Exclusive piece by Sarah Tolcser
I like to describe SONG OF THE CURRENT as a pirate book, but that’s not quite true. The main character, Caro, is the daughter of a river smuggler, so she’s no stranger to breaking the law. However, when the book starts, she’s never captained a ship on her own before. When her father is arrested, she agrees to deliver a mysterious cargo in exchange for his freedom. The only problem is, a gang of pirates is also after the cargo.
Caro is given a letter of marque, which means she’s officially a privateer. During the Age of Sail, in our world’s history, privateers attacked and captured ships under their country’s flag. It’s the same in Caro’s world. In the book someone says, “So a privateer is just a pirate with a letter.” That’s more or less true. The letter of marque gives Caro permission to do whatever’s necessary to deliver her cargo—which is lucky, because she does a lot of stuff she could probably be arrested for otherwise! There’s a point in the story where Caro is forced to make a tough choice and ends up engaging in a little bit of piracy herself, but I won’t spoil it.
The pirate ship in the book, Victorianos, was a bit tricky for me to figure out. I knew it couldn’t be a traditional pirate ship, with lots of masts and sails. I needed something smaller, something that could sail up and down a narrow shallow river with lots of twists and turns. So I made Victorianos a cutter, which is a small one-masted ship designed for speed. Rumrunners and smugglers historically used these boats to dodge around bigger naval ships in the coastal areas. And then later, the British navy got aggravated about this, so they started adding cutters, armed with cannons, to their own fleet to chase the smugglers. That’s exactly what Victorianos is in SONG OF THE CURRENT—only it turns out the captain liked being a privateer so much, he stole the ship and became an outlaw.
Caro is on a slower boat with no cannons, so she has to use all her smuggler’s tricks to keep out of reach of the pirates. I hope you have fun finding out how she does it!