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.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I have a morning routine. Yoga for an hour; breakfast; desk/computer. Since I started writing, I have lived in different houses but always had my own writing room. Where we live now, in south west London, I’ve set up a desk in our bedroom, so this is a dual-purpose space. It is sunny, overlooking the back garden, and I spend far too many hours here! Most weekdays I am at my desk any time from 9 to 9.30am and, mid-morning coffee break aside, work through to about 1 pm. Afternoons I may research, do other related activities (such as preparing for this book tour), read other books and make time to go for a walk.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Not really. I’m not a procrastinator and I don’t I need to lay out my things just so… I’m thinking of tennis champion Rafael Nadal who obsessively lines up his water bottles at the side of the court so he can concentrate on the game. But I do like routine. This morning, part way through my writing time I received a phone call from an old friend living the other side of the world. Of course we talked, but part of me was thinking this is WORK time. Given the choice, I leave appointments and all else for after lunch.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Nope. Food and drink are downstairs, workspace is upstairs. Over a meal, or morning coffee, I’ll browse the Guardian at the table. We’re old fashioned and subscribe to an actual newspaper as well as viewing news online or on TV.
– What is your favourite book?
Ahh! That is an impossible question. There are many books I have re-read. Classics that appear on my lists such as Pride and Prejudice; To Kill a Mockingbird; Middlemarch. John Irving’s books I’ve returned to, particularly A Prayer for Owen Meany. Before I started thinking of writing, I thought if I were to write then I would love to write like Irving. I love his big canvases, imaginative off-kilter meld of drama and comedy in his early and middle works. In the past year, the book I’ve enjoyed reading most is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, who, interestingly, was mentored by Irving.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Wayward Voyage is my debut novel. I became interested in the lives of real-life women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read some years ago. By default, this is historical fiction. I researched broadly to create a world my characters inhabit. My next novel, Blind Eye, an environmental thriller, is about illegal logging from tropical rainforests and government collusion. This will come out in September. I feel honoured to have two books being published this year with The Book Guild. I am working on my third novel, about a body dug up from a peat bog set in the present day and am not sure what genre will best describe this. Thriller, maybe? Wait and see. Stewing on the back burner of my mind is a fourth novel set at the beginning of the 20th century which will be a return historical fiction genre. This will be about the world of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe. Dance has been a life-time passion.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Always there are elements or characteristics of people I know, (or indeed things I recognise in myself) that I use in constructing characters. I’m a like being a magpie – picking up snippets here and there and turning to my own purpose.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I should, though I don’t. But I like to go for a short walk in the afternoon and this is a good time to let fresh ideas come into my head. When that happens, I am sure to note them when I’m home. I have a file box of ideas – things I have read in the paper and cut out – but I doubt I will get around to many, if any, of them. I loved hearing about a poet who, when working on her family’s farm as a child, would have to rush home if an idea came to her. She needed to race ahead of the poem before she lost it.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
Fantasy and Sci-Fi. That said I did work my way through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones is the first book) and enjoyed them. I have two grown sons who mainly read fantasy genre, so I thought I should read GOT so we had common reading ground to talk about. The way I approached the TV series was to read a book first then watch the relevant series, read some more, and so on. That worked.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I have to say my partner because this is happening for real with the bog body book. A year or so ago he was recovering from a bad fever and came up with the idea in a half-waking state. I said, ‘write it down’ so propped up in bed, with a laptop in front of him he wrote a page outline. While it is my story, he is very involved as researcher, feeding in/feeding back and impatiently waiting to be handed another chunk of chapters, keen to see what I make of his nub of an idea. I tease him we might end up like in Stephen King’s Misery where a psychotic ‘number one’ fan makes the author write the book she wants.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
For Wayward Voyage I have sailed on a tall ship – the Lord Nelson – as voyage crew, to experience for myself what it is like to handle ropes and go aloft. That was sailing between the Canary Islands and totally magical. In 2019 when we could still travel, I visited South Carolina to walk in the steps of Anne Bonny. I wouldn’t have gone there otherwise and loved our time there. We visited plantations to get a feel for life in colonial America (though these plantation houses date from a much later period).
Aged 24 I left my homeland, New Zealand, and travelled for some months through South East Asia to reach Britain. I have holidayed in many marvellous places – often inspired by books I read as a child or teenager. Once living in Britain, the first place I had to visit was Corfu as I adored Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and Birds Beasts and Relatives, recently adapted for TV. Visiting Crete followed, driven by The Moon Spinners, Mary Stewart’s book from the 1960s (and made into a film).
I plan to visit Ireland when lock down ends to do some research for my/our bog body book. And I’ll probably visit Paris again for my ballet book. All good excuses to hang a holiday around research.
Thank you, Anna Holmes and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
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.
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/AnnaMHolmesWriter
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