BookLife Talks with Linda Collison
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Barbados Bound'
Working as a crew member on a replica of an 18th-century ship provided the seed of what would become Collison’s debut work, Barbados Bound.
Barbados Bound was originally published by Knopf as Star-Crossed (2006). What made you decide to republish it yourself?I was thrilled to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. Star-Crossed received good reviews and was a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age in 2007. When my erstwhile agent asked what else I had in the works, I told her I was writing a sequel to Star-Crossed. I can’t sell that, she said. Knopf wasn’t interested in a sequel and no other publishers would buy a sequel, she said. Surgeon’s Mate, book two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventures series, was dead in the water, or so it seemed.
I continued to research and write Surgeon’s Mate, drawing on my hospital experiences as a registered nurse, my sailing, and my study of 18th-century history. Through social media, my writing came to the attention of David Hayes of Historic Naval Fiction, a U.K.-based website and forum. Hayes alerted Tom Grundner of Fireship Press, a small publisher in Tucson, Ariz., specializing in nautical historical books. Tom was keen to publish Surgeon’s Mate and Star-Crossed.
Surgeon’s Mate was published in 2010. I then asked Knopf for a reversion of the rights for Star-Crossed and was given them. I made a few small changes, including putting back a few sexually charged passages Knopf wanted removed, and changed the title to Barbados Bound.
Tom Grundner died suddenly before the book’s release, leaving Fireship Press under the direction of family. In November 2017, book three, Rhode Island Rendezvous, was published by Old Salt Press, an independent author-owned press.
You and your husband frequently sail your own sloop. Did this inspire the book at all? If so, how?Absolutely! My husband, Bob, and I have sailed thousands of miles together aboard Topaz, our Luders-36 sloop. It’s nearly impossible for me to separate my own intimidations, fears, and senses of accomplishment from those of Patricia, the protagonist of Barbados Bound. In 1999, Bob and I spent three weeks as voyage crew members helping to sail HM Bark Endeavour, a replica of Captain James Cook’s ship, on its circumnavigation. As crew, we climbed aloft to make and furl sail, took our tricks at the helm, and slept belowdecks in hammocks in the same manner that 18th-century seamen did. The Star-Crossed character Patricia MacPherson was born aboard Endeavour on that 3,000-mile crossing from Vancouver to Hawaii.
How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to Barbados Bound and its protagonist, Patricia?
How do you make a life for yourself when the only world you’ve known falls apart? Patricia comes of age during tumultuous times, struggling to become her true self. It’s set in the past, but the protagonist’s quest is timeless.
Our review says, “Collison does a magnificent job of capturing the excitement and danger of life on the high seas.” What kind of research did you do for the historical setting?
Living and working aboard Endeavour was hands-on, experiential research. The ship was a time machine to the 18th century. Yet I had a great deal of background research to do to understand Patricia’s broader world, including the very real presence of women aboard British naval ships in the Georgian era. Actually, the research has never stopped.
What are you working on next?
I’ve got several projects in the works, including a stand-alone historical novel titled Lost Letters of Anna Austen, which begins in Portsmouth, England, and ends aboard a ship during the Napoleonic wars. Frankly, I’m looking for an agent for this one. Maybe Knopf will