Today Wednesday Writers has a treat—the mother and son duo Susan Page Davis and James S. Davis. Susan and James are going to be talking about the inspiration for their historical novel The Seafaring Women of the Vera B. Seafaring women? you ask. That sounds like a swashbuckling adventure with a twist. Welcome, Susan and James!
In the 1830s, men outnumbered women in Port Phillip, Australia seven to one. Most of the women there sailed to Australia as free settlers. Some came as convicts transported from England to serve their sentences in the colony. You can read about one real female convict in a blog I wrote about the remarkable Mary Bryant here:
The labor shortage and need for female servants and farm workers in the area prompted the British government to pay for the passage of many single, free women. They had to be between the ages of 15 and 30 and travel out with a married couple or family.
Our story takes place in the 1850s. The colony has grown a great deal, and Melbourne is becoming quite a city. We chose this as the starting point of our book because the circumstances were perfect for the story.
The idea for this book first came to me when I read the true story of Abby Pennell, a ship captain’s wife. Her husband died in Rio de Janeiro in 1878, and Abby brought the ship home to Maine. Later, my son Jim was visiting with me and said he was looking for story ideas. I read him several of the more promising premises in my file. He immediately liked the idea I had jotted down of a captain’s widow who wanted to take her husband’s ship home, but who had been deserted by his crew. I had suggested she empty a brothel and sail home with a crew of women.
Jim had spent some time in Australia, and he quickly saw the perfect setting for the book—the Victoria Gold Rush, which happened five years or so after the California Gold Rush. We did some preliminary research and found plenty of accounts of ships sitting abandoned in Australian harbors when the crews fled them for the goldfields. We were sold on the idea—and knew we had to write the story together. We picked 1854 in Port Phillip Bay, at Melbourne, Australia for our opening.
We hope you will read and enjoy our book, The Seafaring Women of the Vera B.
The Seafaring Women of the Vera B.
With the captain dead in Melbourne, Australia, Alice Packard thinks the worst has happened, until she learns the crew has deserted her husband’s ship in favor of the goldfields. Only one old man, Gypsy Deak, sticks by her, but Gypsy alone can’t raise a crew from the depleted population. In desperation, Alice turns to the only source of plentiful workers: the women of Melbourne. In a bold move, she and Gypsy empty a brothel, promising the escaped women a new life. Her all-woman (save one) crew put their backs and hearts into the voyage, but Alice finds training her sailors much harder than she expected. Her faith is tested to the limit. With a cargo to sell, angry brothel and tavern owners in pursuit, pirates to evade, and a mysterious stowaway, will the seafaring women of the Vera B. survive to tell the tale of this daring adventure?
About the Authors:
James Samuel Davis is a writer who has traveled in Australia, China, Micronesia, and Alaska. He resides in rural Travelers Rest, S.C., with his wife and seven children.
Susan Page Davis, James’s mom, is the author of more than sixty Christian novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest.
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