to tell with Emma, and it will be fun to see how she changes and grows!
If you could give some advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?
Hmm. I think I might tell myself to start writing with an eye to publishing sooner. And to start smaller, so as to have more completed stories. It’s so easy to share your creations these days; short stories, poetry, interactive adventures, novels. I feel like I should have been working on this years ago. But now is when the inspiration has come!
For anyone who wants to write: start now. Even if it isn’t your big project – write!
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
To me the best thing about writing is to not just write a story, but to write one that teaches – in as integrated a manner as possible. Like a campfire story where learning and lessons are handed down to the next generation. One with detailed characters navigating their way through many interwoven plot threads, learning and growing as they go. And then to share that story with a special audience; like the one I have at my campfire. :)
The hardest part is to get through the perfecting effort of revision – there always seems to be more that can be tweaked and improved. But then comes the point when I have to be strong and say, “Enough is enough! Set it free for others to see!”
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
As I touched on earlier, we’ll be expanding the Teacher’s Guide and we’ll also be continuing to add to our behind-the-scenes & research-related posts. At the same time, I’m very excited to start outlining book two. The base concept is feeling good, and my next step is to explore the specific story beats.