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A World That May Never Accept Him

Author Interview
Theo Clarkson Author Interview

Muddied Waters tells the story of pirates looking for that last big score. When things don’t go as planed it becomes a race for their lives. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?​

The first chapter of Muddied Waters is essentially a dramatization of an actual event involving the pirate crews of Olivier Levasseur and John Taylor, who stumbled upon the damaged treasure galleon of the Portuguese Bishop of Goa. The ship, Nossa Senhora do Cabo, had been the victim of a storm near the island of Reunion the previous night. The pirates raided the hapless viceroy’s ship and made off with the bishop’s wealth, leaving him to return to Lisbon penniless. According to historical records, the story ends here- the pirates were never heard from again. I found this to be the perfect catalyst to a fictional yarn, one where I could create an accurate depiction of what life on the high seas could have been like during the 18th century. Jackson Teague is my version of Taylor, a newly appointed captain eager to prove his leadership after a successful mutiny against his previous captain. Much of my backstories are inspired by other actual events during these times.

What was your favorite scene in this story?

In “A Lion Among Hyenas”, I give the reader a rich backstory of Awiti, one of Teague’s crew. I found this character to be infinitely compelling, given the fact he is an albino mute, and felt he deserved the most attention as a character unable to tell the others about his own life and motivations. For much of the book, no one else but the reader knows who he truly is or where he came from. To me, he is the most fascinating player in Muddied Waters, and I very much enjoyed contrasting him against his lessers- a true warrior who had fallen in with a group of misfits for the sake of his own survival in a world that may never accept him as he is.

Did you find anything in your research of this story that surprised you?

I’ve read many, many books about piracy and the thing that impresses me the most is how well they adhered to the principles of democracy. While mutinies aboard any other vessel can be viewed as insubordination against an established authority, the situation aboard a pirate vessel seems much more honest. The power was always held by the majority, and not by the one they elected to speak for them. Leadership was a privilege earned from the backing of your peers, one that could be taken from you the moment you failed to satisfy the reason they put you at the helm in the first place. I think that’s an amazing tidbit.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I initially dove into writing only standalone novels. Series’ have never appealed to me and my opinion had always been that the best books were the ones expressed the author’s philosophy and world-view within the context of an interesting story. I wrote Muddied Waters so that I could ruminate on the nuances of these rebels of the Golden Age. Problem was I had come up with an amazing female character I just could not effectively fit into the plot and I had to leave her on the cutting room floor in favour of pacing and continuity. This bugged me a lot, until I realized a way I could continue Teague’s story while not retreading the same themes in the first novel. So, I came up with an unplanned sequel centred around colonialism and slavery in the New World that allowed me to tell her story as well. Muddied Waters: Coda is in its final stages of editing and will be released in early 2022. I hope you enjoy it!

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It is the end of the Golden Age of Piracy, with all of the most famous bandits either killed, disappeared, or captured and executed by authorities. A retiring viceroy, on his way home and carrying with him decades worth of riches, runs into one of the few crews of brigands left roaming the open waters. His misfortune is not only the haul of their lives, but a prize for the ages. The pirates attempt to disappear with the treasure, not realizing that this viceroy will stop at nothing to regain what has been stolen from him. Muddied Waters is a tale of ambitious and uncompromising men who carry with them not only the fruits of their plunder, but the weight of its true cost.

Muddied Waters 

The golden age of piracy is coming to an end as the world grows smaller and a generation dangles at the end of a noose. A once enterprising reverie for the young at heart and the criminally insane, now a dirty hand-me-down dream. All that’s left of the pirate legacy is greed found at the bottom of a bottle or the end of a barrel. Man’s true nature is shown through Theo Clarkson as he spins a tale of humanity’s darkest desires in Muddied Waters. One of the last of the pirate ships on the ocean, Sweet Liberty, comes across a Portuguese cargo ship carrying a king-size ransom. They take what they please and hold the king’s cousin, Belo, hostage. To the man’s humiliation, the pirates bargain with his life and sell him off to the nearest settlement for a pittance. Unbeknownst to the pirates, Belo’s do-or-die moto drags them into a manhunt that leads to nothing but misery and death.

Clarkson recreates an amazing atmosphere from the 1800s, bringing us back to a time where life was brutal and short. We can feel the reality of what peasants faced. The choices they made to gain an ounce of a better life. And the choices the higher-ups, the rich and the royal, made in order to suppress their subjects. Looking at the scene with Captain Teague and Milligan having a drink in the captain’s quarters Teague talks about the differences between him and Milligan. Both got the short end of the stick, but whereas Teague made his first kill when he was living on the streets as a child; Milligan fought in the Navy for his country. Teague sees his first kill as self-defense and Milligan’s as murder. Neither men’s’ actions were noble or moral, but it was what they had to do to survive.

The novel opens with the executioner telling readers about each individual being hanged that day. A foreshadowing of the characters eventual downfall. This creates a well-fashioned, artistic eye-opener for the readers. The story is written in third person allowing readers to get multiple perspectives and an overall feel for situations. Readers then know everything that happens in the book while characters can be blind-sided. This makes for great dramatic ‘reveal-all’ scenes, which Clarkson does beautifully. But not only is he able to blind-side the characters, but also his readers every-now-and-then too, creating reveals that shock his audience. I found the accents of the characters in the story to be interesting and creative.

Muddied Waters is exceptionally well-written and engaging. A pirates tale that builds slowly, giving readers a chance to take in all the characters and setting before racing off with suspense and turmoil leading up to the climax. Readers will be able to step back in time to the 1800’s and experience the not always glamourous pirate life. A great take over the typical happy pirate adventures.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B07572SWFR

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