I am an an unabashed pirate fan. Whenever swords are crossed, buckles swashed, or mateys are a-hoying I am there. So when I found out about Ian Nathaniel Cohen’s book, The Brotherhood of the Black Flag, I was all aboard. Get your inner Rafael Sabatini on and join us…
Ian, welcome. What’s your story?
My name’s Ian, and I’ve been writing or making up my own stories in one fashion or another for as long as I can remember. I’ve written on-air promos for radio shows, created an online course of Asian film which I still teach, I’m a former guest blogger for Channel Awesome and the Comics Bolt, reviewing classic movies, books, and comics – many of which have inspired my own work.
I know we both dig Errol Flynn movies. What’s your novel about?
The Brotherhood of the Black Flag is a historical thriller set at the end of the Golden Age of Piracy, when the newly-United Kingdom is cracking down on piracy while also contending with Jacobite insurrections and an economic crisis. In the midst of this, we have Michael McNamara, who was dishonorably discharged from the British Royal Navy. In desperate need for a fresh start, he sets sail for Kingston, Jamaica, hoping to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Fortunately, McNamara is talented with a blade, which gives him the chance to become a local hero. His feat of arms brings him to the attention of Captain Stephen Reynard, once the most dreaded pirate in the Caribbean, who’s now reformed and turned pirate hunter. To earn a pardon, Reynard has vowed to apprehend seven pirate captains. McNamara, eager for the adventure and the opportunities it could bring, joins Reynard’s quest for redemption. His travels under Reynard’s command pit him against treacherous seas, bloodthirsty buccaneers, and an insidious conspiracy that threatens thousands of lives.
Your boy Michael McNamara has a lot of Peter Blood in him. What is it about this time period you find so fascinating.
I grew up on Hollywood swashbucklers and the literature and history that inspired them – and one of my goals in writing The Brotherhood of the Black Flag was in part to capture the spirit of those classic films. The more I read and watched, the more I started coming up with my own ideas for historical swashbucklers, packed with action, romance, and hopefully solid character development. A pirate tale seemed like a natural fit for that kind of story, and then it was just a matter of doing enough research to find the right time and place to best suit the ideas I’d committed to going with. Plus, I get to showcase less-familiar elements of a somewhat familiar historical era, such as the Jacobite rebellions, which readers will hopefully find interesting.
As for the main character, he’s intended to be a classic, archetypal heroic figure, which some may find a welcome change from anti-heroes and villain protagonists. However, I can relate to his lack of clear direction and uncertainty about what to do with his life when his youthful ambitions don’t work out the way he hoped they would – and lots of other readers probably might as well, for one reason or another. So many stories are about the main character trying to fulfill a lifelong dream, and I thought it would be interesting to work with a character who didn’t know what they wanted anymore. It also makes his path unpredictable – yeah, he’ll find his path by the end of the book, but what will that be? What will he choose?
Totally unfair question- what’s your favorite scene in the book?
Without a doubt, the scene where McNamara first meets Captain Reynard and Reynard auditions him for a place on his crew by challenging him to a duel. There are lots of sword fights in Black Flag, but I think I had the most fun writing that one, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to depict a cinematic swashbuckling fight on the printed page, rather than going for gritty and realistic combat. I also had an absolute blast coming up with snarky, witty banter between McNamara and Reynard before and during their duel.
I agree, that scene was a lot of fun, and over a pint we can play the casting game for who plays who in the movie. Meanwhile, where can people learn more about you and your work?
I have my own website, the INCspot, where you can find out more about me and my work – https://iannathanielcohen.weebly.com/ I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and I try and respond to any and all comments I receive, so drop on by and say “hi!”
We interrupt this interview for a shameless plug. Acre’s Orphans has won a much coveted “Discovered Diamond” award for historical fiction. You can read the review here, or just take my word for it and buy the book.