Aye, mateys! As I mentioned earlier this week, I thought I might take the next few days to give you a little behind-the-scenes of the process of writing my upcoming (and very first!) novel, The Jolly Regina, the first in a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Today’s entry concerns one of my favorite characters: Fatima, the sea chantey-singing cook.
I just loved writing the character of Fatima; her scenes delighted me like no other. I love that she’s so well-rounded, literally and figuratively — she’s a tough cookie (or, more aptly, a hardtack biscuit) but she has a heart of gold. She’s a cook and she’s a chanteuse. And she manages to endear herself to the Bland Sisters, and vice versa. I was really sorry to say goodbye to her when I finished the book…though who knows? She may just pop up again at some point.
I also love the friendship between Fatima and Peg, who are brought together by a certain, er, serendipity (you’ll have to read the book to find out more — I won’t spoil it). The crew of The Jolly Regina is a rough one, as any pirate crew would be, so it’s nice to see two friends find each other and stick together amidst such rough seas, and ultimately come out on top.
Of course, it’s NOT nice to see Fatima bullied by Smoky and Princess. I imagine that amongst any group of people traveling for long stretches in close quarters, there’s bound to be conflict and drama. It’s a bit like middle school or high school, in a way. (Actually, the girls who bullied me in middle school were much surlier, and wore way more eyeliner.) I’ve written a lot about bullying in my other books, as I’ve experienced the issue from both sides of the fence — so it’s no surprise that there’s a bully or two (or more) in The Jolly Regina, too.
Bullies are really sad creatures at heart; as Kale says to Fatima, “From what little I’ve seen, some people make themselves feel better by being mean to others.” Thankfully, the Bland Sisters remind Fatima that she’s strong, and that she has some real talent as a chantey singer and writer; this pep talk gives Fatima all the confidence she needs to stand up to her tormentors and fight for her happy ending.
One of my all-time-favorite things to write in this book were the sea chanties. I have a little bit of a musical background, so I really enjoyed singing the songs to myself as I wrote them, to make sure they sounded just right. I hope you enjoy them, too!
- I had comedic actress Melissa McCarthy in my head as I wrote Fatima, as well as my mom, who is very strong and has a heart of gold and loves to sing…but maaaaaaybe isn’t the best cook. (Sorry, Mom.)
- Stew (the first of Fatima’s meals that the Bland Sisters eat on The Jolly Regina) is something my mom would make (served with a slice of Wonder Bread spread with margarine) when I was a kid. I did not like it. AT ALL. In fact, I used my memory of eating that stew in my description of Fatima’s stew in the book: “Chunks of potatoes and unidentifiable meat floating in a greasy, beefy broth.”
- This is the second time rats make an appearance (in this case, however subtle) in my books. They are the stars of my chapter book series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS.
- The chanteys have melodies to go along with the lyrics, which I am happy to sing for you, if you ask nicely.
- Like Peg, I once made my own ginger ale. It was delicious, but time-consuming.
TOMORROW’S POST: A look at some literary and cultural references in the story…
My daughter and I are wondering if you have recordings of what the chantey melodies sound like. We each tried while reading the book, but couldn’t make them work just right! Please and thank you 🙂