Monday, May 29, 2017

The Historical World of Jack Mallory and The Prodigal (guest post by Susan Keogh)

Today I'd like to introduce guest blogger Susan Keogh, author of the newly re-released historical novel The Prodigal and the two novels that follow it (The Fortune and The Alliance). I enjoyed these books tremendously. I've also had the privilege of reading some of Susan's work that has not yet been published, and I can assure you, there's plenty there to look forward to! If you're not yet familiar with this author, you have a treat in store. Here's Susan, followed by her book blurb and her guest post.

The Historical World of Jack Mallory and The Prodigal (guest post by Susan Keogh)

A story of relentless pursuit, betrayal, and revenge:

As a young boy Jack Mallory knows horror and desolation when James Logan and his pirates murder his father and abduct his mother. Falsely accused of piracy himself, Jack is thrown into jail. He survives seven years in London’s notorious Newgate prison and emerges a hardened man seeking revenge.

His obsession with finding his mother’s kidnapper drives him to the West Indies where he becomes entangled with a fiery young woman named Maria Cordero. With a score of her own to settle with James Logan, she disguises her gender and blackmails Jack into taking her aboard his pirate brig, Prodigal, in his desperate search for Logan. Their tumultuous relationship simmers while Jack formulates a daring plan to rescue his mother and exact revenge upon Logan for destroying his family. But Logan has no intentions of losing what he now treasures more than life itself—Jack’s mother, Ella.

What is the single most important aspect of writing historical fiction? Setting. Setting is the “world-building” that agents and editors talk about when discussing the genre. You can have great characters, but if the reader can’t see, smell, and feel the place where your characters live, the story will fall flat.

The setting for my 17th century novel, The Prodigal, is split between three places: first and foremost, aboard the Prodigal as she sails the Atlantic Ocean (most of the novel takes place at sea); second, the West Indies; and third, the Colonial province of Carolina (modern day South Carolina). This article will discuss the first and the third.

The brig Prodigal was formerly used as a merchant vessel but commandeered for Jack’s purpose: hunting down the notorious pirate who kidnapped his mother. I chose a brig (two masts, compared to the three masts of a true “ship”) because, historically, pirates did not sail the large vessels portrayed in most Hollywood films. Pirates preferred small craft for their speed and maneuverability. They had no need for dozens of heavy guns to overpower their victims because most merchant vessels pirates preyed upon were lightly armed (guns took up valuable cargo space) with small crews (a money-saving measure). My search to find a replica of a brig for research resulted in my discovery of the Niagara, whose home port is Erie, Pennsylvania. I had the pleasure and privilege of sailing upon her three times, one of those times as a member of the crew. Though the Niagara existed over a hundred years after the era of my story, I was still able to apply much of what I learned about sailing to my 17th century story. If you’d like more information about the Niagara, please visit their website. They offer day sails to the public.

Me after my first sail aboard the Niagara.

When discussing the setting of Charles Town, Carolina (modern-day Charleston), I don’t want to give away anything about the plot of The Prodigal (I hate spoilers, don’t you?), so I will keep this a bit broad.

I traveled to Charleston a couple of times during the process of writing my novel. My focus was upon rice plantations and the rice culture, which made the region wealthy in the 1700s. My story takes place in the 1690’s, so in my story I had to portray Leighlin Plantation as a bit ahead of the times in discovering rice cultivation.

Two invaluable stops during my research were Drayton Hall and Middleton Place Plantation. Drayton Hall was such a magnificent house (and so very well preserved) that I decided to use its design for Leighlin House.

Leighlin’s land was partially inspired by Middleton Place, situated on a bluff (a rare topographical feature in the “lowcountry” of Charleston) with its beautiful view of the Ashley River.

I used Middleton’s bluff, terraces, butterfly ponds and some other aspects for Leighlin, but its immense gardens I used for another plantation featured briefly in The Prodigal, Wildwood Plantation. Beauty and symmetry greet the eye in every direction at Middleton’s gardens. (They also have a fabulous restaurant and Inn on the property, where I stayed during both of my visits.)

Both Leighlin and Wildwood feature more prominently in the second and third books in the series. But don’t feel it necessary to read The Alliance or The Fortune in order to enjoy The Prodigal. The Prodigal was originally written as a stand-alone novel, but once I reached the rather surprising ending, I found that the characters had much more to tell me, and I couldn’t wait to find out what that entailed. I hope you will feel the same way, too.

To purchase The Prodigal or read a free sample, click here.

You can connect with S.K. Keogh on the web through these links:

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