In celebration of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, Genre Chick Alethea Kontis risks life, limb, and certain death in Davy Jones’ Locker to bring you this interview with the bloodthirsty Captain Geoffrey Girard, author of this summer’s Tales of the Atlantic Pirates.
It was with great trepidation that I boarded the ship of Captain Geoffrey Girard, the most notorious author on the High Seas. I had grown up hearing the colorful tales of Cap’n Geoff’s mischievous tricks and daring deeds. I knew my nerves would need to be steel in order to complete my mission-almost-impossible: interview the Cap’n and escape with my life, my undergarments, and all my teeth.
For those of you who haven’t heard of him (what do you mean you haven’t heard of him?), Geoffrey Girard is the author of Tales of the Atlantic Pirates–13 original stories for ages 10 to 90 based on the real-life pirates who once sailed America’s Atlantic coast. From ghostly crews and cursed islands to the capture of Blackbeard and modern-day treasure hunts, readers join these seafaring outlaws through more than 300 years of American history, folklore, and adventure. Legend has it he chased down the Beast himself to pen Tales of the Jersey Devil.
My knees shook in anticipation of meeting the man himself.
Especially since I heard he bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp.
Alethea Kontis: So what’s with the funny hat?
Cap’n Geoff: Method writer. It’s been an interesting year.
AK: No beard?
CG: Too itchy and troublesome for my complexion. I’m more about the two-day scruff. Roguish enough for those matters requiring roguishness.
AK: What made you want to write a book about pirates?
CG: Johnny Depp in drag. Everyone suddenly remembered again what fascinating characters these guys were–as dependable as vampires or cowboys for a great story. My publisher and I were discussing a broader follow up to Tales of the Jersey Devil, and there was no doubt that pirates were IN to stay. I also wanted a topic that would require me to really hit the books. I really enjoy the research side of writing. America’s rich history of pirates provided that opportunity.
AK: When you’re in port, do you check out the local library?
CG: Libraries have always been my most beloved treasure chest. Since grade school, I can literally spend hours just wandering those aisles, running my hands over the possibilities, always checking out more books than I could possibly read. More directly, Tales of the Atlantic Pirates has stories set from 1671 through 2006. Three-hundred-plus years, seven states, and 200 characters, many of whom are real people. The research involved countless books, maps, and even letters and newspapers from these various years and places. So, off to the library with me. In several cases, the research led to new story ideas I hadn’t planned on. For instance, I had no idea gangs of pirates hunted the docks of New York City during the 19th Century, or how important privateers were to the American Revolution. I added those yarns right away.
AK: What flag do you fly?
CG: Me? Oh, one of the mates read in Glamour that “brown is the new black,” so we’re trying that out this year. We’ll see. In strict adherence to union rules, we’ve still got the ubiquitous skull front and center, framed by a book on one side so they know it’s me who’s attackin’ and an hourglass on the other. The hourglass image was once as popular as the skulls. Probably ’cause it helps pass the sea time as we spend hours arguing over whether it’s half full or half empty.
AK: What percentage of the booty do you give to your crew?
CG: They get most all of it. I’ve always sailed out more for the chase than the actual booty. (winks) Savvy?
AK: (blushes) Why do you think our fascination with pirates has endured for hundreds of years?
CG: If we can forget about the brutal murders, revolting hygiene, and court-decreed hangings for just a moment–which Hollywood and books typically do–what we’ve got left is a man who lives as he pleases, one who travels the world and seeks danger for fun, a man who enjoys a good drink and a good kiss, some laughs with his mates, and maybe a good fight or two thrown in for good measure. They’re everything most of us secretly, or not so secretly, want to be. And these guys were real! Of course, we’re fascinated.
AK: What’s your favorite brand of mop for swabbing the deck?
CG: That new Swiffer’s a right proud beauty. Cleans up the blood and shrapnel with the best of ’em and also makes that wee little whirrr sound we all get such a kick out of. A bloody pain always havin’ to find new batteries, of course.
AK: Have you ever keelhauled a man?
CG: Once, in college. Next question.
AK: What are your thoughts on women pirates?
CG: As wavering as the wind, lass. Most women I’ve met shipboard were men in disguise and they hadn’t done nothin’ but change their names for that. ‘Course, most of the men I’ve come across ashore seemed they were men in disguise also. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.
AK: Do you have a “favorite” pirate?
CG: Does Captain Hook count? I prefer the made-up rogues like Hook, Long John Silver, and Captain Blood who, through the veil of fiction, have only the “good” pirate qualities: cannon fire, wind in the face, and really cool accents. The real pirates always disappoint at some point. Blackbeard’s a proper scoundrel. I mean, his name alone use to make women faint. What’s not to like? He is, of course, featured in one of the stories.
AK: What got you interested in writing in the first place?
CG: Reading, naturally. At a fairly young age, I was already into fantasy and horror stories by guys like Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. These books led me to a hundred other authors. I just wanted to do what they do: Tell stories. And sail the seven seas, naturally.
AK: What is the greatest satisfaction you receive from writing?
CG: I’m a fanatical reader who loves fiction and books. My college degree was in literature, and I now teach the same at a high school. In writing, I’m contributing something back to that world of books. Tales of the Atlantic Pirates will end up in the hands of a reader somewhere, whether a kid checking out his or her first adventure book or an adult reading something fun. Hopefully these stories will entertain, inform and, ideally, inspire them to pick up their next book.
AK: Do you have any hobbies?
CG: Reading, Sudoku puzzles, scraping the barnacles off of me rudder. And I’ve got enough fine mates and lasses about to distract me for a lifetime. So long as me life is violent…and short.
AK: Last question…will you say ‘Argg’ just once?
CG: (with a twinkle in his eye) No.