The only difference is etymology. Corsairs is derived from the mid 16th century: from French corsaire, from medieval Latin cursarius, from cursus ‘a raid, plunder’. Corsair was a term used to describe pirates in the Mediterranean (the Barbary Corsairs) and in the Caribbean. Just think the movies could have been called the Corsairs of the Caribbean! I quite like the alliteration.
Kit is a corsair; how does this help him achieve his goal?
Kit is a corsair in that he has acted like a pirate, but his targets are the Barbary raiding ships. He is also different from privateers in that he doesn’t have letters of marque from the British for his activities. He and his crew are on their own.
Can you share five fun facts about the Calliope, Kit’s ship.
a.The Calliope is a three masted schooner and a lot of the other schooners I researched had two masts. I chose a schooner because they could be crewed with relatively small numbers of men (about 15). I thought the number to be just right to keep their clandestine activities a secret.
b.The Calliope has some portholes – they were a feature not commonly found in ships prior to the latter half of the 19th century because the ship needed to be as water tight as possible, but since Kit has adapted the ship to his specifications, he had them added.
c.The Calliope is more heavily gunned than other ships of her type. She has a secret cannon on a lift running amidships and later on, thanks to Sophia’s research, she has another weapon – Greek Fire...
d.To get my head around where everything was on a ship, I used a schematic of the Beagle – the ship that took Charles Darwin to South America.
e.The Calliope wasn’t Kit’s first ship, it was the Terpichore, both ships are named after Greek Muses.
In our present world, we know a lot more about other cultures than Sophia would have done. How challenging is it to write about the ‘Mussulman’ from her perspective, and how did you reveal the cultural differences without creating an unwelcome cultural bias?
Sophia is half Spanish and is well-aware of the history of the country of her mother’s birth. For nearly 800 years Spain was occupied or under siege by the Moors and Berbers which left its mark culturally and architecturally on the country and Sophia is well aware of this. And she is an archaeologist’s assistant with a passion for ancient history, so she has quite a pragmatic and realistic view of human nature.
The stories of the Barbary Coast pirates and their devastating slaving raids across Europe have largely been forgotten but in Captive of the Corsairs but Sophia Green and her cousin, Laura Cappleman experience those differences up close and personal.
Kit has some awesome talents, forged in the fire of a terrible childhood. Do you think these skills ‘saved’ him?
I really enjoyed writing Kit. He’s not your typical alpha hero. In some respects he’s a bit of a Sir Percy Blakeney – he’d be considered a dandy or a fop under other circumstances. His childhood was over the moment the ship on which he was a cabin boy was attacked. His love of dance – and the flamenco in particular came as a result of being forced to perform as a köçek – a cross-dressing dancer, a common fate of attractive ‘dhimmi’ boys in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. I fleshed out some of Kit’s experiences based on reports I’ve read on bacha-bazi, boys sold into sexual slavery – horrifically, it is an Afghan practice that still goes on today and was powerfully depicted in the 2003 book The Kite Runner (which was turned into a film in 2007).
Flamenco is such a masculine and virile dance and indeed it may have saved Kit’s sanity, but what really save his life was his determination to be free and avenge what had been taken from him.
Kit wishes to forget his past, Sophia clings to hers and wishes to forget about her future. What is the key to bringing two such opposing points of view together?
It really was the case of opposites attract with these two. Kit lives life to the edge of chaos and sometimes a bit beyond that too. He is reckless and flamboyant, but it’s really all for show. In many respects, he’s still a lost boy. Sophia is all front as well, but it’s a different type. Outwardly she is reserved and shy – very much a wall flower, but internally she has passion, fire and drive. I think Kit and Sophia instinctively recognise that in each other and that’s what brings them together.
Finally, I love Spanish dancing – the fire, the passion, and the absolute control. As a skill, it suits Kit so well. Did you have to do much research to write that wonderful dance scene?
I had so much fun watching YouTube videos of traditional flamenco dancing and describing what I saw – with help of a dance studio glossary of terms. I so wish I didn’t have two left feet, I’d love to be able to dance with such grace and skill. My favourite video is this one, from a 1950s film featuring Jose Greco, an absolute master – just watch him oh my!