You may have heard about nude cruises in the Caribbean. They’re so popular, you have to book a year or more in advance! Well, the novel I’m working on right now is about a nude cruise in the Caribbean.
This work-in-progress of mine takes place in the late 17th century, and it’s like a Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, only naked! All swash and no buckle! How could that be, you might ask. How could pirates be pirates without all that garb? An essential characteristic of the Caribbean is that, unlike the Mediterranean, it’s tropical, which means that it’s entirely feasible to be naked or nearly naked year round. And according to my research, there were plenty of cultural contexts, as well as professional reasons, for going clothesfree during the age of piracy. You can see some of the books I’m researching below: scholarly studies like Empire’s Crossroads, histories for the general public like The Republic of Pirates, classic fiction like Treasure Island, the epic poem of the Caribbean Omeros, and the more recent novel, On Stranger Tides, that not only became the source for the fourth Pirates film that shares its title, but helped inspire the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series from the beginning.
These books, along with several online sites, are helping me find answers to questions like the following: How would piracy in the late 17th century have been different from the early 18th century? What did pirates eat? How did pirates answer nature’s call (use the bathroom)? What was the difference between pirates and buccaneers? My goal for this novel, like my previous novel Aglow, is for it to be historically accurate, fully within the realm of plausible conjecture without veering into the supernatural. That’s a marked difference from the Disney Pirates films, of course, with their ghosts, witches, sea monsters and mermaids. For my novel, I might create characters who believe in mermaids, and other characters who pretend to be mermaids… but that’s not the same as including actual mermaids in the cast!
The colorful characters in these wonderful illustrations above *almost* look like they could be Disney pirates, in some alternate universe where Disney allows nudity. I found them in a search for concept art, to use as visual aids that can help inform the aesthetic of my work. While these characters are not my creations, nor have I based mine on them, they still give a sense of how at least some of my characters could be conceived. I very much appreciate that these depictions show a range of body shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities, because my characters do as well!
I have the prologue and first three chapters written. I have the general plot shape, and the character trajectories and backgrounds. And I have further, unplaced segments that I’ve already written as well. So goes the writing process: continuing in research and inspiration while endeavoring to write each day, because I’m excited about this project, about imagining how pirates might have adopted nudity. After all, in their sometime role as Romantic heroes, pirates embody freedom, while for many of us naturists and nudists, freedom means nudity. As the pirate in José de Espronceda’s classic poem declares, “It’s my boat that’s my treasure, / my god is Liberty. / My law is strength and wind, / my only homeland’s the Sea” (translated from “Canción del pirata”). What pirate could stand for Liberty more completely than a naked one?