FIRST BOOK BY DAVID K. BRYANT
I started writing fiction after retiring from journalism and public relations. I suppose the books waited their turn during all the years I wrote articles, features, speeches and promotional material for other people. My career included running a district office for a daily newspaper, helping to introduce professional PR into the British police service and promoting a major parliamentary Bill for Margaret Thatcher’s government.
I live in Somerset, one of the nicest counties in England, and am blessed with a wonderful family. My wife Stephanie and I have been married for forty years. We are proud of our two children Matthew and Melanie, grandson Henry, son-in-law Jamie and daughter-in-law Fleur.
Tread Carefully on the Sea by David K. Bryant
Tread Carefully on the Sea – the background
I was seven years old or thereabouts and I walked round the garden reading Treasure Island. When I got to the bit about the musket and cutlass battle I was so engrossed I walked into a tree. I was proud of my bleeding nose – I imagined I got it in a fight with a pirate.
What intrigued me most about that classic book by Robert Louis Stevenson were all the references to Captain Flint, a pirate king who was brutal, intimidating and quite likely an alcoholic – yet obviously very clever.
Without Flint there would have been no Treasure Island for he was the man who had buried the Treasure on the Island. Yet in that book we hear about Flint only in reminiscences from some of the protagonists because Flint is dead by the time the story begins.
Stevenson’s narrative tells us Flint took six men ashore with him to stash the loot. But, having apparently murdered the others, only Flint came back to the ship, giving him the security of being the only man who knew where the cache was.
There had to be a story around that. For me, Flint deserved a biography of his own. What’s more, it should answer all those other questions posed by Treasure Island. If, as Stevenson tells us, Long John Silver had lost his leg in the same broadside as Old Pew lost his ‘deadlights’, what were the circumstances of that broadside? And how come that Billy Bones, the first mate, came into possession of Flint’s map where X marked the spot of the buried loot?
It’s taken me a long time but now I have supplied my own answers. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you identify with the experiences of the other characters I've created when you read Tread Carefully on the Sea.
Step up the gangplank to an adventure tale set in the 18th Century, when the world made its money from conquest and slavery, pirates were the muggers of the sea lanes and life was fragile – with violence and disease never far away.
Tread Carefully on the Sea is the first novel by retired journalist David K. Bryant. Packed with historical atmosphere, it will take you on a voyage from Jamaica to the “New World” of the American colonies. The action comes as rapidly as the horrors in a ghost train, starting with the kidnapping of an aristocratic young woman on the night of her 21st birthday party by Captain Flint’s crew.
Amidst conspiracy, murder, cannonades, bare-knuckle boxing, disease and a devastating storm, there is the chance for all the main characters to reveal the better or worse sides of their natures. This is a swashbuckle, yes, but it’s also a story about the strengths and weaknesses of believable human beings.
“I've written an escapist yarn in the tradition of high adventure but in much more user-friendly language than the old classics,” says David K. Bryant. “It’s exciting, involving, a bit tear-jerking and is pure adventure and romance.”
THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Captain Flint is a lonely man. His education, intelligence and wit leave him isolated amongst the pirate crew who sail with him. He feels more affinity with the hostages who are brought aboard his ship but he becomes trapped by the need to escape the consequences of the kidnap and the challenge to his leadership from one of his officers. Flint kills and schemes his way out of several dangers but there are two threats from which he cannot escape. The first is the failing health that he refuses to accept. The second is the scale of his own success as a criminal. He will never be left in peace to enjoy the proceeds of his piracy. In this story we learn what finally happens to him.
Captain Michael Townsend is the model of a disciplined and dutiful Navy officer. He is also a man haunted by something in his past; something that could ruin his future. The decisions forced upon Townsend by the kidnapping help him to resolve his inner conflicts but jeopardize the survival of those he wishes to protect. Townsend’s instincts are to put duty first but will duty deny him happiness?
Jessica Trelawny is the spirited niece of the Governor of Jamaica. She hates the conformity of 18th century society. Soon after she is snatched away from her home she puts her rebellious nature to work against the pirates. Captain Flint learns to admire her — and to regret that she ever came aboard his ship.
Jessica’s maid Libby becomes a prisoner simply because she is with her mistress at the time of the kidnap. She plays a major role in the fight-back against the pirates. Does she bring into use special talents inherited from her African origin — or is she simply a very clever woman?
Patrick O’Hara began life in the squalor of the Irish famine and by a fluke became an officer in the Royal Navy. He is thrust into a vicious bare-knuckle fight aboard the pirate ship. Whether or not O’Hara wins, the legacy of the fight is a power struggle threatening the survival of Captain Flint himself.
The Walrus is the huge black galleon stolen by Flint from a Spanish captain. It has a pivotal role in the narrative and a heart-rending demise when Captain Flint’s voyage of crime comes to an end.
As the shirt was removed, her eyes came level with a huge tattoo of an eagle on his chest. Ridiculously, that gave her renewed terror, as though the tattoo was worse than the man. There was certainly menace from the eagle. It stared at her, its talons outstretched and its wings spread wide. It looked prepared to pounce right out of his chest and claw at her face.
The cry that would have brought forth a dozen soldiers was about to leave the governor’s tongue – but remained unleashed as the pirate warned: “I wouldn't do that, Governor, for the sake of your niece’s health.”
“Did you get the name of the ship?” demanded the governor.
“It was the Walrus, Sir,” the messenger replied.
“Captain Flint,” said Trelawny, and for the moment that was all he did say.
One of the stories that had evoked within the Royal Navy a sneaking admiration for the pirate chieftain was that he had captured a big Spanish galleon and made it his own. Now Townsend could see in front of him the confirmation of that audacity. The big ship sat on the ocean like she owned it.
“Britain came to this part of the world to find riches. It was very successful in doing so but it had a major problem. It was shipping around so many slaves and so much merchandise that it didn’t have sufficient military resources to protect its new-found wealth. So what did it do about the policing of its trade routes and the protection of places like Jamaica? It found it convenient to encourage the people you would call pirates…You had better hope that the King never turns against the Royal Navy in the same way that he turned against the privateers.
Reeling and with blood dripping down his face, O’Hara got up on one knee, then the other. By the time he was on his feet, Hugh was charging forward like a stag in the rutting season. Another head butt was imminent.
Flint bent his knees and placed his hands on them so that his face came level with Townsend’s. “That’s it, then” barked the pirate captain. “You don’t agree to my proposal. I don’t agree to yours. Our fates are intertwined.”
She didn’t close her eyes and her brain pitifully tried to distract her from reality by registering that the gunman was left-handed. His finger was going back with the trigger. Spontaneously, she said a few words of her native Ashanti. The phrase had been taught to her by Queen Nanny: “Do not fear death any more than you fear life.” If Libby was going to die, she wanted those to be the last words she said.
INTERVIEW Courtesy of DEBORAH MELANIE
Thanks to my friend Deborah Melanie for interviewing me.
Deborah is at http://londoncatreviewsanddesign.blogspot.co.uk
Deborah Melanie’s latest venture is The London Cat, a community where authors can be reviewed, interviewed and browse through beautiful book covers.
Deborah writes stories describing life in England. She loves to write about small market towns and close knit communities. Her stories are contemporary; often combining her interests in the paranormal, comedy and food.
Author Interview with David K. Bryant
Can you tell us how to came to be an author? Has it been an easy or difficult journey?
It’s a journey I didn't know I was going to make. I spent my career in journalism and public relations, writing reams of stuff for other people. During that time I made one attempt at a book, a pirate story. Many years later I read it to my young son. Then in about 2010 when he was in his twenties he asked to read it again. I was ashamed to give him the sub-standard original so I set about re-writing it. It became Tread Carefully on the Sea, which has now been published by Solstice. It's my first published book – at the age of 68.
What motivates you as an author?
This should be a simple question to answer but it’s got me stumped. Hoping not to sound trite, I think I want to produce something that people will enjoy. I want it to be good in terms of making sense, being exciting, having some originality and a believable set of characters. I think it’s important to create characters who readers can associate with, feel their emotions, understand their faults – and like.
How do you deal with rejection and setbacks as an author?
I think I can boast that I deal with them well. I approached 370 literary agents with Tread Carefully on the Sea. But I wasn't going to give up until there was nobody left to try. Then I started sending to indie publishers who took direct submissions and Solstice took me on. God bless Mel Massey-Maroni (my editor-in-chief).
How do you deal with writer’s block?
While it’s very frustrating, I think you have to wait. All of a sudden when your mind is totally elsewhere, you’ll get an idea of how to continue your story. I think it’s worth always carrying a notepad around and writing down thoughts whenever they occur to you. And if you can’t write at that particular moment because you’re driving or something, then keep repeating the idea inside your head so you don’t forget it.
Do you have any motivational books or websites which you find useful from time to time?
I am so glad there is a thing called Wikipedia because it answers so many questions. Motivational books – The Odyssey, one of the oldest bits of literature around. It’s about a guy who spends ten years encountering all the dangers of reality and fantasy yet he never gives up.
Who has been the biggest influence upon your writing?
My dear brother Ray. He helped me get into journalism and he was an author himself. His main work was published in the 1980s and is still available from Amazon. It’s called Warriors of the Dragon Gold and is based on the Bayeux Tapestry. Ray died far too early.
Tell us about a typical day for you. Do you have any special routines which you strictly keep to?
I’m retired so my time is my own and a lot of it is spend hitting the keys I’m hitting now. I make a conscious effort not to leave my wife an ‘author widow’. But she’s very understanding and helpful with the books.
How have family and friends reacted to you as an author? Are they supportive?
Yes, they are supportive. They make constructive suggestions and have stopped me falling into a few traps.
Do you have a muse? If so, please could you tell us a little about him/her?
No, I don’t think so.
Going forwards as an author, what do you realistically hope to accomplish?
Recognition for being good. I’m not being conceited and saying I am good, but I would love the world to judge me so – and enjoy my work.