Author Sydney Blackburn's story in A Tall Ship is titled "The Princess and the Sea."  

She says of herself:

  I've lived in various places across Canada, from small towns to big cities.  I've been a cab driver, a black jack dealer, and now I shoot people for money.  With a camera, that is. In addition to photography and writing, I love science and history. I currently live and write in London, Ontario with a cat and assorted family.  And as a matter of fact, I do like walks on the beach.

Why did you decide to write about pirates?

It was a combination of research already done for another project and the challenge to find a fresh view of piracy. Stephen King once said that the trick to being successful in the horror genre was to find “new claws” and I think that applies to any genre, any subject.  It can be easier said than done, however!

 Why do you write at all? What made you want to spend your life on work to which a smaller and smaller percentage of Western culture is receptive every year and which for most folks doing it receive very little money?

Want to…? Writing isn’t a choice; it’s something I have to do.  If I can entertain others and make a little bit of money, well that’s wonderful, but even if every person who read my work insisted I stop torturing innocent words, I would still write.

 What, in your humble opinion, is the attraction of pirates in literature?

Pirates break the rules, they break free of the narrow little roles that society likes to define for us. When we read them, or write them, or both, we can do that, too, if only for a little while.

 Do you have a favorite movie pirate, if so, who is it and why?

Strange as it sounds, the Pirate King from The Pirate Movie.  He had panache.  He was confident, impudent, salacious, and he wore Romantic Pirate costuming like a boss.

 What’s the best response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it?

The best response from a friend was to have her, upon reading, drop everything and drive across the city to tell me how much she liked it. Powerful enough to literally move someone! It was actually a little intimidating because I had set expectations, now, and was going to have to meet or exceed them next time…. Failing that, I went over the story itself, trying to figure out what it was that worked.  I still don’t know; I don’t even think it’s a very good story.

 The best response from a stranger was an email telling me that “I don’t normally read that kind of story, but I really liked it!”

 What is the worst response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it?

It’s funny, I knew exactly what this was, but now answering the question, I can’t recall precisely what the criticism was - if it was regarding character or plot or setting, but it was along the lines of “I don’t get it - how did -?” or maybe “who was -?” but oh, I will never forget how it felt! I went over the story multiple times, trying to figure out how I could make it any clearer without actually writing “Now this part is particularly important, so pay attention.”   It wasn’t my first negative response by any means, but it was the first that cut so deep because I couldn’t see the problem.  If I couldn’t see it, then I truly was the most awful writer ever!  Other readers, however, pointed out that his critique was based on a reading comprehension failure, but it shook my confidence badly and it was some time before I felt comfortable writing again. 

 How much do you read?

Lots! Can’t write without reading.  I read non-fiction for fun and research and fiction to visit the realms inside other people’s heads - which is also fun!

 Where did you get your start in writing? 

I had these characters in my head who just wouldn’t go away. So I finally bought a 300 page coil notebook and started going to work early so I could write for an hour at the coffee shop.  It was going to be the Great Canadian Science Fiction Epic!  I filled two of the those 300 page notebooks with some of the worst writing in the history of bad writing.  After that, I took a few classes on how to write - mostly story structure, and so forth - and then put up a couple of fan fiction stories online.   That gave me the confidence to give voice to the characters in my head and off I went.  My first published piece was actually a travel brochure to “pre-book your Afterlife!”

 Who is your favourite author? What is your favourite book? Why? Why??  WHY!?

I can’t pick one favourite, any more so than I could pick one favourite song, or one favourite movie or even one favourite colour.  The first author that really made an impact on me was Dr. Seuss.  Ten Apples Up on Top was the first book I remember having the “ah-HA” moment where the words stopped being just words and become a story.  It’s hard to describe but Dr. Seuss turned me into a reader.  Then came Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” - this story was included in a school reader and made me want to read more like it.  Isaac Asimov was the first non-fiction writer I read and enjoyed (I confess, I didn’t like his fiction.)

 When I was reading Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone stories, I was also reading all my mother’s fiction which included Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor and some Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, which I thought was awesome!  Until I started reading actual archaeology books….  Andre Norton, Nora Roberts, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale….Yes, love them all.  For the worlds they created, the relationships, the situations fraught with fraughtiness (John Scalzi, Red Shirts), the art of subtext, the illusions, the grand purposes, the frailty of humanity...and the sheer fun.

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