Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BLOOD TIDE by Holly Stacey: YA Tale of Slavery, Pirates, and Freedom

Today I'm excited to host a very talented writer and fellow team member with knowonder!, the online children's publication. Holly Stacey is the author of the YA historical fiction novel BLOOD TIDE, which is a fascinating tale of a slave girl from the Caribbean and her perils of finding freedom among a ship of pirates. Welcome, Holly!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I started writing when I was old enough to hold a pen and I’ve been telling stories for just as long.  I always wanted to be a writer, but for some reason, ended up studying archaeology at university.  I suppose I felt that it would be good to have a day job that I loved too!  My grandmother was an English teacher, first at Wilson High School, then at Long Beach City College.  She used to take me to author’s talks and give me fiction books that were given to her by authors.  I read everything she gave me. 

I didn’t start seriously writing until I moved to the UK, long after I finished my MA in Medieval Archaeology.  My first novel is still in my bottom drawer and needs some serious re-working. My second novel, The Faerie Conspiracies, was much better and received good praise from editors, but no takers, so I self-published it.  It’s done okay, but I do long for the big break and a contract from one of the larger publishing companies.

After writing Faeries, I needed something a little more grounded and went from writing urban fiction/fantasy to historical fiction for teens.  The wet UK weather was making me long for blue sky adventure and pirates were on my mind.  Blood Tide took me years to write and research, but I still don’t tire of re-reading it when it’s cold and wet outside (especially the bits about the gold coins found at the base of a waterfall).

Writing short children’s stories for knowonder has been a boon as it helps my writing get out there and keeps me on track and keeps me positive between novels.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I love A Wrinkle in Time.  I must have read it ten times as a child, I couldn’t get enough of the science fiction adventure, well I suppose it was just Madeline L’Engle herself!  I also love Treasure Island, Skullduggery Pleasant, The Hobbit and well, the list and genres go on…

What inspired you to write this book?

The main character.  Amber needed a tale told about her.  At my grandparents’ house, there is a portrait of a woman – a sketch really, and it felt so warm. The woman in the portrait jumped to life and it reminded me so much of Amber that I suppose the story had been at the back of my mind for some time.  I also wanted to write a book for teens.  Black History Month is filled with good books and historical facts, but as a teen, I think it’s easy to just get blasé with it all, especially when dates and events are bashed into your brain.  I wanted a historical tale with people they could relate to and learn a bit of history on the way.

How would you describe your writing process?

A labour of love.  With a small child at home, I’m not at liberty to do all-nighters any more, but write when it’s her afternoon nap time (really, I should be cleaning house, but why dust when you can be writing adventure?) I start with the characters, an introduction for me to get to know them, and before I know it, the story writes itself – I type as I write and as a touch typist, I can get a good flow of words as quick as they come to mind, so it’s easier than talking.  As I write, the entire events unfold in front of me and it’s very much like watching a film.  The tough part is going back to edit – then it’s just words on paper with a few grammatical mistakes.  I usually do three edits of a novel before sending it out to editors and readers to make suggestions.  Then it’s edits all over again.

How have you marketed your book?

I’ve set up a writer’s page on facebook (!/pages/Holly-Stacey/338509066242606) and keep followers informed on my progress and book releases, I’ve also contacted some friends who are editors to write reviews.  I also try to update my blog as much as possible:          
Goodreads has a good community of historical writers (all genres, really) that support each other too, which helps get the word out.
There is always more marketing that can be done – but the angle is that it’s a blend of slave history and pirates.  People who are missing Pirates of the Caribbean can read Blood Tide and feel like they’ve had another adventure in the aquamarine waters near Port Royal.
Really, it’s a long slog of e-mailing the right people to get interviews like this J

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

They found their groups and began making their way to the steps when Hans appeared at the top of the exit, a dark figure outlined against the dawning light.
            ‘They’re coming this way!’  His breathing was laboured and his eyes slightly wild.  He stumbled two more steps, lost his footing, and tumbled head first into the sea below.
            A scream erupted from Amber’s throat and was silenced by E’s large hand.  Hans floated face down – a dagger protruding from his back.  One of the men dove in and pulled him to the ledge.  His body flopped lifelessly as it was hauled out of the water.  No one made a sound.  It was as if time had stopped from mere shock.
            ‘To arms!’ shouted Captain Emerus, turning red around the ears.
            The men’s voices merged into one freighting roar as they scrambled up the steps to take revenge.  Treasure was no longer on their mind… only blood.
            Amber watched them go, aware that Peep was standing next to her, his mouth slightly agape.  He was in shock, but Amber knew she needed to see to Hans first. She scrambled awkwardly down the rope and dipped her lower half into the water.  It was incredibly cold, but she took a deep breath and leaned back, looking up at the cave ceiling as she kicked.  She didn’t think about looking down into the deep blue beneath her or what could be swimming underneath and in a few moments, her back scraped along the ledge.
            Han’s body was still warm.  His eyes were glazed, but when she felt for a pulse, she found it.  ‘Thank da Lord,’ she whispered.  But he wasn’t breathing.  She rolled him over, and looked at the knife still sticking out.  She was sure it wasn’t in a vital spot.  Father Harold had taught her basic anatomy from one of his many books and the knife’s blade was in a fleshy area.  She took a breath and pulled it out.
            Hans’s body shivered and like a miracle, he coughed up some of the sea that he must have swallowed when he fell.  His eyes fluttered open and then shut again, his breathing raspy, but strong. 
            ‘Amber!’  Hans had managed to scrape out her name before losing consciousness.  There was a harsh laughter from the top of the steps.
            Her head whipped up.  There was an eastern-looking man with long plaits and a bright red sash filled with at least four muskets.  He grinned at her and pulled out a long sword.
            She stared.  She had nothing to defend herself with.  Her mind raced as the man came closer, chatting to her in his native tongue.  His grin made her think his mind wasn’t on a quick death.  Her hands scrambled to find something – a rock maybe.  The dagger reflected the pale lighting and she snatched it up, painfully aware that there was no way it could compare to a sword.
            He came closer, slowly descending the steps.  His teeth were shiny black as if he’d coated them with soot and grease.  He stopped speaking his language and tilted his head.  ‘Francais?’  He shook his head, mockingly.  ‘English? You speak English?’  His voice was high and he said the words awkwardly as if he hated the way they rolled off his tongue.
            But Amber had reacted enough for him to know she understood.
            ‘I will enjoy you,’ he said, coming closer.  ‘I speak English for you.  I like hear you scream.’

Where can readers find you and your book? 

I love the fact that your main character was inspired by a painting! BLOOD TIDE is an intriguing historical fiction novel and I definitely recommend it to both teens and adults! Also be sure to check out many of Holly's great short stories for children at

--KSR Writer

No comments:

Post a Comment