A Pirate’s Promise: An Actor’s Journey into Writing

Sep 29, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Every Other Book

by Gabriela Lawson

My inspiration to write A Pirate’s Promise came when my ex-husband scoffed at my predilection for reading historical romance novels rather than what he considered to be legitimate literature. He remarked more than once that he would never be caught dead reading such garbage. One evening I challenged, “You’d read any book I wrote, right?” With a chuckle that said clearly how utterly implausible he imagined the notion of my ever writing a book to be, he admitted that of course he would. And so I began my quest to complete a novel of romantic fiction, and one that my ex would not only read, but enjoy.

It turns out, I enjoyed it, too.

Having read a mountain of historical romance novels throughout the course of my life, I found the task both simplistic–it’s merely a formula, after all: Boy meets girl, boy makes passionate love to girl, boy marries girl –and rife with challenges–But how does she get on the ship? What on earth do they eat in Barbados in 1802? The story did not come to me as a blueprint, with a chapter-by-chapter outline that only required padding to fill out the story. I just sat down at the computer and began to type. I put my muse through her paces without a doubt, but in the end it was my flair for the dramatic, rather than my finesse with prose, that fleshed out my story and allowed such rich and fun characters to spring to life for me.

Gabriella Lawson

You see, I have been onstage as both a dancer and an actor since I was three-years-old. So in the end it was my penchant for performance art that fueled my narrative. I drew on characters that I knew and loved from plays, plot twists that I found particularly effective in dramatic works I’d done or seen, and, most especially, from my own experience as an actor. Determining how I wrote dialogue was based very much around how I would play the roles, speak the lines, move within the scene, were it a staged production rather than a book. More often than not, I was just as amused, touched, and excited by the things that I wrote as the characters were. I was enchanted as I met new characters. Each character, no matter how large or small, has an interesting back story for me, just as they would were I playing the role on stage. Not only did this device come naturally for me from all of my stage training, but it also made the entire experience far more nuanced and joyful than it might have been otherwise. And hopefully, helped to add a little depth to the story that I wrote as well.

Likewise the settings portrayed throughout my novel played very much as a movie in my mind that I did my best to describe as colorfully as I pictured them. Visualizing the scene, be it the drawing room in London, the cabin on board the Stargazer, the cliff top in Barbados was an integral part of the writing experience for me and not unlike imagining the world around you as you rehearse a scene for a play before you build the set. So much of the rehearsal process in fact is based around imagination and exploration that, once again, I found my training the perfect tool to create the world of which I wrote.

I became so delighted with and immersed in the story that I was imagining and the relationships I was discovering, that I wrote A Pirate’s Promise within three months. While it was a unique set of circumstances that led me to become a novelist and a very special skill set that I credit immeasurably with helping me to develop the story, I feel certain now that writing is something that I was destined to discover. I fall so in love with the characters that I meet when I write. I am so excited to live through the story as I write. I experience such rewarding relief when I finish a story. I feel complete and unfathomable pride in seeing my words in print; and such humility with all of the support that I’ve found.

The transition from actor to writer was a fluid one. Writing has become an incredible part of my life, something about which I am as passionate as I have been on stage for over thirty years. I am currently working on three more novels, but A Pirate’s Promise will always hold exclusive rights to the special place in my heart that marks it as my first.

And even though I don’t see him anymore, I hope my ex has purchased his copy.

Upcoming book-signings:

Saturday, September 29, 2pm-5pm
The Iron Bird Café
1915 Fulton Street, Fresno

Sunday, September 30, 2pm-5pm
Woodward Park Regional Library
944 East Perrin at Champlain in Fresno

For more info check out Gabriella’s website.

Gabriela Lawson is a freelance author, poet, and playwright from Fresno, CA. She has been a part of Valley Public Radio’s landmark program “Valley Writer’s Read” since 2007 and is an active member of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival as both an actor and director.


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