Hello everybody! Today, I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas, with both a review and my interview with the the authors Oli and Anna. Onto the post!
In Anna and Oli’s first collaboration together, they tell the story of Antigua de Fortune (or Tiggy, to her friends), the high born daughter of an officer who is forced to spend her time at stuffy balls and wearing dresses she hates, until the boys of her island Haven are stolen away by a dangerous mage and she takes to the high seas to try and save them, discovering more about herself and her friends along the way. I loved the backstory of the Pirate King stealing the boys of Haven years before the book begins, which underpins the whole story, and also the how information we learn about the Pirate King, the people who live in the sea and the Bloodmoon prophecy in the present day storyline. I also loved the way that all of the magic was connected to the sea, and the feminist feel to the story was fantastic too. Tiggy is an incredibly lovable heroine, and I also really liked her relationships with her friend Marina (whose mum is rumoured to be a selkie), her little brother Diego (who’s incredibly sweet), and the motley bunch if pirates whose ship she joins for her voyage. Also, I don’t want to give too much away about her, but I really liked Clara’s role in the plot, and the sections where we focused on her. I’m very much hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see Tiggy and her friends, because there is a lot about this world that I’d love to see explored someday. Yo ho ho!
And now, onto the interview!
1. First of all, can you please describe Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas for us in 5 words?
Oli: Magic, mystery, self-discovery, epic, and seafaring.
Anna: Oceanic, feminist, adventure, mythical creatures.
2. The blurb says that the book is both classic in feel, and very feminist, almost like a modern fairytale. Which fairytales would you most like to see getting a 21st century update?
Oli: Cinderella. Gone are the days where girls need to dream of a prince coming to rescue them, with pretty glass slippers. Cinderella gets a pair of football boots, coaches the prince’s team to international glory, and becomes COO of FIFA. If the final of the world cup goes to penalties the losing team bus turns into pumpkin, and they all have to walk home.
Anna: The fairy tale which gets me the most is beauty and the beast. Belle basically falls in love with her abuser, and this is an awful message to send to children about what to except in a relationship — how to both treat and be treated. I don’t care what’s happened to the Beast in the past, or how messed up he is, he doesn’t get to lock Belle up in a tower, and it isn’t Belle’s job to ‘heal’ him. I would love to see this fairy tale get a modern update, where the Beast gets lots of therapy and learns to be a nice person, and Belle escapes from the tower and opens her own bookshop. No romance at all, thank you.
3. Part of the reason why Tiggy embarks on her journey is that her brother is one of the stolen boys, and she is quite protective of and close to him. Did you set out to write a story about siblings? What originally inspired you to tell Tiggy’s story?
Oli: Tiggy is based on my sister, but I would say Tiggy’s relationship with her brother is more based on the relationships I see in my own children. Tiggy was always based on the struggles of my sister growing up, and her lack of sense of belonging, or moreover the sense she was different, as Beccy moved through life she learned to embrace who she was and is now thriving!
Anna: Similar to Oli, I think Tiggy and Diego’s relationship was inspired by watching my own children. I have three children, an eldest of whom is a girl, and she is so protective and nurturing of the younger two. I believe she would sail the high seas to rescue them.
4. As the book takes place mostly at sea, who are some of your favourite sea-faring characters in fiction, other than the ones you created?
So, I’m an animator so I’m afraid I go straight to Spongebob and Sebastian (full name Horatio Thelonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian) from little mermaid! Though I guess they are more sea-dwelling than seafaring. So, I’m going to go with The Owl and the Pussycat, we had a beautiful, illustrated version at home when I was young which I loved and it is one of the only times I ever remember the word runcible being used in any work of fiction, it’s a much nicer work than Spork.
Anna: I too love The Owl and the Pussycat. Moana is one of my favourite films, and I’m also a huge Pirates of the Caribbean fan.
5. I know that Tiggy is only taking to the high seas to save the lost boys, but pirates are mentioned in the blurb, and they’re very commonly associated with finding treasure. If you were to take to the seas to try and track down some treasure, what would you be hoping to find under the X that marked the spot?
Oli: First I have to say Tiggy is not “only” taking to the seas to save the lost boys, it’s the start of a journey in discovering who she is, where she has come from and who she wants to be, there is no more noble quest that saving your family and discovering yourself! What would I like to find under the X? If I’m honest, clues to the next X, I think the journey is more thrilling than the outcome in most things in life, with the exception of childbirth, having said that child birth is the start to a new journey of helping a new generation of treasure hunters find what their X is and where to find it.
Anna: More books!
6. Oli, you are a co-founder of the award-winning animation studio Blue Zoo, and Anna, you’ve previously published some YA books. Do you think that those other roles impacted the way you wrote this? What were some of the main differences between these jobs?
Oli: I’m a completely visual person as a dyslexic, some of the early drafts of Tiggy from twenty years ago read as art direction for a film rather than a straight narrative, which is useful in an animation context, but not for a book. Working with Anna, who I would say, is a more linear person than me and a more disciplined writer, helped get the book into a better structure and her skill with the English language allowed her to reduce my over elaborative rambling into shorter punchier text.
Anna: Middle Grade writing needs to be slightly tighter than Young Adult as the word count is reduced. There’s less room to explore things, so every word counts. In some ways this is harder than Young Adult writing, in some ways easier. I love them both.
7. Moving onto a couple of questions about your writing more generally, what are your writing routines like? Do either of you have any unusual habits or quirks?
Oli: I have what I call mania, its self-diagnosed, and may or may not relate to a real psychological condition, it’s a blessing and burden as I’m constantly buzzing with 100 things I want to do, and 100 things I’m overthinking I’ve already done. It means I’m sporadic and have no off switch. Because I’m so busy, I’m very to the point, it can make me difficult to work with as I come across quite blunt. It also means I’m prone to intense short bursts of working on a particular thing. It suited me down to the ground writing as a team because it meant there were periods away from the book, and intense periods and conversations when I could really commit to it.
Anna: I’m just very good at sitting down and making myself write. I’ve never had writer’s block or anything. I can write anywhere with any amount of noise, which I think comes from having kids, and I don’t really have a routine. More recently, I’ve had Long Covid which has made writing trickier, so maybe I’ll need to build up some more routines as I ease back into it.
8. Also, since you’re co-writers, how do you split up the writing? What are some of the best things about it, and, on the other hand, what are the challenges?
Oli: I’m not going to lie, Anna is the writer here in the traditional sense of the word, but a book or moreover a story needs a combination of the idea and the skill to execute it. While neither of those fields were exclusive to Anna or I, we both knew our role, and the process was very smooth, I admired and respected Annas ideas on the plot, and Anna listen to me when I thought the dialogue or narrative did not match what I had in my head. Due to our skillsets the boundaries pretty much drew themselves, and it was a huge pleasure working with Anna on this book.
Anna: Like Oli said, I did all the writing, as in putting the words down on the page, but the story telling was a joint process. There were a lot of emails, phone calls and comments on google docs, and a lot of writing and re-writing trying to get things which suited us both. I think this meant the first draft was better developed though, and there was less work on later edits than I’m used to. It was a really positive experience, writing solo is a solitary endeavour, so it was lovely having someone to share in all the enthusiasm.
9. Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on at the moment/may be releasing next?
Oli: My TV/Film work is heavily NDA’ed so I can’t give you even a hint! Tiggy’s world is a lot bigger than this book and we have left several easter eggs in this book that need to unravel in future adventures. I dearly hope to be able to write these will Anna. I, of course, already have the whole saga mapped out in my head for the screen … so watch this space!
Anna: Like Oli said, we’d love to write more Tiggy adventures. I’ve also got another Young Adult novel coming out next year which I started writing about three years ago. I’m having a wee break from writing at the moment due to Long Covid, but I’m desperate to pick it up again soon.
Favourite ice cream flavour?
Oli: Lemon – hang on that’s a sorbet does that count?
Animals you’d most like to be for a day?
Oli: Owls, I just love them. Did you know a group of owls is called a parliament? There we go, we all learned something.
Anna: A dolphin or an eagle
Your favourite things about the sea?
Oli: I get prickly heat, so sea, sand and sun hold some real problems for me, but I can windsurf a little, wakeboard and have a level 2 sailing qualification so I’d rather be on the sea than in it! I love its unpredictability the most, the calmness on a moonlit evening in contrast to the whipping waves and sea spray in a storm, it’s such a mysterious, romantic and dangerous thing! Anna: I get incredibly seasick, so I prefer the beach and swimming to sailing. In the past I’ve done snorkelling and scuba diving and they were some of the best experiences of my life! The sea life is just astonishing in our oceans, some of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. I’m also lucky to have beautiful beaches around where I live (Northumberland) though it’s too cold for snorkelling most days.
Top 3 books of 2021 so far? (Up to you if you want to do joint favourites or separate lists!)
Anna: Oh this is so hard to do… The Beresford by Will Carver, We are Bound by Stars by Kesia Lupo and Hold back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury
Your 3 most anticipated releases for the rest of the year?
Anna: Oh so many, but here’s my top three….
Lightning Falls, Amy Wilson
The Plentiful Darkness, Heather Kassner
Dark Waters, Katherine Arden
ANTIGUA DE FORTUNE OF THE HIGH SEAS by Anna Rainbow and Oli Hyatt is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Thank you so much for reading! Are you planning to pick this book up? What are some of your favourite books to do with the sea or the ocean? I’d love to hear in the comments!