Summer and fair weather is time for travels, near and far. Jane Austen’s characters see their fair share of travels. Elizabeth travels to Hunsford to see Charlotte. Catherine Morland treks to Bath. Frank Churchill journeys to Highbury. Captain Wentworth sails the seas with His Majesty’s navy. The Dashwoods sojourn to Barton Cottage after the loss of their home, thence to London, while Sir Thomas Bertram voyages all the way to Antigua. What new expeditions have we in store for our favorite characters? Check in often through August to find out!
As authors, we sometimes have the opportunity to write stories based on places we have traveled to. But we may not always have that luxury, and end up writing about places we have only visited while doing research for the book. As authors of (for the most part) historical fiction that takes place not only a great distance away, but many years ago, we must get a lot of our information from the latter. In my novels, I have had the opportunity to do both.
I traveled to England many years ago with a friend when I was in my 20s. But that time in my life was ‘BJA’ (before Jane Austen). We visited her resting place in Winchester Cathedral, but did not seek anything else out pertaining to her. (I had not even read any of her novels then.) We also did not travel to any of the places her characters traveled to, except London. We did visit the Lake District, which is mentioned in Pride and Prejudice, but other than that we just went to Stratford on Avon and spent a very long unexpected day in Birmingham when my purse was stolen in the train station. (Do not fear, it was found several hours later in a men’s restroom with only the British currency stolen and what little American currency I had had been ripped in half. All my travelers’ checks were there, as well as my passport, eurail pass, credit card, etc. I was so fortunate!) We also went up to Edinburgh, Scotland, and then came back down to Dover, where we went across to the continent for the remainder of our trip, backpacking around Europe for 3 months. (Some day I might write a story based on those travels!)
The one time I wrote a novel based on a personal travelling experience was in my modern novel, Drive and Determination. I had been to Guatemala enjoying many of the beautiful sights when a story came to me in the middle of a sudden downpour. In that novel, the Darcy character (Will Denton) is CEO of a small coffee company in Chicago that gets its coffee beans from Guatemala. Elyssa (the Elizabeth Bennet character) goes to Guatemala and experiences many of the same things I did while there. While it is not a true Pride and Prejudice modernization and only inspired by Austen’s novel, it was fun to write about places like Guatemala City, Antigua, and beautiful Lake Atitlan with its 3 volcanoes.
But for today’s post, I thought I would write about what I discovered by traveling the internet, looking for inspiration for a place to base my novel, Pirates and Prejudice.
I had wanted to write a Pride and Prejudice variation with pirates for many years. I had a very general idea for the plot, but as I attempted to write, things were just not coming together. I needed better locations! One day I went online and found a map of England. I began looking for places, ports, etc., where some of the action would take place.
I happened to notice some tiny islands southwest of England’s coast. I zoomed in and saw that they were called the Isles of Scilly.
I then began researching what these islands were and whether they were even habitable. What I discovered was one of those ‘gems’ that tied all things together – at least in this story.
The larger islands had been inhabitable for hundreds of years, but there were also many smaller, uninhabited islands with caves and rocky outcroppings surrounding them. Because of that, many pirates and smugglers came to these islands and hid out in them. What a perfect backdrop for my story!
The Isles of Scilly are also fortunate to have a warmer climate than the rest of England. The largest island is St. Mary’s, which is where I have Elizabeth and her father sail to. It is beautiful, with sandy beaches and gentle hills of heather. Because of the rocky outcroppings surrounding these islands, and storms that arise out of nowhere, there have been many shipwrecks, one which involved the British navy in the 1700s. So combining the historical fact of pirates hiding out, shipwrecks, and storms, the Isles of Scilly became the perfect place to have the characters travel to in my story.
Here is a short excerpt from Pirates and Prejudice as Elizabeth and her father journeyed to the Isles of Scilly. Elizabeth was in a room with Miss Whiting, a woman she had much in common with.
On the morning of the third day out, the two ladies were up on deck, knowing they would be arriving soon at their destination. Miss Whiting told Elizabeth to watch on the right side of the ship for the small rocky outcroppings that were off St. Martin’s island.
“They will keep a good distance away from those dangerous rocks,” she said. “Apparently the rocks all around the Isles of Scilly have taken many a good ship down, including a fleet of four naval ships in the 1700s.”
“Heavens!” Elizabeth replied. “That would certainly make for an undesirable adventure!” She let out a laugh keeping a lookout on the starboard side. “Let us hope that our captain keeps well away from those rocks!”
The boat finally docked at the port on St. Mary’s without any such adventure. Elizabeth and Miss Whiting wished each other God’s blessings and went on their separate ways.
Elizabeth joined her father, and they disembarked the ship. She held on to his arm as people rushed past, eager to reach their loved ones or set off to their final destination. The merchant ship had been transporting a variety of produce and textiles, and large crates were offloaded onto carts, which were now making their way out of the harbour.
A young boy walked towards them, asking people he passed if they needed assistance. Mr. Bennet reached into his pocket and pulled out some coins and a slip of paper. He stopped him with a wave of his hand.
“Young lad, we need a carriage to convey us to this address. Would you be so kind as to find a driver to take us there?”
The boy bobbed his head, taking the coins and the piece of paper. “Yessir, I’ll fetch one fer ye at once!”
They waited just a bit longer before seeing a carriage round the corner, the young boy running alongside as he directed it to Elizabeth and her father. The carriage driver stepped down, and Mr. Bennet pointed out their luggage. He gave the boy another coin for his promptness.
With a quick nod of his head and a “Thank ye, sir,” he skipped away.
Elizabeth and her father stepped into the carriage and sat across from one another. As the carriage moved along, Elizabeth turned her head from one side to the other, enjoying the view out of each window. They climbed a small hill and Elizabeth looked back at the harbour. Although smaller than the one in London, there were a good many ships of all different sizes. They rose and dipped in harmony at the command of the waves. And out beyond, in the other direction from which they had come, she could just barely see the perilous rocks, some large and some small, that stood ready to battle any ship that dared come near.
“So, Elizabeth,” Mr. Bennet said after a while. “From all that I could collect by your manner of speaking, you and Miss Whiting seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Of what interesting topics did you speak to find you so engaged?”
“We talked about things women like to talk about. I am quite certain you would find it all tedious!”
“I suspect you are right, Lizzy, but I have no objection to hearing about your new friend.”
Elizabeth laughed. “We spent many late nights talking about how she has had to live with her brother and his wife as she never married and how I live in a household with four sisters, three of whom are quite silly, but one who is my dearest friend.”
“Miss Whiting seemed pretty enough. She has had no suitors, eh?”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “She did tell me about a proposal she once turned down and now regrets – just a little.”
Mr. Bennet laughed. “Splendid! I suppose you were able to lament about the proposal you turned down and now regret, eh?”
“You know I most certainly have no reason to lament turning down Mr. Collins’s proposal, for I do not regret it in the least! What I did lament was how Charlotte took it upon herself to secure his engagement herself.”
“Imprudent affair on her part, indeed. But I fear, my dearest daughter, that your mother still begrudges you for refusing him.”
“Still? But she does not say anything to me about it anymore.”
“That is because I admonished her not to say another word to you about it,” Mr. Bennet said as he reached out and patted Elizabeth’s hand.
“I thank you for that, Father.”
“Oh, she had a difficult enough time of it when you visited Charlotte in Kent. I do not think a day passed when she did not wonder aloud how you felt now that you had seen how content Charlotte was being married to Mr. Collins. For you must know how often Mrs. Lucas talks about it.”
“I imagine so,” Elizabeth said softly.
“No need to fret about it. I believe your mother was more upset about not being able to boast to Mrs. Lucas about your marriage to my esteemed cousin and instead has had to put up with Mrs. Lucas boasting to her.”
“If only your cousin had been a more sensible man.”
Mr. Bennet laughed. “Yes, if only. I cannot think of one sensible man in my family. Not that I know them all, mind you.”
They rode a bit longer in silence. Elizabeth had never once thought about what might have been different had Mr. Collins been handsome and sensible. She may have been more than pleased to accept his offer of marriage.
She glanced at her father and wondered of his thoughts. Did he regret not having a son or not putting away a good sum of money as a handsome dowry for his five daughters? She never really saw him worry. She imagined her mother did enough worrying for the two of them.
“Well, Lizzy, there were no stormy seas or pirates,” he said after a while, conveniently changing the subject. “Will not your mother be most disappointed?”
Elizabeth laughed. “I believe, Father, that the journey was so calm, that even Jane would have managed nicely.”
“Ah, yes! She just may have,” he answered. “But then, there is always the journey home.
Ah, yes, the journey home. Perhaps they might encounter a mysterious pirate or two on their return trip. If you have not had the opportunity to read Pirates and Prejudice, I hope this will be sufficient enticement to do so. Whichever way you travel, by actually going somewhere or reading books or online, happy travels!
Here is a link to Pirates and Prejudice on amazon: