Why is Pirate X a timeslip novel?

by Sherryl Clark | June 30th, 2011

Good question! I’ve been asked this several times, and also been asked what is timeslip – does it have rules? Firstly, the decision I made was based on several things that happened to me before the fourth (huge) rewrite. These were:

I had had a conference critique on the first 40 pages that ripped them to shreds and made me feel like the novel was a waste of time – I put it in the bottom drawer, intending to never work on it again. (Hint – don’t let this happen to you, if you believe in a story.)

I couldn’t leave it alone, although it did stay in the drawer for nearly two years.

I decided that if I was going to rewrite, I had to make radical changes, otherwise the spectre of the critique would hang over me like the kiss of death.

The first change I made was from third person to first person, telling the story from Will’s point of view. This created a problem – in 1717, how was I going to create an authentic narrator’s voice without sounding archaic or too formal?

Then I thought about how I could put a modern-day character into an historical story – the answer was for the character to go back in time. Thus Will begins as a street kid in London (having run away from home) who hits his head and wakes up in 1717.

The fun part was Will talking like a 2011 kid to 16th century pirates who don’t understand him, and he has trouble understanding some of them. We forget how alienating it can be to not speak the language of another country!

One of the “rules” of timeslip is that the historical part of the story be accurate, which is not a problem for me as I have based Pirate X entirely on what I have found to be the most credible, backed-up information (there are a lot of myths about pirates). Hence the research page on this site. There are various ways a character can go back in time, and the most common is a portal or a door. Will’s “portal” is the plaque near Marble Arch that commemorates where convicts and some pirates were hanged.

The timeslip element also meant I had to think long and hard about why Will went back in time – what ulterior motive or meaning would it have in the story? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

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