Q– Why not MORE pirates? With the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean and the whole bad boy appeal, why do you think the romance genre seems to be skipping by them right now? Or do you think the romance genre isn’t skipping them?
Darlene Marshall– “I don’t think we’re skipping them, but pirate stories aren’t easy to write. By that I mean, to quote Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson in the early 19th C., “Pirates are considered, by the law of nations, the enemies of the human race.” Most pirates were murdering scum, and still are. A romance writer has to reach to make her pirates redeemable. The easy way out is to make them privateers, rather than pirates. A privateer had a letter of marque and reprisal from a sovereign nation, and was acting under certain rules and regulations when he’d swoop down on an enemy national’s ship. Pirates were in it for themselves.
However, Pirates of the Caribbean has raised the profile of pirate stories in the past few years. Two generations ago, if you asked women to put a face on a pirate, they’d say “Errol Flynn”. One generation ago, they might say “Yul Brynner” (as Jean Lafitte in “The Buccaneer”) and today, they’d say “Johnny Depp”. This is a good thing, but it’s not always easy to convince editors that Jack Sparrow is a pirate, not the pirate.[g]
For a writer, the trick is to make your pirate bad boy or girl redeemable and not just born to be hanged. We’re not talking charming rake here, or hardened gunslinger who’s always just on the right side of the law, but people whose careers made them by definition thugs and killers. If we’re going for the HEA, then it’s reasonable to ask “is a pirate is good husband material”? Remember, neither Yul Brynner’s Lafitte or Jack Sparrow got the girl in the end. Those aren’t romance stories, regardless of how romantic the lead is.
So we’ll always see pirate stories, but they may be a smaller niche in the market than some of the other tales.”
Jennifer Ashley-“I am a little surprised that there aren’t more pirate romances now that PotC is so popular. A few newer authors write high-seas adventure and pirates, and some big name authors have had their pirate books re-released, but not many. I think that at one time pirate romance was so popular it was kind of done to death. Now, unless you have something with a very different twist, your pirate romance won’t sell like it might have ten or fifteen years ago. Pirates still sell, but not in the gobs they did before. I have lost count of the number of people who come up to me at booksignings and say: “I *used* to love pirate romances” or “I used to read nothing but pirates, now I read nothing but xxxx.” Trends come and go, and pirate romances have waned a bit.
But who knows? With the second PotC movie coming out soon, we may see an upsurge in pirate romance again. I hope so.”
Follow up Q for Jennifer-You say pirates were done to death, but obviously readers still love a bad boy. Do you think the decline has more to do with pirates themselves or the general shift away from historicals? How about those readers you mentioned, what are they reading?
Jennifer Ashley-“I still think there were so many pirate books that people got tired of them and turned elsewhere for their bad boy fix (like to vampires and werewolves). Also there *has* been a decline in historicals, although not as sharp as some people make out. For instance my current book, a historical without pirates, is doing very, very well. Almost every romance publisher is still publishing historicals (Warner, Avon, Signet, Kensington, Dorchester), and they still hit the bestseller lists.
Pirates will always be popular, no matter what, although that popularity waxes and wanes. Likewise does the popularity of werewolves, vampires, FBI agents, firemen, and any other type of hero you can think of. They never go away, but sometimes they’re more popular than at other times.”
Second Follow up– And then, any last word on pirates, and tell us what you have planned for the future—any more pirates?
Jennifer Ashley-“I love pirates and I always will. There will always be books about pirates sold and printed–they’re so enduring, no matter how “popular” they are at any given time.And of course I have more pirates planned! I have the daughter of the Pirate Next Door to take care of, as well as other pirate stories unconnected to the series. I’m doing some paranormals now, but hope to squeeze in more pirates as time allows.
Thanks so much for the questions.”
And thanks to Darlene and Jennifer so taking so much time to answer my questions!!!
I just wanted to say thanks for all the work you did pulling this together at your site, Lori. It’s been a lot of fun!