posted by Nancy
I'm delighted to have bestselling author A. C. (Ann) Crispin return to the Lair today. Ann is not only a science fiction and fantasy author but a co-founder of Writer Beware. She has written numerous science fiction tie-in novels for series like Star Trek and V as well as a wonderful trilogy exploring Han Solo's early life. Yesterday marked the launch of Ann's latest project, a Pirates of the Caribbean prequel that shows us the young Jack Sparrow.
Welcome, Ann! You may be the only woman to have delved so deeply into Jack Sparrow's psyche.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom obviously ties into the Disney movie franchise, but this book has a somewhat different spin. Please tell us about the story.
This book is a prequel to Pirates of the Caribbean and takes place when Jack Sparrow was 25 years old and sailing for the East India Trading Company (EITC) as an honest merchant sailor. His boss is Cutler Beckett, and we find out in the book that it was Cutler Beckett who branded him with the P for Pirate. They left their mark on each other, as Beckett says.
There are also flashbacks to when Jack Sparrow is living the pirate life in Shipwreck Cove, and he’s twenty. His idea of rebellion against Captain Teague (the character played by Keith Richards in the third film) is to go straight. Actually, he doesn’t have much choice because he broke the Code and faced exile from his pirate brethren.
What draws you to the character of Jack Sparrow?
He’s a complex character. He’s a challenge to write dialogue for because Jack often speaks in a very obfuscating way, deliberately so, and it’s hard to get those speech patterns down. It’s a challenge because he doesn’t talk like anybody else. His ways of expressing himself and his manners are as much of a weapon, frequently, in getting him out of scrapes as his pistol and his sword. For example, he just unnerves straight men by coming over swishing at them and talking extravagantly. They don’t know what to do. Their brains stop working, and then Jack gets one over on them.
How do you envision Jack in this book?
Jack in the book is Jack becoming. He is not the Jack that we see in the movies, but the seeds are there. The seeds have been planted, and by the end of the book, you can see the shoots growing for the man we see at forty. Jack in my book is more trusting. He is not as devious, but he’s learning. Many of his characteristics are the same, but he’s trying to make it in the straight world of being a merchant sailor. So he’s sort of playing a role.
I think he’s kidding himself, and I think the reader will understand that he’s kind of kidding himself, but he really thinks he can put his pirate nature behind him. I think we all know Jack has got to embrace his inner pirate.
How did you approach creating the character and tying him into the film franchise?
I was given a lot of material by Disney. They have an extensive volume called The Pirates Mythology that’s four or five hundred pages long. It’s everything about the Pirates universe and some extrapoloations, but not too many. It talks about all the members of Hector Barbossa’s undead crew, for example, and gives all their names and a line or two about each of them, who they were.
It gives the names of minor characters that you would not know otherwise, the names and types of all the ships, the maps, material about the East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe.
The important thing to understand is that this is not our world. It’s an alternate universe. It’s not quite our world because magic works. In addition to undead pirates and Aztec curses, there are historical events that don’t add up. For example, in our world, Port Royal, Jamaica, was destroyed in 1692 by an earthquake, but it exists in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe.
I made changes when necessary. For example, I created the island of Kerma with this beautiful, shining city of Zerzura. I also created New Avalon, another island settled by the English. It’s not quite the same universe, but it’s based on our universe.
My instructions were to be historically and nautically accurate where it didn’t conflict with the Pirates of the Caribbean canon. There’s a lot of nautical and historical detail, and it’s all real unless it comes directly from Pirates of the Caribbean, like mentioning Port Royal. If I talk about how they raised the sails or took the sails down in a storm, that’s very accurate. I was lucky to have a very good nautical advisor and an advisor on pirates who was also a swordmaster. So these two resources, Steve and Ben, were just invaluable. I couldn’t have written the book without them.
This book starts on an island with Egyptian cultural influences. Can you give us a hint as to how that fits into the story?
Lower Egypt was called Kush, and the pharaoh was lord of both Kush and Egypt during certain historical periods. The capital of Kush was called Kerma. It has been partially excavated, but it’s now in the Sudan, and the area is very unstable.
The island in the prologue is a off the west coast of Africa. For a while there were dynasties from Egypt and some from Kush. There is a legend of a place called Zerzura, where the children of Kush, as quoted in the prologue, were told to go west. In The Last Camel Died at Noon, one of the Amelia Peabody mysteries, Elizabeth Peters wrote about her version of the sons and daughters of Kush founding a secret oasis in the mountains.
My book is dedicated to Barbara Michaels, who is Elizabeth Peters. My island is between the Canaries and the Cape Verde, shrouded in illusion and secrecy. In The Last Camel Died at Noon, Radcliffe Emerson, Amelia Peabody’s husband, says Zerzura is "from the Arabic zarzar, meaning sparrow," and that linked in my mind with Jack Sparrow, and it all came together. Many things fell into place in this book because of that.
I thought this would be so much fun. I was given parameters for this assignment. One of the things we learned from Jack’s history was that Jack had to call on Davy Jones to save his ship and make him a captain.
Without giving away the crucial plot development, the island plays a role.
What’s your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean moment?
I believe my favorite moment was from the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, when they throw Jack Sparrow a line and they winch him up onto the ship in this big rush of water, and AnaMaria hands him his coat and his hat, and she says, “The ship is yours, captain."
He takes the wheel and runs his hands over the spokes with such love, and gives his orders and says, “Bring me that Horizon, and I really loved that whole little moment, when he gave his orders, said, “Bring me that horizon,” and began to sing quietly the song Elizabeth had taught him, “drink up, me hearties, yo-ho, it’s a pirate’s life for me.”
That’s a great moment. And Johnny Depp actually wrote the line “Now bring me that horizon.” They couldn’t think of a last line for the movie, and they were discussing what nautical instructions they should give, and there’s this anecdote in the Making of the Pirates of the Caribbean book Disney did. Johnny Depp came running out of his trailer and ran, bouncing, up the gangplank ontpo the ship where they were all standing around wondering what the last line should be. He had this Post-It note in his hand, and he wrote “bring me that horizon.”
I liked that. I thought it was good. From that moment when he touches the wheel, you know that’s what he really loves, the ship and the sea.
Will Jack have a love interest?
Yes, he has two love interests, though, his true love is the sea and his ship, like any good captain. He has an African princess and a Spanish pirate queen as his love interests. Esmeralda, in the book, is nothing like Angelica in the movie. Esmeralda is the pirate lord of the Caribbean.
What’s next for you?
I’m going back to science fiction, which is my first love, and I’m going to write a YA science fiction novel. I’ve made kind of a slow start because of all the book promotion I’m doing. I have a cool add on my blog, which is reproduced here.
My appearances are kept updated on my website, and I’m hoping to meet people at my various signings. Tomorrow from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., I'll be at Stories Comics, 5067 Forest Hill Avenue, in Richmond, Virginia. I'm appearing at various science fiction conventions, with a big launch party at Balticon. As usual, I'm also teaching at DragonCon over Labor Day weekend.
There are excerpts from The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom on Ann's website, www.accrispin.com. Scroll down below the ad on the excerpt page (also the one reproduced at left) and click the links. You can also follow Ann on Facebook and Twitter.
Ann is giving away a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom to one commenter chosen at random today. So tell us what your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean moment was. Or tell us about your favorite pirate book or movie or your favorite prequel.