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Know the Novel Linkup – Part 1: Introduction

Happy Friday!

If you were reading my blog last year, you might remember me joining this same link-up before (in this post right here), and I’m so excited to do it again!

This three-part blog link-up is hosted annually by the sweet Christine Smith as a fun way to share about our fall writing projects, whether that’s NaNoWriMo or anything else. I encourage you to check out her opening post right here!

You can click on the image to head to Christine’s site!

Last year, I answered these questions about my debut novel Cabin Girl (which is still not out, but it’s so close, and I can finally promise a publishing date announcement soon!). This year, I’m going to be answering these questions about my next writing/rewriting project, the prequel to Cabin Girl!

I first wrote this 65,000 word prequel for NaNoWriMo in 2020, and then set it aside to finish all my writing for Cabin Girl. Now that I’m to the final edits, formatting, and publishing prep for that, it’s almost time to start the major rewrite of the prequel, titled Gills.

I’m going to enjoy sharing about this fun prequel, and I hope you enjoy learning about it!

The Questions

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

Because Gills is a prequel, Cabin Girl sparked the idea! I never intended to write more stories in the Cabin Girl world. In my mind, it was meant to be a standalone, and I was pretty adamant about that for a while.

But after more people read it and shared their love for one of the characters in particular, asking for more of his story, it didn’t take long to convince me to write more, haha. He’s one of my favorite characters too!

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

I’m not proud of this, but here is the super-rough synopsis so far:


Hungry. Homeless. Held captive by the agonizing memories of surroundings he’s helpless to change.

And in his sights, The Lonely Eye—a ship he believes could change it all.

Determined to escape Morocco and forge his own future, young Gideon Mansur announces to an entire tavern of The Eye’s crew that he will—in fact—be their captain. The only problem? They already have a captain, and he’s not looking to give up his position any time soon. Oh, and Gideon doesn’t know anything about captaining a ship or succeeding within the Barbary slave trade—not that he’ll admit it.

With the reluctant help of his childhood friend and slave, Ibo, Gideon finds himself on a stormy journey to secure the ship—and life—of his dreams. But he’s not the only one with those intentions. Amidst sea battles, attempts to steal his success, grumbling crewmen, and the ever-growing unease of Ibo, only one thing’s clear. He will be a great captain.

And he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

Like Cabin Girl, the majority of this story takes place on a ship – the same ship actually, The Lonely Eye – with some chapters featuring locations like Morocco, Spain, and Ireland. My favorite aspects of these settings has been exploring them from an entirely different perspective, and in even more depth than in Cabin Girl.

Morocco especially has been fun to dive into, and I’ve been told from beta-readers that my descriptions, and some of the action, reminded them of Aladdin. It may not be the same city, but I’m happy with that comparison!

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

Gladly! The protagonist in Gills is actually the antagonist/mentor from Cabin Girl – Captain Gideon Gills. Although he’s not quite a captain yet . . . or is he? He’s one of the most vivid, remembered characters that I’ve ever written, and though picking favorite characters feels like picking a favorite child, I’d have to say he’s one of my very favorite.

Originally, he was partly inspired by the character Long John Silver from Treasure Island (or mostly, Treasure Planet) and just branched off from there into a headstrong, alliteration-adoring, and passionate pirate whose largest dream is to make a name for himself and control his destiny. For all my personality-typers, he’s an ENTJ, Enneagram type 8w7, and Choleric. He’s just come to life, and I’ve enjoyed following where he leads the story.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

This is honestly one of the parts I need to focus on during the rewrite, as the antagonist is a rival Barbary pirate named Jabar. (I just now realized the similarity to Jafar, and now given the Aladdin comparison, I’m not sure if I like that, haha!) My struggle the first draft around was giving him a strong, ‘pirate’ personality, goals, and motives without making him too similar to the protagonist and thus boring.

They’re meant to be similar enough to contrast, as my goal was to foreshadow some of Gills’ actions and mannerisms in Cabin Girl, but they still need to be their own people. So I have some more character developing to do! But so far, Jabar (name pending), is the long-time quartermaster of a rival ship who has his sights set on the very same ship that Gills’ wants. As you can imagine, that’s not ideal, and forms the central conflict of the story.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Probably just the chance to explore Gills’ character even more – to see why he is what he is, and spend more time diving into his personality throughout the novel. Though he’s so different from me, he’s almost written himself, and I’ve had a lot of fun letting him. I’m also excited to share it with the people who have asked for more of his story.

Oh, and while Cabin Girl is a much more introspective pirate story with more focus on the inner workings and twisting motives of the ship and crew, Gills has a bit more action. Still no treasure hunts, but a lot more stereotypical pirate-y plot elements that I’ve enjoyed indulging in.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

Haha, I guess I’ve already answered this one. It’s a prequel in the Secretive Seas series!

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

On the first draft, I’d say I was probably a planster. I had a semi-detailed outline going into it, but over the course of the month, as I wrote, I let myself go off into rabbit trails and switch plot events as I felt like it. My reasoning was that if it felt more interesting to me, it might be more interesting to my readers and if it was too awful, I’d edit it out later.

Well, now that I’m to the rewriting and editing stage, I can confirm that I have my work cut out for me (the rabbit trails . . . it’s horrific). I’m in the process of re-outlining, and doing a much more thorough job this time. I think heavy planning is a necessity at this point, so that I can iron out all the issues with the plot, and form a cohesive, engaging story.

9. Name a few unique elements in this story.

Well, probably the most interesting aspect is that this is a downfall story, in which we see the protagonist of his story, Gills, spiral into the antagonist of Éirinn’s story, Cabin Girl. I’ve never written a story like that before, and it’s been an adventure. A bit sad too . . . usually a character ends a story better than they began, but that’s not the nature of this one.

Also because of this, though Cabin Girl is a Christian pirate story, Gills really isn’t – at least not in the same way. It’s still clean in terms of content, but because we’re following the story through the eyes and perspective who neither knows or cares much about anything like that, Christianity isn’t prominent. The themes are there, but not explicitly pointed out.

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

I haven’t created too many fun things for this story yet, but I do have:

None of these images belong to me!
I love how this cover goes with Cabin Girl‘s!

And as much as I’d love to have an official map for The Lonely Eye, I can’t draw nearly well enough for that, and I have yet to find someone who does commissions for ship illustrations. Maybe at some point though, because that would be amazing! (If you have any recommendations, please let me know!)

Well, that’s all the questions for now! Thanks for joining me for this fun first part of the link-up, and I hope you enjoyed the preview into Gills! Have any questions, or did anything stick out to you? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to know your thoughts!

Do you have a writing project this fall? If you want, feel free to hop in on this link-up or just answer the questions in the comments and tell me about it! I’m always up to learning about amazing new stories!

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