I have just finished my first novel, a historical fiction account of the short and merry lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. It’s been a huge challenge, mainly because I’m hopelessly undisciplined and had to unlearn a lot of bad habits to actually sit down and get it done!
But get it done I did, and now I just face the daunting task of tearing it apart and turning it into something I won’t feel mortified to share with the world. And in the meantime, I’m onto my next project; a murder mystery set in Victorian London during a certain mania that was sweeping the globe.
I had huge enjoyment out of researching the lives of pirates operating out of the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. Separating fact from legend was an interesting task, as well as trying to uncover as much as I could about the real person who was Anne Bonny (my main character). I have no doubt that some of the stories are true. It’s highly likely that she would have responded to a would-be rapist by ensuring he was bedridden and unable to walk for months afterwards. But I’m less sure about the stories of how her and Mary were more violent and blood-thirsty than the men on their crew. There is a tendency to see violence coming from a woman as being worse than violence coming from a man, even if in reality, she’s used no more force than the man. So I have no doubt that the hapless crew who encountered their ship would have made far more of the attacks by two women, purely because it would have been more unexpected, and therefore would have stood out more.
We know Mary died in prison in 1721, more than likely of fever, but Anne disappeared from the records. There are a number of theories about what might have happened to her. She may have died in prison like Mary, or it’s possible her wealthy, plantation-owning father paid for her to be released and brought her back home. We do know that there’s a story about an Anne Bonny who returned home in 1721 to marry a man called Joseph Burleigh, and who died a respectable woman in her 80’s. We’ll probably never know what really happened, but in the meantime, it gives great scope for imagination.