14 September 2012

HNS Conference Guest - Margaret Muir

Dear Helen,
Like you, I share a love of adventure on the high seas. Thank you for inviting me to your Guest Blog to celebrate the forthcoming HNS Conference with you. 

My first flashes of writerly inspiration came when I was aboard a tall ship in the Indian Ocean. Sailing in the silence of a moonless night, I was alone on deck gazing at the sea curling from the ship’s bow when suddenly, I was mesmerized. 

Margaret - a bit cold in Antartica
There, dancing in the water, were thousands of pin-pricks of light, sparkling like tiny fireflies, appearing for an instant then disappearing just as quickly. They made me think of a magician’s magic dust and I nicknamed them illusive diamonds. 
Marine bioluminescent particle 
(courtesy D.P. Wilson)
Later I was to learn that the stars twinkling in the foam were marine bioluminescent particles which emitted light when the water was stirred by the ship.
Original Cover Design

For me, however, these illusive diamonds inspired my first novel, SEA DUST. Strangely, that scene appears in Chapter 11, which any budding author, might think is a crazy place to start a story! But I suppose we are all different. After publication by Hale Books in 2005, I wrote two more historical novels both set in Yorkshire where I was born and bred.
Being a late starter as a writer, I undertook a course in Creative Writing in order to improve my writing skills and around the same time I sailed to Singapore on a cruise ship. This was where I met Peter. Though I don’t write romance, our meeting would have made an excellent episode on The Love Boat. Apart from sharing a love of writing, we shared a love of travel. 
After sailing across the Atlantic in a barquentine, we cruised around South America and visited the Antarctic Peninsula, and it was the sights I saw on these voyages which inspired my next two books.

But when Peter died suddenly in a road accident, my writing came to a sudden halt. I felt the need to escape and start life afresh, so in 2007, I flew to Tasmania for a week’s holiday and immediately fell in love with the place. Two months later I was living in a house on a ridge overlooking the beautiful Tamar Valley near Launceston, Tasmania (obviously the early settlers didn’t have much imagination as far as place names were concerned).

From my window, overlooking the river winding its way towards Bass Strait, I can see Brady’s Lookout, the place where Matthew Brady, the ‘Gentleman Bushranger’ hid while watching for a ship to carry him to freedom. Unfortunately, his ship never came and he was captured and subsequently hung in Hobart in 1826.

MM aboard sailing ship at night 
Today, when I gaze at this landscape which has remained unchanged over 200 years, I consider the deprivation and hardship of men like Brady who were sentenced to transportation, to the lash, and to hard labour for committing petty crimes such as stealing a lump of cheese. I think of the first convict ships which used shackles taken from the Guinea slave trade vessels, and of the penal settlements where young men suffered unspeakable deprivations and punishments, which made the two dozen lashes handed down on His Majesty’s ships look like child’s play.

Though SEA DUST was my favourite book, I believe FLOATING GOLD is my best novel. Written in the style of a C.S. Forester or Patrick O’Brian classics, it is directed at a male readership. However, it is pleasing to see so many female mariners these days who enjoy reading nautical fiction stories.
(H.H. I loved it - I would have made it my editor's choice for the Historical Fiction Online Indie Published Books Reviews  - but the rules state that Ed's Choice must me a newly published book, not a re-published.)

Because of my interest in convicts, cannibals and Aborigines, over the last two years I have delved further into the colonial history of Van Diemen’s Land, and, in December, I graduated from the University of Tasmania with an Associate Degree in Arts. 
Graduation Dec 2011
 FLOATING GOLD was first published in hardback in limited numbers but I have recently self-published it in paperback. 
It is available from www.lulu.com, www.amazon.co.uk or www.amazon.com. SEA DUST is also available in paperback and as an e-book and although I intend to write the story of the ‘Gentleman Bushranger’, I have just commenced writing the sequel to FLOATING GOLD.

Thank you, Helen, for allowing me to share something of my story with your readers.

H.H. My pleasure Margaret - and I can highly recommend all your books! So looking forward to meeting you at the conference!

Margaret's Banquet Guests

As a lover of adventure in the age-of-sail, I would have to include CS Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower stories.
I won’t include Patrick O’Brian for if his dinner conversation is as verbose as some of his paragraphs, I feel be could hog the conversation. However, I would not say no to Russell Crowe in the guise of Jack Aubrey.

Johnny Depp would have to be on my list – not because he makes a fine pirate, but because he is a brilliant actor. His dark dramatic roles in The Secret Window and The Libertine are examples. (HH. Please can I come Margaret - I'll wait at table, wash up .... anything..... )

I would also love to meet Anthony Hopkins – a great actor and a gentleman.

Explorer, adventurer Ernest Shackleton is my hero. I believe his adventures far outweighed those of Captain Scott. Thanks to Shackleton all his men survived.

Matthew Brady – bushranger – hung in Hobart town 1826. I would like to hear his side of the story.

Also J.M. Barrie, playwright of Peter Pan. Perhaps he would show me the way into the wonderful world of his imagination.

William Wilberforce showed dogged determination and persistence against insurmountable opposition in his quest to bring an end to the slave trade. His qualities are something every author should aspire to.

I would also like to include my father, Frank Leak. He died in 1972 and I never really spoke to him as an adult.

For the Historical Novel Society's review of Floating Gold click Here

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