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Author Interview: Robin Reams

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Robin Reams, author of Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen.

FQ: I must tell you that I absolutely adored this story. I loved the characters (animal and human) and the storyline. Where did the idea for the book come from?

REAMS: Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed Cooper’s adventure. The idea for Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen came to me after listening to feedback I received from readers of my second book, Unlocking Blackbeard’s Skeletons. Back in 2018, there was a huge amount of information released on Blackbeard in preparation of the 300th anniversary of his death at Ocracoke, North Carolina. Much of what I was reading was different than what I previously knew about Blackbeard, and the conflicting accounts of what really happened intrigued me. After digging deeper and doing my own research, I decided to write Unlocking Blackbeard’s Skeletons. As readers started giving me feedback, they kept asking me about Blackbeard’s famed ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, which sank in June 1718. That’s when I decided to start outlining Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen.

FQ: It was wonderful to see this story as well as the history of this period of time shown to readers through the eyes of a cat. What made you choose to make him the main character rather than one of the humans?

REAMS: I wanted to show a different perspective of Blackbeard than my other book, which is through human point of view. During my research, I discovered that all ships in colonial times had cats onboard. I decided to use a cat as the main character to show this important part of history. Cooper also allowed me to show another side of Blackbeard. By telling the story through a cat’s eyes, I was able to draw in children as well, introducing them to the pirate era and to history in general.

FQ: Blackbeard is certainly one of the most legendary pirates that you could have used for the story. Was the research that had to be done before writing the book extensive and difficult? Also, I know that the locations, etc. are real for the most part, so I have to ask, is Cooper real or was he your own creation to wrap the story around? Perhaps he was based on your own cat?

REAMS: Yes, I did quite a bit of research. Although my book is historical fiction, I wanted it to be as real as possible and to only use fiction when there was a gap in the timeline. I read books on all sorts of things, not just pirates. I obtained most of this information as I was preparing to write Unlocking Blackbeard’s Skeletons, so when I was writing Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen, I was able to reuse a lot of my knowledge. As for Cooper, I have had several cats over the years, but never an orange one. Research proves that pirate ships had cats, but there are no records of what color Blackbeard’s would have been. I did discover a legend about sailors and pirates in particular believing that only black cats were lucky, so I felt an orange cat would add some excitement to the story.

FQ: The research, as I said, was Blackbeard a particular favorite of yours or just pirates in general? I’m wondering what made you choose him as opposed to some other pirate for this story.

REAMS: The colonial era is a favorite of mine, although I enjoy many other aspects of history. Part of what fascinates me about pirates is why they became pirates in the first place. My interest in Blackbeard originated years ago as a child. Blackbeard is a legend of course, but particularly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I have spent so many summers. I knew that he wrecked his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge at the inlet near Beaufort, North Carolina, and that he was captured and killed at Ocracoke. When I discovered that he also grew up as a teenager at North Carolina’s first town of Bath, I knew his story was something I wanted to share in an action-packed way where people could enjoy the book but also learn.

FQ: Can you tell your readers if there is another adventure in store for Cooper and Como, and the others, given the way this story ended? I would really like to know and hope the answer will be yes.

REAMS: Maybe. I really enjoyed writing Cooper’s adventure, so when it came to the point where I had to tie up the story lines, I decided to leave things so Cooper could at least live on in the minds of readers.

FQ: Can you give us an idea of what is coming next for Robin Reams? Are you working on something new and, if so, what is that going to be about?

REAMS: I currently have several projects that I am working on, some of which are not historical. Readers have shared their desires for me to write sequels to all three of my books. I also have some ideas of other historical fiction subjects. Every author has to make sure whatever project they are considering to work on is something they are going to put their heart into.

FQ: Do you always use animals in your books as main characters rather than humans? I found it a delightful perspective and am wondering if that is more enjoyable for you as a writer to show your stories through the eyes of an animal.

REAMS: My first book, Shadow of the Mountain, was written from the point of view of a feral cat named Shadow who joins his other cat friends on a journey to the mountains. Unlocking Blackbeard’s Skeletons was completely human perspective. For Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen, I wanted to utilize the aspect of a ship’s cat to give my readers a different angle of Blackbeard since Cooper could hear things that Blackbeard may have said privately. In a way, writing Aboard Blackbeard’s Queen was similar to Shadow of the Mountain as far as the animal instincts, but Cooper had interaction with the pirates, an element that Shadow didn’t experience. This was a new challenge for me since I had to make sure to limit Cooper’s actions as he interacted with human objects and even other animals. Readers of all ages can relate to animals and seem to enjoy looking at the world from a new perspective.

FQ: I saw from the biography on the back of the book that you really enjoy visiting historical sites. That is something that we definitely have in common. What has been your favorite experience so far in terms of the historical places that you have seen?

REAMS: Over the years, I have visited thousands of historic sites. When I was growing up, my family would go to living history days which ignited my imagination. Even now, I immerse myself in whatever era of history is being presented as I imagine what it would have been like to live during that time and place. As an author, I visit and revisit historic places differently. I always look for unique points of view and study the small things such as tools or how things were accomplished so I can be a better writer when I’m explaining things. It’s hard to say what my favorite experience would be, because there are so many, but I suppose the best experiences have been local historic places that don’t have a museum. I have spent many hours learning about my own family’s past as well. That’s probably why Blackbeard’s story spoke to me. It’s easy for me to get lost in the world of pirates when I walk the same streets of Bath, NC where Blackbeard lived, or when I stand on the shore at Ocracoke, where Blackbeard took his last breath.

FQ: When Robin Reams decides to read for fun rather than for research, what types of books/authors are your personal favorites?

REAMS: I am always on the lookout for books that inspire my curiosity. As a book lover and collector, I have quite a few interests including local stories, Bible studies, mysteries, and classics. Some of my favorite authors are Beverly Lewis and Audrey Penn, both of whom I have had the joy of meeting, and others such as C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Karen Kingsbury, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling.

FQ: One thing I always like to ask authors is what advice would you give to others who are hoping to break into the writing field?

REAMS: Like Cooper learns in my book, you must work hard to overcome obstacles. Don’t give up on your dream. Being a writer isn’t easy and the work doesn’t stop once your book gets published. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do!”

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