I was thrilled to pose some questions to Maria Kuzniar about her wonderful debut The Ship of Shadows, which published in July with Puffin Books.
What made you want an all-female pirate crew? It has been met with so much fanfare and with good reason- it turns out we were all waiting for such a cast of characters!
Thank you! Seeing the reaction to my all-female pirate crew has been wonderful. I was sitting in my hotel room in Marrakesh when I decided I wanted to set one of my potential story ideas there. All I had at that point was ‘Girl runs away to join a pirate ship’. I already had the vision of my main character, Aleja, in my head at that point but when I tried to imagine the rest of the pirates, I realised I was picturing all the stereotypical, male images, which frustrated me! There were brilliant female pirates in history but they seemed to be lacking in fiction, which was what inspired me to write an all-female crew.
The settings are beautiful and wonderfully written creating the perfect imagery in the reader’s mind. Have you been to such places or did you have to do plenty of research?
I love travelling so it was only natural that The Ship of Shadows would draw from my own adventures. I was on holiday in Marrakesh, thoroughly inspired by all the patterns and colours and flavours of Morocco, when I started to dream up the plot and characters—I knew I just had to set a book there.
You don’t have to visit a country to set a book there of course but for me, it definitely helped. The Ship of Shadows is set during the Golden Age of Piracy, in 1716, but I used my own experiences of Spain and Morocco to root the book in the settings and bring it all to life. That time I had to dodge out of the way of a chicken cart in a narrow alley made it into the book, as did my memories of the way Seville was scented with orange trees. I’ve never been to the Sahara Desert (so far!), but I have visited the Arabian Desert, where I managed to get stuck on a sand dune—just like Aleja.
Which pirate do you think you most closely resemble? Or…Are there elements of you in each one? The quiz for readers to see who they are most like is fun and inspired. I got Aleja though I wished I had Frances so I could have more reasons to eat cake!
I also got Aleja on that quiz! Puffin have been a brilliant team to work with and I’ve had a lot of fun bringing my pirates out into the world with them. There are elements of me in a few pirates. Frances and her love of cake, Griete and her love of creature comforts (even in the middle of a desert!), and of course, both Captain Quint and Aleja’s hunger to see the world. Aleja has also inherited her love of reading from me, though sadly I can’t speak as many languages as she can!
Would you be as keen for an adventure as Aleja if presented with the chance?
Oh definitely! I’m always up for a good adventure and have a long list of places I’d love to visit and experiences I’d love to have. . . though I have to confess, I’ve never been a fan of camping! I shall leave that one to our intrepid pirates instead. I would however, love to stumble on an excellent mystery or discover a secret passage myself! Maybe one day.
A fun Would you Rather Question: Would you rather be able to speak every language or be able to speak with animals?
I’d love to be able to speak every language! I’ve always envied people who are effortlessly multi-lingual and think it would come in very useful when travelling. However, apart from the Spanish I picked up when I lived in Spain, my own efforts in this department have not gone that well! I hope to change that soon and think it would be great fun to take a class in Russian or Mandarin.
The second title was announced this week and a new buzz of excitement created on social media- how does this make you feel?
It was so lovely to see and I was thrilled to finally be able to announce the second title after sitting on it for months! I hope people enjoy Secrets of the Stars as much as The Ship of Shadows and I can’t wait to share more about it soon. Not to be a tease but I think it might be my favourite book in the series so far. . .
Are you able to give any hints to what we might see in Secrets of the Stars??
In Secrets of the Stars, there is an epic adventure to a few new, exciting destinations, the introduction of a ferocious character that steals the show, things get more deadly and new secrets come to light. You can also expect more cake, new secret rooms onboard the ship, creepy dangers, and more puzzles and shadowy magic!
Thank you to Maria Kuzniar and Puffin Books for the chance to ask my curious questions. The answers are amazing and I am already counting the days until Secrets of the Stars!