Melinda LaFevers is an author living and working in the great state of Arkansas. Her story in A Tall Ship is titled The Making of a Privateer. She kindly stopped by Krogfiction for an interview and answered a lot of questions.
Why did you decide to write about pirates?
The editor of the book asked me to submit a story. But actually, I have been interested in pirates for quite a while, and have a number of books about historical pirates.
Why do you write at all? What made want to spend your life on work to which a smaller and smaller percentage of Western culture is receptive every year and for which most folks doing it receive very little monetary remuneration?
I have been writing since Jr. High – at least, poetry. I added writing songs in College, and started writing stories a number of years ago. There is something about writing that is a reflection of who I am, what I am going through, my emotions...sometimes I can't talk about something, but I can write about it. And if, in my writings or songs, I can touch someone else? That makes it all worthwhile.
What, in your humble opinion, is the attraction of pirates in literature?
There is a bit of romance attached to pirates. People who are caught up in the day to day routine of simply surviving sometimes see pirates as a freedom to do what they want, when they want. Some of the female pirates were fighting as much against the perception of what women could or could not be as they were anything else, in all probability. Historically, pirates had a type of democracy on board ship that was not found elsewhere, and there was also less of a racial barrier and prejudice on a pirate ship than elsewhere in society at that time. And, occasionally, you actually had the “gentleman” pirate, rather than the blood thirsty, “kill them all” type.
Do you have a favorite historical pirate, if so, who is it and why?
I don't know that I have a favorite pirate, but I have a few I tend to favor. I like some of the Elizabethan Pirates – Sir Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher, Sir Walter Raleigh, for example. Grace O'Malley is also a wonderful example. She went to England, barged in on the Queen, and demanded the release of her son, who was being held in prison. Elizabeth was so taken by her boldness that not only did she release Grace's son, but they struck up a correspondence. Grace, on her part, agreed to not take any more English ships – at least, for a while. I also like Gentleman Black Bart – Bartholomew Roberts – he did not have as blood thirsty of a reputation as others, hence the term “gentleman”. John Phillips' articles of agreement is one of the few that survived. My favorite is number nine: If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death. Phillips also captured, and then spared a ship that belonged to William Minot, who was also the owner of the ship that he had stolen earlier, saying “We have done him enough injury.” And of course, there is always Jean Lafitte – Romantic, heroic, did not slay indiscriminately, and would often only plunder part of the goods, leaving the rest to the owners of the ships.
Do you have a favorite literary pirate, if so, who is it and why?
The Dread Pirate Roberts. Love. True love...
Without spoiling the plot, what inspired you to write your story for A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder?
Patrick O'Brien wrote a wonderful series of books about a British Navy Captain during the Napoleonic wars. I keenly felt his loss when I learned of his death, and had read his last, unfinished book. In a way, this story was a feeble attempt at honouring the delight that I had with his writings. Being American, of course, rather than British, we had to win.
So, pirates in general, are they lovable rogues, just misunderstood, adventurers, romantic rebels, or are they just bandits on the sea, thieves, and murderers?
Historically? Far more often bandits, thieves, and murderers. You do find the occasional misunderstood unfortunate soul, such as Captain Kidd.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Oh, my. I don't know that I have a favorite author, but I do have several favorites. Heinlein stands out in my mind, because my parents gave me my first Heinlein book, The Red Planet, for my 7th birthday. It was accompanied by Peter Pan and Wind in the Willows. Some of Heinlein's other writings influenced my thinking in ways that I, at least, still see in my life. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Andre Norton, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Asprin – all of those have written books that I have read more than once.
What is your favorite book? Why?
Besides the Bible? Not really sure what book – the ones I read over and over, I guess (see later question). But the Bible has a lot in it – poetry, sex, adventure, lessons, crime, murder, erotica, songs, rebellion – even if you don't believe in the religious aspects of it, it has a lot to offer from a literature point of view.
What’s the best response a fan or critic has ever given to
your work, and how did you respond to it?
What is the worst response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it?
I'll lump both of those answers together – I'm still wet behind the ears. I've thanked the ones who have complimented my few works, and haven't had a worst response yet.
Well, I did have someone tell me that one of my pieces reminded them of some the early stuff Heinlein had written. I was thrilled. I guess the best response I've had wasn't to a written work, but to a song that I wrote and sang. They had tears in their eyes when I finished, and I felt humbled...
What is the best constructive criticism you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
Hmmm. Well, I have a story in Dreams of Steam
IV: Gizmos. I wrote it at
MidSouthCon, and asked the ladies who were sharing my room to read it
over. I also sent it to one of my Beta
readers. There was one particular spot
– don't ask what, because I don't remember – that they all mentioned. I rewrote that section, submitted it, and it
was accepted, so I guess they were right.
The second story that I ever sold, “Pins and Needles,” was originally submitted to Selina Rosen, of Yard Dog Press, for an anthology called I Should Have Stayed In Oz. My story did not make it, but she asked for it for an ebook called I Didn't Quite Make It To Oz. These were stories that didn't make the print book, for one reason or another, but she thought were worthy of publication. So, she did an ebook (now available in print). In the forward for each story, she explained why they didn't make the print volume of the original book. Those explanations really taught me a lot, and I have reread them a couple of times as reminders.
Is there a book you read again and again? Why?
As a kid, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Robin Hood, Tales of King Arthur. As an adult? Patrick O'Brien books (I've read the entire series of 21 books at least twice, and the first book, Master and Commander, at least 5 times) Dragonriders of Pern series. Mercedes Lackey's Bardic Voices series.
What is your opinion of the classics in the genre in which you generally write? That is, do they deserve to be classics?
Not enough of them are considered classics, and yes, they deserve to be.
Is there an author that you emulate? Why?
Too many good authors. I just try to do my best. I know that some of my writing is influenced by some of the authors that I have read, but I don't really try to emulate anyone specifically. Some of the influence might come out in the writing, tho.
How much do you read?
almost as important as music. I read a
little bit every day.
Where did you get your start in writing?
Jr. High Health class. I was bored, and I wrote a poem. Oh, do you mean my first sold work? Lee Martindale was moderator of a panel that I was on. She announced an open read for an anthology called Ladies of Trade Town. The theme was the oldest profession. Everyone started laughing. She said that she did not want erotica, she did not want porn, she did not want heavy horror. Light horror and anything else was fine. Everyone is still laughing. I'm sitting next to her, and my thought process goes like this: “That isn't the oldest profession. What is the oldest profession?” Then I had this mental image of Adam, Lilith, who according to myth was Adam's first wife, and the serpent all loudly arguing over who had the oldest profession while God is trying to rest on the 7th day. The story wrote itself in about 15 minutes, and was accepted. That acceptance gave me the courage to send inquiries to several magazines about the possibility of writing an article on herbs, which led to my current position as The Renaissance Herbalist for the Renaissance Magazine. It also led me to submit to Yard Dog Press.
What is your most current project that is close to publication?
I have a small book on hoarding, from a personal point of view, that I am in final stages of editing. I hope to have it available through Create Space this year. It will be called Meditations of a Hoarder, explores possible reasons for hoarding, offers positive affirmations, and gives a few resources. I also have two or three children's picture books that I hope to start making the rounds of publishers. And I have 3 fantasy type books that I am working on.
Do you have a routine for writing and, if so, what is it?
I wish! I carry a notebook with me in my purse with one of my current projects, and write in it whenever I get inspired. I should write every day, but I don't.
Do you like to read your own work out loud to an audience?
Yes. If I can find an audience willing to listen.