Ahoy! I sat down to chat with author Tricia Levenseller to about her inspiration for the terrifically fun pirate fantasy Daughter of the Pirate King, its sequel Daughter of the Siren Queen and the virtues of the animated Sinbad movie. (No really!)
Lately, whenever anyone publishes a book with pirates, it’s pitched as “Pirates of the Caribbean meets X” and, well, usually it isn’t. Yes, there are pirates, but no, it doesn’t really capture the feeling of the movies. The exception is Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King which has the movie’s rollicking excitement and the playful twist on pirate tropes. I caught up with her in the crow’s nest at C2E2 to talk about her book’s origin story and what’s ahead for Alosa.
Daughter of the Pirate King is the story of Alosa, a lady pirate who gets kidnapped by pirates…on purpose. Her kidnappers believe they have a valuable, pampered hostage, but she’s actually on a secret mission to search their ship for a map. Daughter of the Pirate King twists expectations on what women can do in an era where men typically ruled the seas.
In her research, Tricia learned that there was plenty of real-life lady pirates who inspired Alosa’s strength: “There are so many things with guy pirates I wanted to do lady pirates. So I started researching and I found all these real-life female pirates. There were so many of them! My favorite is Ching Shih who was a Cantonese prostitute turned pirate. She wed a pirate captain who was over tons and tons of fleets. She sailed with him and when he died, she took over command of his ships. She grew his fleet to be even bigger than it was before. She was brutal and ruthless. She fought alongside her men. She was just a feared, feared pirate. She was the most successful pirate of all time, having more men under her command than any other. Three different governments tried to put her down because she was just pirating so much. She would take ships and tell the men ‘okay you can either sail for me or die.’ Every time they tried to stop her, her fleet would just grow and grow. Eventually the governments were just like, ‘take all this money. We’ll bribe you to stop pirating.’ She took it and retired and died of old age. She lived happily ever after. After reading that, I was like, this is awesome! Not only did real lady pirates exist, but they did successfully. I just think that’s really cool. Lady pirates knew how to do it right.”
The tone and pacing of Daughter of the Pirate King is similar to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl which is no accident: “My inspiration came from Pirates of the Caribbean. Big surprise there, right? I love that movie so much, not just because of the pirates, but because it mixes pirates with fantasy. That was the first time I’d seen that done before and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. When I decided to write a book about pirates, I knew I wanted to mix pirates with a fantastical element.”
If the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie isn’t working for you, Tricia recommends another pirate movie that many people may not know as well: “Dreamworks Sinbad. I loooove it! It’s animated with the same feel as Pirates of the Caribbean. Same thing: Pirates plus fantasy. I love it so much. Sinbad is voiced by Brad Pitt and the female lead is Catherine Zeta-Jones and it’s just delightful. They did a fantastic job especially with the pirate with-a-heart-of-gold trope which I think is fun.”
Daughter of the Pirate King mixes pirates and fantasy with the inclusion of sirens. However, these aren’t quite the sirens from Greek mythology: “I wanted freedom to play with the sirens more. I didn’t want to do what I’d already seen done. That’s one of the fun things of being a fantasy writer, right? I kind of morphed them to fit my plot. I initially wanted a girl getting kidnapped by pirates to steal a map. Then, when I threw in the sirens, I was like, ‘how do I mix these two together? OK, she’s stealing a map, how can I work sirens into that?’ I worked them into the treasure lore. Not only do they kill men after having their way with them, they also steal their gold. They like pretty things like birds. They do this so they can steal their treasure and then they horde it like dragons. That’s how the siren island came to be. I was taking the idea of sirens and making it work for my plot.”
The plot for Daughter of the Pirate King keeps throwing left turns into the story — some of them where planned, but not all of them. Tricia discovered one of them as she was writing since “I wrote a completely different ending initially and then it wasn’t working. I couldn’t figure out, for the life of me, why it wasn’t working until that other thing hit me. I was like ‘Oh my gosh! What if I did it THIS way?’ I worked the twist in there at the end.”
There are two books planned in this series though Tricia confesses that “I left it open ended for a spin-off. This series is done with these characters, but I did leave it open in case my publisher says I can write another pirate book with other side characters. It’s officially two books.”
So what’s in store for Daughter of the Siren Queen?
[Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Daughter of the Pirate King yet!]
Tricia gave some hints on where we go in the next book: “We’re going to go to the island. Alosa was a captive in the first book. She was on a ship, but she wasn’t sailing. This book, we’re going to see Alosa sailing a ship and being in command and commanding her crew as they go through rough waters and dangerous creatures and all kinds of fun things. This one I think people might like just a little more because its going to be on the adventurous side. We’re going to have more swoons, more banter and we’re going to see that all-lady pirate crew so I’m hoping people will like it.”
I already love how well the cover matches between books and how the end papers will as well. Daughter of the Pirate King had ship schematics and Daughter of the Siren Queen may have end papers that feature the map to Isla de Canta. Tricia explains: “I actually had my sister draw it for me because my publisher wants to put it in as the end pages for book two. I don’t know if that will actually happen, but that is the plan. I can’t draw so I had my sister do it because she’s an artist. We sent that in and they are going to hire a professional to re-create that and put it in the beginning of the book.”
In the meantime, Tricia is hard at work finishing up edits on Daughter of the Siren Queen and working on her next project which is still pretty secret right now. She calls it her”battle axe book” so make of that what you will!
Daughter of the Pirate King is out in bookstores now.
Daughter of the Siren Queen is due out late February next year.