WIPJoy Background Week: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Since this one asks for a few lines from the work in progress, and this work is not yet that far into ‘in progress’, I’ll be pulling lines from prior Cannon stories.

What emotions do you evoke with your setting?
I have two in mind. First, nostalgia: the Skypirates universe harkens back to a time when the world was bigger and wider, more full of mystery. It’s a world where lost temples in the jungle are just over the next hill, where the Far East is so remote that pirates roam the skylanes, where a new adventure always awaits. The modern world lacks that same feel; we’re all but out of new frontiers here on Earth, and I miss that. I imagine other people do, too.

Besides that, I also aim for excitement. The Cannon stories do, after all, fit into the action-adventure genre. If I write a snoozer, I haven’t done my job.

Share a line with a detail about your protagonist’s past.

“Nathaniel Cannon,” said Masaracchia wonderingly. “Of the Famous Fighting Fifty-First—I volunteered in the Aviation Section during the war.” Nonplussed, Cannon exchanged a look with Joe, and Masaracchia hurriedly added, “Before I found my true calling.”

It did explain his nearly-flawless English. “That was a lifetime ago,” Cannon said.

“I remember reading about you and your squadron in the papers. I thought you were a different Captain Cannon—how did you come to air piracy?”

“That was a lifetime ago,” Cannon repeated.

What does your antagonist love deeply?
I can’t really answer this one without giving away some of the surprise. I’ll leave it at ‘his country’.

Which two characters have the most interesting history?
Our hero Nathaniel Cannon and one of his crew, Emma Foster, come to mind. Emma is the most recent entry to Cannon’s inner circle, though they first became acquainted in the early 1920s. They encountered each other several times over the years, ordinarily on opposite sides of some dispute or another.

In early 1927, as Cannon was finding his sea legs as an independent pirate, he and his nascent Long Nines gang raided a mercenary hideout in the Solomon Islands, mercenaries who had happened to employ Ms. Foster. In the firefight, Emma was wounded; the mercenaries retreated from the island, and the Long Nines prepared to leave. Cannon had every intention of leaving Emma for dead, but a few strong words from his second-in-command changed his mind. Cannon went back for her, and while she recovered under the care of Inconstant‘s doctor, he offered her a job.

Now, they’re fast friends, their relationship the least collegial and most familial out of any pair in Cannon’s inner circle, which is why Emma can get away with the merciless ribbing she delivers to Cannon on a regular basis.

Name something experienced with each sense in your work in progress.
Sight: the billowing red-orange heights of thunderheads at sunset over the South Pacific.
Sound: the scream of aircraft overhead, and the chatter of machine guns.
Smell: the oppressive sweetness of exhaust fumes filling the hangar deck just before planes launch.
Taste: the coppery jolt of blood.
Touch: the saltwater-slickened railing of a narrow companionway on a ship at sea.

Is any part of the backstory inspired by your own life?
Unfortunately, no. My life has not, to date, been so adventurous as this.

Share a line you love about a setting.

Two thousand years ago, Nicomedia had been a vibrant port city and a key stronghold in the eastern Roman Empire. The centuries had not been kind to it. A fire, the great Roman schism, and a hundred years of war between the crumbling Byzantine Empire and the ascendant Ottoman Turks had reduced it to ruins. Izmit, the city the Ottomans had established in its place, had never grown out of nearby Istanbul’s shadow.

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