28 December 2008

Guest Blogger: Michelle Beattie

We're back! Hope everyone had a lovely winter break, as we did here at Unusual Historicals. To get us back in the swing of things for the last week of the year, we've invited Michelle Beattie to talk about her debut WHAT A PIRATE DESIRES, set in the 17th century Caribbean.


When her family was murdered by the brigand named Dervish, all that Samantha Fine cherished was swept away in the churning waters of the Caribbean. Driven by revenge, she masquerades as Sam Steele, the most cunning pirate of the seas, striking terror in the hearts of every merchant who dares to cross her path. If only they knew the legendary buccaneer's extraordinary secret...


One man has discovered that a fiery female spirit wrestles beneath Sam's fearsome exterior: the pirate, Luke Bradley. He once sailed with the vile Dervish, and now has a score of his own to settle. But as he joins Sam on her journey across the unpredictable Caribbean Sea, Luke is drawn to her loyal heart and courageous strength. Now, making Dervish pay for his sins is second to the quest to win Sam's heart...

Welcome, Michelle! Tell us a little about how you got started with this swashbuckling idea.

WHAT A PIRATE DESIRES came about due largely to Johnny Depp and his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. I'd never written a pirate book, it had never even crossed my mind. Can't say they interested me much. Sparrow changed all that. Johnny changed all that, as I don't think anyone else could have sparked my interest the way he did. So, after 18 months of writing drought, brought on by the death of my dad, I now had a drive, a purpose and a story.

How do you come up with the characters names?

Some just come. I take into account the year and the setting, and then often take the first name that pops in my head from there. For Samantha, I thought a little harder. I wanted a name I could shorten to be a man's name and I wanted a tough last name, thus Sam Steele came to be. I since learned there was an R.C.M.P officer named Sam Steele. Honestly, that's a coincidence, but being Canadian and finding out there was a real Canadian Mounted Police Officer by that name is kinda cool too. For Luke, I wanted a name with a hard sound at the end, because it sounded stronger. Since there was already a pirate we all know named Jack, I thought of Luke. It's also how I came up with the heroes in books two and three of the series, Blake and Nate.

And I always try to have names that flow well together, like Sam and Luke. Justine and Luke wouldn't sound as good.

How do you create a character?

I'm more of a plot-driven writer. I usually think of a story first, and then pick people to play the parts. Using Sam and Luke, I knew I wanted a female pirate, and once I had her name, then I thought, all right, what would make her be a pirate? Is she a reluctant one or a willing one? And usually the best conflict between your main characters comes when their goals contradict one another. I knew I wanted Luke to be a man who enjoyed piracy, so right away I knew Sam wouldn't like it. Then I thought, ok, why? Why would she do something if she didn't like it? And from there came her back story.

For Luke, he needed a reason, too. Why did he like piracy? What did it give him that he couldn't find elsewhere? What would it take for him to give up something he loves?

Do you associate a name to a character trait?

Sometimes. The villain in WHAT A PIRATE DESIRES is called Dervish, which means devil. I picked that purposefully as Dervish is a vile and cruel man. Usually I give villains names I don't particularly like, or named I wouldn't ever give one of my heroes.

How much research was necessary?

I have a great dictionary called English Through the Ages. It tells me when a word was invented and what's it meaning was at that time, since meanings change over time. If a word I really want to use wasn't actually used until 1700 and this is 1650, I'll probably use it. But there was one word I wanted that wasn't used until the 1800's and because that was too long a stretch I found another word. As a reader, I don't like words that jar me out of a story by sounding too modern for that time period. However, I try to use less formal words as what may have been used because it should still be about the story. If you have to stop reading to look up a word or have to stop to try to figure out what it means, then you lose flow for the sake of exactness. For me, I'd rather have a well-moving story.

Do you have any other ideas after this series that's not written yet?

Yes. I love westerns, it's what I started writing first and where my heart lies. I have one for sure in my head at the moment. I've also written a contemporary and have new ideas for a few more of those as well.

How did 'the call' come about?

Well, I'd sent off my partial (3 chapters) at the end of January. Less than two weeks later came the written request for the full manuscript. That was sent off immediately, and just under 3 months later, as I was unpacking my daughter's backpack from school, I hit the play button on my answering machine. And there it was. "Hi Michelle, It's Berkeley Publishing calling, we'd like to talk to you about your manuscript."

I'd won two contests with the manuscript and also came in dead last in another. From those two contest wins I had one agent and one editor look at the partial. Neither liked it enough to ask to see the whole thing. I went to a conference, met another agent and editor and neither of those two thought they could do anything with this manuscript. I don't think, for me, that contests and the conference helped, though certainly the contest wins wouldn't have looked bad on the query letter. But I think it was hitting the right editor for my writing on the right day.

Where do you get your inspirations?

From movies, other books, life in general. I started writing after reading a book and being disappointed in a direction she took the story. I thought, "I'd have done that differently," so books certainly influence me. Sometimes, like the first western I wrote, the idea just comes. Other times I'll have a vague idea and will brainstorm it around with friends until it becomes something I can work with.

Does your life resemble Samantha's in any way?

Well, I've never been to the Caribbean or on any sailing ship but I always give each of my heroines a trait I either have or wished I have. Sam is stubborn and when she gets an idea in her head, she goes for it. I'm much the same.

Does your next book continue with Sam and Luke or are there new characters?

My plan is to have this be a five book series. In each book you'll see many of the same faces pop in, and yes, Sam and Luke will be in each, though certainly not as the main players. Each book will have its own hero and heroine and its own story. There is an underlying theme that'll carry through each book and won't be wrapped up until the end of book five, but you'll have to wait for Romancing the Pirate to come out in September before you know what that is!

Selected Reviews

"Mr. Depp did for Pirates of the Caribbean what Michelle Beattie is doing again in her pirate series featuring What a Pirate Desires. This story is filled with lots of swashbuckling action, adventure, mayhem and don't forget the romance." Cheryl, Manic Readers

"What a Pirate Desires is swashbuckling good fun. Luke has charisma and warmth that just oozes. Both characters are wonderful in the way they take chances. With crisp dialogue and romance that sizzles, Michelle Beattie spins an interesting tale that this reader found satisfying." Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance

"Beattie's latest is a treasure trove for pirate/adventure lovers as a daring female brigand and a rugged captain match wits in a sexy battle of wills. Beattie uses rapid-fire repartee, double entendres and a daring heroine and dashing hero to spice up a tried-and-true plotline, turning it onto a nonstop read. 4 stars." Romantic Times

"This very traditional but fun romance features a feisty heroine, a tortured hero and a sassy parrot along with strong doses of betrayal, action and plenty of cunning." Publisher's Weekly


So, to participate in our last Sunday promo contest of the year, please leave a comment or question for Michelle. Maybe...what do you think of pirates as romance heroes? Any Johnny Depp fans out there? A winner will be drawn next Sunday. Good luck!