The Isle of Gold (Black Spot Books) is Seven Jane’s debut novel, but you would assume she was a practiced author with the intricate tale she spins. In 1716, the Golden Age of the Pirates, she takes readers on a fantastical voyage following Merrin Smith, who manages to smuggle herself onto a pirate ship bound for gold and adventure. While most of the Riptide crew is hunting fortune, Merrin seeks something far more valuable for herself, answers to her mysterious past.
As an orphan who knows nothing about how she arrived to Isla Perla, Merrin wants to leave behind the familiarity of the land and risk safety for the ultimate understanding of her origin and her true identity. Disguised as a male sailor and working closely with the cold-blooded Captain Winters as his apprentice, Merrin must navigate the ship to the mystical land of Bracile, a place only appearing briefly every two years.
Combining sea lore, a classic adventure quest, and a strong female protagonist who won’t settle for anything less than the full truth, Seven Jane has created a captivating story that will enchant and transport readers effortlessly.
BookTrib: Have you always wanted to write an adventurous pirate tale? Where did you find inspiration?
Seven Jane: I grew up on adventure stories, particularly those involving pirates and headstrong women who didn’t enjoy living by someone else’s rules, so I think writing an adventurous pirate tale about a girl who refused to be trapped on land was inevitable!
I’ve always loved being on the water, and there has never been a time in my life when I think I have loved anything more than the sea. It’s been that lifelong love affair and constant curiosity about what may be lurking beneath the water’s surface that was my main inspiration.
BT: This is your debut novel. Did your writing process go as you envisioned it would?
SJ: Not having anything yet to compare it to, sure! I am a stickler for details, though, so this being a tale where history meets fantasy, I wanted to get the details correct without taking too many creative liberties. I spent a lot of time traveling, exploring old wooden ships, touring pirate museums, and digging through literature on nautical history and sea legends, so the research portion was certainly more consuming than I’d originally thought.
Still, it was an incredibly rewarding experience, and both Merrin’s story and my own are richer for it (I’m fairly certain I could whip up a good salmagundi if I were so inclined)! I learned so much along the way, and I am so grateful for all the support I’ve had.
BT: Your novel blends history and fantasy beautifully, but the story incorporates certain progressive elements as well. It is 1716-the Golden age of pirates and Merrin Smith is an enchantingly strong, independent female. Dressed as a boy, she is able perform “womanly tasks” such as reading and translating books for the captain that prove herself as an asset to the otherwise male Riptide crew.
In addition, she displays personal diversity through casual remarks that display her sexual fluidity, without making them a big deal. How did you go about creating a character who incorporates attributes that a modern audience would cheer, but firmly and appropriately setting her to a time so long ago?
SJ: Merrin is definitely a woman ahead of her time, although her experiences are certainly not issues unique to the modern age but ones we have struggled without throughout history.
I wanted Merrin’s journey, even if it was set in the 18th century, to parallel everyday obstacles that many young people may be experiencing today, and to build upon the idea that no matter how badly the odds may seem stacked against you, there is always a way forward—that being an outsider is okay, that being a woman is not a handicap, that daring to carve your own path in life is perfectly acceptable, and that love—however you choose to express it—truly has no limitations.
BT: Do you have any take-away messages you want to make sure readers glean from the story?
SJ: Just this: live life like an adventure, and love every second of it. Set your sights on your own isle of gold, and don’t stop till you get there.
BT: In The Isle of Gold you incorporate a great deal of mythic sea lore (selkies, sirens, etc.) while crafting a tale unique in itself. What is your favorite legend of the sea and why?
SJ: I have always been drawn to the legends of Davey Jones—a real man, a euphemism for the bottom of the sea, a creature purely of legend? In all of these there is a certain romance and unyielding passion between the world of (hu)man and the sea, and that’s a theme recurrent in most sea legends of old, including the Caleuche, the Charybdis, and all the other legends that made their way into The Isle of Gold.
I wanted to explore their origins, and see if there was a way these legends could intersect with each other, expanding their own timelines and finding new stories in untapped potential.
BT: Merrin only brings a journal of notes with her on her adventure. What is the one book you would bring embarking on your own epic journey?
SJ: My favorite book of all time is Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I’ve probably read it a hundred times, and I never intend to stop. If I could sneak another one, it would be Treasure Island, because there’s no one quite as good as finding their way alive through a great adventure like John Silver!
BT: What is one piece of advice you would give to people working on their own debut works?
SJ: No matter how hard it gets, keep writing. Find readers whose insight and opinion you trust, and open yourself up to feedback. Some people won’t like what you write, but it might just be someone else’s new favorite book.
BT: Are you working on anything right now?
SJ: Right now I am working on a paranormal fantasy with my second favorite thing (after pirates, of course): werewolves! This story masquerades as a paranormal adventure, but at its heart is a tongue-in-cheek dialogue on identity, feminism, and pop culture. It also takes a critical look at religion and cultural issues in the Deep South, grief and reconciliation, and the oft tumultuous and yet strangely beautiful nature of family. Just, with werewolves.
BT: What is one question you always wish you were asked?
SJ: Just once I would like someone to ask me what I always wanted to be when I grow up, so I can say that it was not to be a writer. I have a deep love of Egyptian mythology and would love to yarn on about how I started out studying ancient civilizations—something I blame entirely on films like Indiana Jones and The Mummy and books like Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned—and even got the tattoos to prove it. One of these days I’ll write a book about mummies and ancient curses—or maybe I won’t.
The Isle of Gold is now available to purchase.
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