Star-Crossed was conceived at the helm of the Endeavour Replica in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the middle watch. Bob and I had signed on as voyage crewmembers for the incredible experience of learning to sail a square-rigged ship. HM Bark Endeavour, a 20th century replica of Captain Cook’s 18th century converted coal carrier from Whitby, England, had been built in Australia and was circumnavigating with a small permanent crew aided by temporary voyage crew (willing lubbers like Bob and I) who participated in various legs of the journey. The three-masted Endeavour is a floating museum, a veritable time machine and we were fortunate to play our parts as 18th century ordinary seamen.
Bob and I served on the vessel’s three-week crossing from Vancouver to Hawaii in October, 1999. We were among 54 souls aboard; most of us students, retired professionals, parents and grandparents in our former 20th century lives. We worked and slept side by side and learned the ropes in short order. We paid for the privilege of being pressed seamen and it was one of the most thrilling and difficult experiences of my life.
A handful of us were women. In this 20th century egalitarian world we were expected to do everything the men were expected to do; from climbing aloft and out on the footropes of the yard arms to make and furl sail, heaving together on halyards, sheets, lifts and braces, braiding reef points, scrubbing decks, doing dishes, keeping lookout, and taking our turn at the helm.
It was during my trick at the helm when the idea for Star-Crossed (working title, Orion Rising) was born. If I, a middle-aged woman, could do a man’s work aboard ship then surely a younger lass would have no problem passing as a lad and going to sea, just like those picaresque accounts from previous centuries. Accounts that proved to have a basis in fact, I was to learn when I began to research the Period in earnest. Aboard Endeavour, the character Patricia was born from my imagination, inspired by lack of sleep, fear, and a close-knit commeraderie that quickly developed amongst us. I didn’t yet know the plot but I was living the setting, I was imagining the character, her motivation, what drove her. I knew what she wanted, and what she feared. When I got off the ship in Kona I still had years of research ahead of me, but the character Patricia was vigorously alive and refused to be ignored.
In 2006 Star-Crossed was published by Alfred A. Knopf as a young adult book. My agent was Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and I am grateful to her for hooking me up with such an esteemed publisher. My editor, Michelle Frey, was also editing Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series. The day I signed the contract with Knopf was the highlight of my literary life, thus far.
I wrote Patricia’s story from the viewpoint of a teenager, never intending it to be a novel for young adults. (Had I intended it for young readers I would have peopled it with vampires and wizards.) Yet the New York Public Library chose Star-Crossed to be among the Books for the Teen Age – 2007. I was honored but still confused over the whole marketing issue. Is To Kill A Mockingbird a Young Adult book because it is told from a girl’s point of view? What about Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye? When I was young there were no YA books. At a certain age if you loved to read, you started reading adult books and adults read books written from the perspective of children and teens. These were called Coming of Age novels. Yet my agent convinced me the YA market was the way to go. What did I know about marketing?
After signing the contract it took a more than two years for Star-Crossed to be published. A lifetime, it seemed. What was I to do while waiting to edit the final galleys? Write the sequel, of course! And so I wrote the first draft of Surgeon’s Mate; Book Two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series. Yet Knopf didn’t want to publish a series or even a sequel, the initial sales hadn’t been promising. My agent didn’t see it as a lucrative venture either, and so Surgeon’s Mate languished “on the shelf” for four years until Nautical Fiction maven David Hayes in England discovered me on Facebook and alerted Tom Grundner of Fireship Press, publisher of historical and nautical fiction about my yet unpublished sequel.
Surgeon’s Mate was published in April, 2011 as adult historical fiction, and is available in trade paperback and electronic editions from the publisher and through bookstores worldwide. Now Star-Crossed is going out of print and if Knopf doesn’t want to reprint it, Fireship does! What luck!
Patricia MacPherson is alive and well, struggling to get by disguised as a young man. She is keeping me busy, I’m deep into book three (working title, Rogue’s Island) which I plan to have finished early 2012. Thanks to David Hayes’ historicnavalfiction.com and Fireship Press I am to write a series after all.