A very interesting guest post today from author Anna M Holmes.
Anna M Holmes
Anne is a headstrong young girl growing up in the frontier colony of Carolina in the early eighteenth century. With the death of her mother, and others she holds dear, Anne discovers that life is uncertain, so best live it to the full. She rejects the confines of conventional society and runs away to sea, finding herself in The Bahamas, which has become a nest for pirates plaguing the West Indies. Increasingly dissatisfied with her life, Anne meets a charismatic former pirate, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, and persuades him to take up pirating again, and she won’t be left onshore. The Golden Age of Piracy is a period when frontiers were being explored and boundaries pushed. Wayward Voyage creates a vivid and gritty picture of colonial life in the Americas and at sea.
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Women in Disguise
More than 20 years has passed since I first heard of pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about these women who dressed in breeches and took their place amongst the men in Jack Rackham’s pirate crew.
Did other women disguise themselves and go to sea? Could they get away with it? Suzanne J Stark’s book FEMALE TARS Women aboard ship in the age of sail was an excellent resource. Women did go to sea – just as Mary Read does in my story – driven by economic need and believing a career as soldier or sailor to be more attractive than life as a domestic servant.
But day-to-day how did they manage, say, going to the loo? All I can suppose is that they went to the head and squatted at the overhanging hole at the bow to do their business and never stood to pee as men would likely do. I can see that might work but what about menstruating? Did they somehow conceal strips of rags and manage to wash and re-use them or chuck rags overboard when no one looked? History (to my knowledge) is quiet on the subject.
Suzanne’s book suggests some clues as to how they survived undetected. It seems sailors didn’t wash very often so you might not expect to see someone’s bare torso, though in the tropics I would have thought you’d want to strip. I have Mary choosing to go to the lowest, orlop, deck to wash where she can expect privacy.
Women who fought in the navy could expect to get injured. There are reports of one woman who received a wound in her upper thigh and even though she was treated she was not ‘discovered.’ It says something for how rudimentary such care was and something for how uncertain life was that the injured woman in disguise was more worried about being found out and losing her job and pay packet than she was about dying. I’ve made use of some of this when creating the mindset of Mary’s character.
Another thing to consider is creating psychological distance on these crowded worlds. Perhaps people just weren’t that curious about each other. This would be one way of creating personal space.
When ships needed to replenish food and water, it was common for naval vessels to anchor well out into the harbour and keep men on board to deter deserters. The best way to keep them happy was to keep them entertained. Boatloads of prostitutes, girls and women, were rowed out and might stay on board for many days until it was time to sail. I’ve also used this in my story. Considering how close hammocks were slung and considering there would be a lot of noisy coupling going on, then retreating to a personal space would be the only way to get by.
This was a harsh life for many people. I have approached building my world with curiosity and have created characters who are not sentimental about their lives.
On my website you will find links to Twitter and Facebook, and you can sign up to receive a monthly newsletter on the Contact page. I am keen to engage with readers and welcome questions. The Book Club page has links to further reading and there is a PDF with suggested questions and discussion topics.
If you enjoy reading Wayward Voyage, I would love you to leave a review on the retailer’s website and recommend to friends.
Bon voyage and happy reading, Anna M Holmes
Anna is originally from New Zealand and lives in the U.K. with her Dutch partner.
WAYWARD VOYAGE is Anna’s first novel. She has been fascinated by the lives of women pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, for a long time. Some years ago, she visualised this story as a screenplay before exploring and building their world more deeply as a novel. WAYWARD VOYAGE made a longlist of 11 for the Virginia Prize in Women’s Fiction 2020.
BLIND EYE an eco-thriller, will be published by The Book Guild in September, so this year, 2021, Anna will have two novels coming out. Her screenplay, BLIND EYE, is joint winner of the 2020 Green Stories screenplay competition.
A documentary about pioneers of flamenco in the UK that Anna produced and directed was screened in Marbella International Film Festival and in London. This passion project ensures a slice of cultural history has been captured. It is available on YouTube and via a portal on her website.
She holds a Humanities B.A, a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and an M.A. in Dance Studies. Initially she worked as a radio journalist before a career in arts management working with U.K. Arts Councils and as an independent producer, dance history lecturer and she has run a dance development agency.
Anna is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and enjoys practising flamenco. Writing, dance, and yoga shape her life.