25 July 2017

My Guests Revisiting: Linda Collison

... recycling some posts from  an old (now deleted) blog of mine that I ran in 2011/2012 
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originally published July 2012

Linda Collison’s writing has appeared in a variety of magazines over the years. Linda and her husband Bob Russell have written guidebooks,and sailed thousands of nautical miles aboard their sailboat, Topaz. The three weeks they served as voyage crewmembers aboard HM Bark Endeavour inspired Linda's Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series. 

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I’m Linda Collison and I write historical fiction. I find myself in a long-term, not particularly monogamous, but definitely passionate yet conflicted relationship with DEEP WATER. 

It’s curious, how my love-hate affair with the sea began: I was born near the shores of the great saltwater estuary known as the Chesapeake Bay - but I never spent any time on a sailboat, having grown up with horses instead.  Flash forward several decades.  See me sitting in a little Sunfish opposite my boyfriend who suddenly begins to talk – give orders, actually -- in a strange language.  See the boom swing across and nearly knock me into the deep blue water.
Regaining my balance I say, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do that?” 
“Do what?”
“Whatever it was you just did with the boat that nearly knocked me in the water.  A little warning would have been nice.”
“Did you not hear me say “Coming about, helm’s a-lee?” 
“What the #@*& does that mean?  Is that even English? ” 
And so our first argument took place on a boat. 
Many years later I married my sailor and have since sailed many nautical miles with him aboard various vessels, including our own Topaz, a 36-foot sloop.  (See, I learned to speak nautical right proper!) 

Sailing came to me late, but creative writing came at a very early age. In fifth grade I entered – and won – an essay contest sponsored by the Maryland chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Now I was sure I was going to be an author (but I had no idea it would take so long or require so much persistence!)
I wrote my first full length novel when I was in my early twenties, at the kitchen table with toddlers crawling up my legs and supper burning on the stove. I entered it in a contest but it didn't win. It didn’t even place.  Actually, it kind of sucked. But I learned a lot about writing a novel. 

In the meanwhile, I went back to college and graduated with a nursing degree.  I took a few Composition and Creative Writing classes along the way and began to write stories and articles for publication.  But I couldn’t quit my paying job.  During the 13 years or so that I worked as a registered nurse I wrote about my experiences and had some of them published.  Truth be told, I liked writing a lot more than I liked nursing, but nursing gave me a steady paycheck, life experience, and poignant stories about real people. 

My sailor and I wrote two guidebooks together, which were published by Pruett, a small press in Colorado.  Encouraged, I wrote another novel and entered it in the erstwhile Maui Writer's Conference and this time I won the big one, the Grand Prize. Oh my God, I thought; the agents and editors will be calling, they'll be beating the door down, Steven Spielberg wants me, right?  NOT!   
My winning novel was never published. I received enough rejection slips to repaper my dining room. (Who among you is old enough to know what a rejection slip is? Nowadays they just ignore your cold query, there are no rejection slips; you even don't have the satisfaction of balling up that piece of paper and throwing it across the room. Or lighting it on fire...)
These were the days before self-publishing had become respectable and viable.  I decided I would roll up my sleeves and write another novel.  Problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about.  I wanted to be a novelist but I had no plot, no setting, no character.  

October, 1999. My husband and I signed on as voyage crewmembers aboard HM Bark Endeavour, a replica of Captain James Cook's 18th century ship that was sailing around the world as a floating museum, taking on willing souls to help sail. Bob and I flew to Vancouver and signed articles before setting off to cross the North Pacific. Our duties included climbing aloft to make and furl sail in all sorts of weather.  We took our turns at the helm and in the galley.   We scrubbed decks.  We stood our watches and slept in hammocks strung from the timbers.

My three weeks aboard Endeavour transported me back in time to the mid-18th century.   Patricia MacPherson came to me in the middle of the night, in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.  I was steering the ship, keeping her on course, thinking what it might have been like to have been alive in the 18th century, to have been a woman on a ship like this. Not as a passenger but as part of the crew. 

In writing Star-Crossed I wanted to explore what it might have been like to have been a cross-dressing young woman aboard a ship during the age-of-sail. All those stories about girls dressing as boys and going to sea – maybe they weren’t just stories. After all, here I was doing a man’s work, wearing a man’s clothes, sleeping in a swinging hammock next to my male watch mates (one of whom I was married to.)  If this middle-aged broad could do all of that ruffy-tuffy sailor stuff, then surely a bold young lass of yesteryear would have no problem. My subsequent research proved me right.
Star-Crossed (later republished as Barbados Bound) would be more than six years in the making.  Published in 2006 by Knopf/Random House, the New York Public Library chose Star-Crossed to be among the Books for the Teen Age - 2007.  Meanwhile, I wrote the sequel.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Knopf wasn’t interested in publishing a series.  But Tom Grundner of Fireship Press was. Fireship Press published Surgeon’s Mate  in 2011 and Tom offered me a contract for Star-Crossed  as soon as it went out of print with Knopf.  He recognized it for what it was: adult historical fiction, not YA.   Sadly, Tom did not live to see Star-Crossed revised as Barbados Bound under the Fireship label.

UPDATE 2017:

New book in the Patricia MacPherson series soon to be launched!

Sometimes a protagonist insists on doing things her way, taking over the rest of the series.
Patricia MacPherson isn’t a pirate, but it appears she has become a colonial Rhode Islander -- which many of her British contemporaries would say is practically the same thing. Why she took up with the “Rogue Islanders” is revealed in Surgeon’s Mate, Book Two of her eponymous series.
I’m pleased to announce Rhode Island Rendezvous – Book Three – Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventures, to be published September 1.  This novel was more than five years in the making, partly because protag Patrick/Patricia was pulling in directions I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. And once I decided to follow her, I had research to do, followed by much writing. And rewriting.  
At long last she’s ready for launching. Here’s the low-down:

Newport Rhode Island: 1765
The Seven Years War is over but unrest in the American colonies is just heating up. 
Maintaining her disguise as a young man, Patricia is finding success as Patrick MacPherson. Formerly a surgeon’s mate in His Majesty’s Navy, Patrick has been employed aboard the colonial merchant schooner Andromeda importing undeclared foreign molasses into Rhode Island. Late October, amidst riots against the newly imposed Stamp Act, she leaves Newport bound for the West Indies on her first run as Andromeda’s captain. In Havana, a chance meeting with a former enemy presents unexpected opportunities while an encounter with a British frigate and an old lover threatens her liberty – and her life.

Helen: I'm really looking forward to this latest one, Linda - maybe you'll come back and tlel us more when it has been released?
Now - who would you invite as dinner guest? Anyone at all...

Linda's Selected Dinner Guests

J D Davies, the author of ‘The journals of Matthew Quinton’, an acclaimed series of naval historical fiction set in the Restoration period. David is also a prominent historian of the period who won the prestigious Samuel Pepys prize for Pepys’s Navy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and is currently working on a naval history of his native Wales.

Helen Hollick, as most of you know, is published in the UK and the US with her books about King Arthur and the 1066 Battle of Hastings, officially making the USA Today best seller list with her novel Forever Queen.  And Helen writes pirates and sea witches better than anyone I know!  

Margaret Muir. Margaret’s work is well respected by readers of classic maritime fiction set during the Napoleonic era. Now, with five historical novels to her credit, she is writing a sequel to her age-of-sail nautical adventure, Floating Gold.   

Rick Spilman, guru of all things nautical and the host of the Old Salt Blog.  His first novel, Hell Around the Horn, is due out this summer.  An avid sailor, he has sailed as volunteer crew on the replica square-riggers “HMS ROSE” and “HMS BOUNTY.” He has been published in the Huffington Post, Captain, Forbes online, and canoeing and kayaking print magazines.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I see my ship coming in…
Yours, aye,

Linda Collison www.lindacollison.com 
Linda is on Facebook


Did you miss?  My Guests Revisiting...
James L. Nelson 
Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics Design

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