Where did you get the idea for this historical fiction book?
I can’t remember where I got the specific idea, but I knew I wanted to write a historical fiction book and I knew I wanted to write something that countered the way Hollywood tends to portray pirates. I came up with the story of Captain Boswell and Alice after getting caught up in that popular culture and deciding to do my own research. Additionally, I started thinking about what makes someone a villain and if their actions can be excused simply because they realize they were wrong. But then I wondered what would happen if a villain could not change, and Captain Boswell was born.
Will there be a sequel?
I had not intended to write a sequel, but a few people have suggested it. If popular demand is strong enough, then I definitely would write one.
What do you want readers to learn from this book?
First and foremost to understand that pirates were, well, villains. Too many movies put them in the hero’s role. We view them as adventurous, misunderstood, humorous, romantic. Heck, even sexy. In pop culture, they are depicted more as treasure hunters than as thieves and murderers. If a story gives them a villainous flair, we’re meant to find it cool or badass. And if the odd story does contain a pirate that is a true villain, then that pirate usually becomes a hero by the end, or does something redeeming in the eyes of the hero. I wrote this story with the intent of exposing the truth, if you will. It may have action adventure elements, but this is a historical fiction book at its core.
Pirates committed terrible acts. Did they have redeeming qualities? Maybe. This is another topic that I wanted readers to think about. Since the book is mostly from Captain Boswell’s perspective, and especially since readers get a firsthand account of his rather unhappy past, I think readers will sympathize with him. But would they still sympathize with him if he did evil things? How much evil would it take to get a reader to stop supporting him? Do readers support him at all, even knowing his backstory? In the end, do readers root for him, or do they hope he will fail? I wanted to confuse readers with the emotions at play in the book. People who I personally know who have read the book have been split over the issue of whether or not they rooted for Captain Boswell. With this split, I consider my work a success.
How long did it take you to write?
It took me a long time to write the entire manuscript. Before I started writing it, there was a lot of research I had to do. The research continued into the writing phases which would slow me down. I wrote on and off for a long time. I wasn’t consistent at all. Once the manuscript was finished, it had to go through revision and editing which took months. From start to finish I’d say it took five and a half years with 70% of that time being writing. But this was my first novel and I had to learn how to stay motivated and budget my time along the way. And finishing The Red Flag has been a huge push all on its own. Pictured is the binder that contains all of my notes and early drafts.
How much revision did it go through?
It went through quite a bit. I would do some revisions along the way, rewriting entire chapters and scrapping whole scenes or adding new ones. No one has seen the first unfinished manuscript, not even my friends who helped me edit and revise. The manuscript that I finished writing which, edited, would become the published book, had major changes from the manuscript that I started. It had more focus and a clear direction as far as story goes. When the finished manuscript went through revision, it was mostly for plot holes, reader comprehension, success of scenes, grammar, etc. Pictured is a page from inside an early draft, all marked up and ready to be revised. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.
Who made the cover of this historical fiction book?
I did, with a little help. I had a general idea of what I wanted it to look like. After scrolling through a bunch of stock images, I found the perfect one. I changed the colors using an editor and did a lot of experimentation. I did tons of research on typography, cover design, and graphic design and picked out two typefaces. After several hours, I had 6 versions of a cover and put them to my friends and family. After narrowing them down to one, I gave it major edits and went through a lot of trial and error. For the back cover, I used an editor to remove the ship from the same image as used on the front. It was a fun project but also a bit tedious and very time-consuming. Shoutout to the Pixabay user Noupload who created and uploaded the original image.
Here are some of the early covers that I made. The first one uses the original image. The fourth one is the one I chose, before I made all of the edits that turned it into the official cover you all know today.
What were your biggest challenges with this book?
It was difficult to create something historically accurate. I wanted it to be as accurate as possible, but for the sake of storytelling, I had to decide what to include and how to include it. If I saw a scene a certain way in my head that didn’t line up with how it would have really happened, then I had to choose between changing what was in my head and what would be more realistic. Nothing in the book is outright wrong, of course. It was more a matter of choosing what details to let slip. For example, I always imagined Captain Boswell with a rapier even though pirates didn’t use them. In the end, I did figure out a way to let him have one that also didn’t mislead readers into thinking it was a typical weapon. There are tons of instances like this throughout this historical fiction book.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Wondering what will happen next. Seriously. I outlined the entire story, but while I’m writing, it feels like reading. If there was a part where you held your breath, I was holding my breath while I wrote it. The question could be, what do I enjoy most about reading, or what do I love most about a historical fiction book, and the answer would be the same. I love going to new worlds, going back in time, and meeting interesting people. It’s why I read and it’s why I write.
Why did you self-publish this historical fiction book?
I initially wanted to traditionally publish The Red Flag. After querying about fifteen agents I didn’t have a single bite. I would have queried more, but after having spent so much time on the queries that I did send out, I took some time to rethink my goals and decide what was best for me as a writer at that point.
Without going into too much detail, I learned that traditional publishing didn’t line up with my goals, and that the amount of work and time I’d need to put into it didn’t line up with the results that I’d want all that work and time to yield. So instead I put my effort into self-publishing, this time with my goals in mind. Whether a writer self-publishes or traditionally publishes should depend on which one will better suit their needs. In my case, it was self-publishing. I still hope to be traditionally published someday, and, in a way, working so hard at self-publishing is progress toward that ultimate goal.
This is your debut novel. How did it go and how do you think the rest will go?
It went better than expected. As far as writing the book goes, I hadn’t thought it would take that long, so I’m eager to get well underway with the next one now that I’ve learned what it takes. I feel much more motivated, as well.
When The Red Flag was released, I had relatively low expectations. I thought sales would be low. I was confident in my writing ability and in my story, I just wasn’t sure if people would want to read it. Wow, was I wrong. And then the positive reviews started coming in and I knew I had something. I don’t know if there’s a definite way to gauge success as far as releasing books go, especially for indie authors like myself, but I consider The Red Flag to be successful in terms of the goals I had for it. I’m optimistic for the future and am excited to get the rest out there.