JBR: How did you become interested in writing about the days of wooden sailing ships?
VEU: My interest in writing springs from a love of books and reading. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I loved C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series, and even more Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful books. I have a certain fascination with the British Royal Navy of (Admiral Horatio Lord) Nelson’s day, but I don’t read only in that era. Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste novels are another favorite of mine.
JBR: Those tales take place in Spain and elsewhere in the 1600s. In those times, sailors often considered a woman on board a jinx. You’ve broken through that with Mercedes, a woman who can hold her own with the men. It’s an interesting new dimension to this genre. How did you come up with the character?
VEU: Women are underrepresented in nautical fiction, perhaps even stereotypically represented, so I wanted to write a character that answered that. An unusual woman, doing the unexpected, with officer-like qualities: brave, intelligent, dashing, kind.
JBR: I love the politesse and mannerisms. It seems like people two hundred years ago sought to maintain good relations with others – their warring being the possible exception. Do you feel this aspect of human relations has changed?
VEU: We don’t bow and curtsey anymore, but I hope the kindness and consideration behind good manners continues today. Two hundred years ago (Western) society was structured such that a woman, with no legal status of her own, had to marry or count upon the protection of a father or brother. The culture of two hundred years ago might provide a convenient framework for a novelist, but those were not the good old days for half of the population.
JBR: Why did you decide to podcast your work? Have you found a new audience?
VEU: Podcasting and distribution through sites like podiobooks.com in serial format is a great way for writers to connect with readers. It’s like how novelists did it back in the day, serializing their novels in periodicals.
And I think the audio book and podcasting approach can work for any genre of fiction – and for non-fiction. There is an audience out there for well written, well narrated and produced books.
You’ve written a sequel, Blackwell’s Paradise, and a concluding third novel, Blackwell’s Homecoming. You have a wonderful reading voice. Will you podcast them as well?
Captain Blackwell’s Prize is the only book of the series available as a podcast. Both it and Blackwell’s Paradise are available as complete audiobooks, and all three can be found in ebook and paperback.
JBR: Do you sail a boat of your own?
VEU: No, I’m not a sailor, though I have access to the expertise of some fine authors and experienced sailors via my publisher, Old Salt Press. And I’ve studied the navy of Nelson’s day, the ships and sea battles, and politics and culture in Europe and elsewhere during the early nineteenth century.
My father is a World War II US Navy veteran, which is my nearest association to matters maritime and the Navy in real life.
Thank you for hosting me at The Fictional Café, Jack. I understand you are a sailor?
JBR: No, not a sailor, but a real lover of seafaring tales, ancient and modern. My best friend is a real sailor and he takes me for cruises on his beautifully restored 1964 Egg Harbor yacht. Some day we’re going to ship out of Rhode Island and take his boat, named “Blues Breaker,” all the way to Florida.
A long time resident of California, Eva Ulett is an avid reader as well as writer of historical fiction. Proud to be an Old Salt Press author, she is also a member of the National Books Critics Circle and an active member and reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Eighteenth and nineteenth century journals and letters inspired the writing of Captain Blackwell’s Prize. The sequels take Captain Blackwell and Mercedes to the far side of the world, on new personal and cultural adventures. The Captain Blackwell novels are available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats on Amazon.