It’s a delight today to welcome another Swanwick Writer, A J Roberts, Andy to his friends, to Patricia’s Pen. Andy has come along to chat about his debut swashbuckler novelette Gentleman of Fortune. Without further delay let’s go over to Andy.
Gentleman of Fortune – The Maiden Voyage of a Story
A J Roberts
In recent years, I’ve gained a fondness for pirate stories, whether it’s books like Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood or Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, the TV series Black Sails, or video games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. With this in mind, I’ve been wanting to write my own pirate stories, which culminated in one of my first published books; the swashbuckler novelette, Gentlemen of Fortune. Taking place in the Caribbean in the late 17th Century, Gentlemen of Fortune follows a pair of wandering rogues named Kestrel and Scar as they help a woman named Rosanna Barclay find her missing father with the promise of a hidden treasure.
I drew a lot of inspiration for Kestrel and Scar from Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser, the protagonists from an often-overlooked sword and sorcery series by Fritz Leiber. I’ve heard it said that Leiber wrote these characters in an attempt to create two fantasy heroes that were closer to human nature, as antidote to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, whom he found too unrealistic. In a similar vein, I wanted to write a Pirates of the Caribbean-type story without the fantasy elements which I feel bogged down the later films in the series.
Getting this story out there has been a voyage in and of itself. I started it in 2015, and finished the first draft in 2016, sending it off to one publisher at the end of that year only for it to be rejected. After coming out of employment in 2018, I decided to revise it as a summer project before going to university. I sent it off to another publisher, but heard nothing back. In 2019, I revisited again and sent it off to another two publishers, one of whom rejected it a month later. However, the second publisher, an American pulp magazine, contacted me a year later expressing an interest in publishing the story. Since it had taken them a year to get back to me, I’d changed the ending and made the decision to self-publish the story for an upcoming university assignment as it was one of my most polished works. While I wanted them to publish the story, I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to use it in the assignment if they did. I arranged for them to defer any publication until after the assignment was marked so it wouldn’t affect my grade. However, delays on the publisher’s end combined with the sales of the copies I printed have made me want to get the story to a wider audience. With this in mind, I’ve decided to self-publish via Kindle Direct Publishing.
After all, I enjoyed writing this story, and I want to write more stories featuring Kestrel and Scar. But I want to get the stories I’ve already written out there first.
About A J Roberts
Born in Lancashire, A. J. Roberts has been writing as a hobby since the age of 17. This initially stemmed from writing campaigns for pen-and-paper roleplaying games, and later developed into short stories reminiscent of the pulp magazines.
After discovering an annual writers’ retreat in Derbyshire, he decided he wanted to take things further. In 2018, he left his job as an accountant to begin studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. While he’s experimented with new mediums on his course, he hasn’t forgotten the old pulp style he was originally inspired by.