An Indies Introduce Q&A with Briony Cameron

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Briony Cameron is the author of The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye, a Summer/Fall 2024 Indies Introduce adult selection. 

Kelly Evert of Village Book & Paper Dreams in Bellingham and Lynden, Washington, served on the panel that selected Cameron’s book for Indies Introduce.

The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye is an action-packed pirate story full of adventure, and all things that pirates do," said Evert. "I can see Jacquotte on the boat deck, sword in hand, bravely protecting her crew and most of all the beautiful Teresa. Debut author Briony Cameron did a marvelous job of writing a buccaneering novel that will keep you reading late into the night.”

Cameron sat down with Evert to discuss her debut title.

This is a transcript of their discussion. You can listen to the interview on the ABA podcast, BookED.

Kelly Evert: Hello! I am Kelly Evert, and I am one of the owners of Village Books in Bellingham and Lynden, Washington, and I am here today with our wonderful author, Briony Cameron, and she has written The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye.

Briony Cameron is a queer, disabled writer, based in Cardiff, UK. Her father was of Jamaican, Panamanian, and Cuban heritage, and her mother is of English and Welsh heritage. She studied English and creative writing at university, graduating in 2020. In 2020, her short story, “The Nantes Affair” was longlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Short Story Competition and her debut novel, The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye, was longlisted that same year for the Penguin WriteNow Competition, and in 2021 it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize.

Alongside writing, she is an avid knitter and she loves to play video games and spend time with her dog, Keanu. So, welcome!

Briony Cameron: Hi! It's great to be here.

KE: So, we're all in different time frames. I'm way on the furthest west you can get in the United States, and you're way over on the lovely island of Britain. And so this is great! I'm glad we're able to meet.

BC: Yeah, no, it is great, it’s quite late here, or it's getting late. It's like 5:40. So, it's probably quite a different time over there.

KE: Yup, I'll be ready for breakfast. You'll be ready for dinner. So that's great. And I love Britain. I did spend some time myself living in London, and so I have great ties. I'm just so honored to be able to talk with you today.

BC: Thank you.

KE: Here are my questions for this wonderful book: First of all, I want to say that I introduced this to all of my employees the other day, and quite a few of them grabbed the ARCs. So they're all excited that I'm going to be talking with you this morning. So, the first question: what intrigued you to write a pirate story?

BC: I think it wasn't like a pirate specifically that I was interested in writing about, I actually ended up writing about Jacquotte because I ended up in a Wikipedia spiral in the middle of the night one day.

I found a page on female pirates, so I was clicking through all of them having a great time. And I started reading her little section, and I was like, “Oh, my goodness, this is so interesting! Let me go and find more information,” and I couldn't find any, and I was so sad. And I probably spent way too long looking and scouring for it. And then I eventually was just like, “Oh, there's nothing here, I guess. I guess it's going to be me then.” And I started piecing together a story based on what little information there was. It probably just ended up from like a weird obsession, because there was no information about her, and I kind of really wanted there to be.

KE: Yeah. Well, I'm so glad you did. And is it already released in Britain?

BC: So, it comes out next Thursday. So, two days after the US release, but people are already getting their copies so — kind of.

KE: I can see it over your shoulder. That is a beautiful cover!

BC: Yeah, it is. I love both covers. They're so different. I don't think I could pick a favorite. People keep asking me to pick one, but I don't think I can.

KE: You don't need to. So, did you spend a lot of time like reading Treasure Island or any other, you know, pirate books when you were younger?

BC: I mean, I did read Treasure Island, I think, when I was like twelve, and I wasn't super into it at the time. I very much preferred Frankenstein, so I actually have not consumed a huge amount of pirate media. I kind of went the other way. I actually didn't watch the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie until I was sixteen, which I think is maybe ten or so years after it came out. I didn't watch the next two until after I finished writing my book. I didn't want to accidentally write Pirates of the Caribbean.

KE: Sure, makes sense.

BC: But yeah, so not a huge amount. I just think they're really cool, and they dress great. So not the biggest, apart from if you can count Treasure Planet, the Disney movie based on Treasure Island, which I have seen countless times.

KE: That's awesome. Have you spent time on a boat during all of your research?

BC: I actually can't swim, so…

KE: Oh no!

BC: I've actually — I've been on a boat, maybe twice in my entire life, and I have tried to avoid them and the sea as a whole. So, writing a book about pirates was actually quite a big change from the sort of thing I would normally do. Because I am terrified of water and boats.

KE: Oh no! Oh no!

BC: Yeah, a bit of a difficult one for me having to go and look at the sea to get some kind of vibes to write from, and trying to stay as far away from it as possible at the same time.

KE: Oh, don't they have some old boats docked that you can get on and take a look at?

BC: Yeah! I actually — I live really close to Cardiff Bay. So, there's ships there. We actually just had a really cool Spanish galleon docked in the bay, so I had a look at it from afar. You know, I took some nice pictures, but very much did not get on it.

KE: Oh, you did not get on it?

BC: I did not. I considered it, but I was — oh, no, I couldn't get past the idea of it being on the water, so unfortunately, no.

KE: Well, we're surrounded by water (as are you!), so I won't invite you to come out and go on any boats anytime soon.

BC: Yeah, I appreciate it.

KE: So, because you weren't able to go out on the boat, but did you study lots of maps and charts, and where she went and…

BC: Yeah, I studied lots and lots of old maps. Quite irritatingly, Hispaniola — modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic — were split at the time into French and Spanish territory. So, I was looking at maps that were both French and Spanish from roughly the same time, trying to split the whole place up and figuring out what would have been named what.

Nautical maps as well...basically anything I could get my hands on, so that I could get like a real feel for the sorts of places they were going. Yeah, I just spent a lot of time looking at maps. I actually have one on my wall downstairs with one of the ones I was using as my main map so I could look at it at all times.

KE: That's really great. That's awesome. So, she's based on a real person. And was that her name — is that her historical name?

BC: Yeah, so, her name was Jacquotte Delahaye. There's not like a huge amount of actual information about her, but what there was is very much in the book. Like the information about her father being French and a mother being Haitian, having a disabled brother, and sort of how she ends up starting on her journey, which — slight spoiler — is because her father gets murdered. That's basically the only historical information there actually is about her, alongside the fact that she does take on male aliases.

She does eventually become a pirate captain and turns Tortuga into the freebooter republic. That is almost the entire — I think that is almost word for word the Wikipedia page and all of the other information I can find about her. Essentially, everything else in this book is what I feel could have led her on this journey and brought her there. Because there really wasn't anything else to work from.

KE: Oh, that's amazing! Were there other female pirates that had their own boats and crews? Did you — in your research?

BC: Yeah! So one of my favorites is a Chinese pirate, and I am absolutely going to butcher her name. It was, I think, Zheng… Zheng Yi Sao. She actually was the wife of a pirate, and when he died she took over his entire operation, and I believe, had like 60,000 pirates working under her…a very, very large number, and they were all on these great junk ships, and I think she's the one I looked to because she had some wonderful rules that she set out so that, like the men on her ships, they weren't allowed to harm women at all. She would just kill them if they did.

KE: Nice!

BC: And I was like, “Yeah, have a code! Don't harm women.” I really appreciated that. So, she was one of my favorites to look to in terms of that. And it's probably, I think, probably one of the more famous who actually had her own — I think it was called a Confederate, or something — of junk ships.

KE: Hmm! I think that should be the next Disney movie, so that young girls can see that.

BC: Exactly, you know, have women kicking butt. That's what I think we should be doing.

KE: Absolutely. Let's see, so historical facts, did you — What historical facts did you learn, but you did not put into your book? Was there anything?

BC: Oh, my goodness! So much! I learned so much about leprosy, and that entire storyline ended up being removed. I still think it's great, but so I have looked at so many images of people with leprosy. I think that's probably the one that I think about the most because that was probably the most scarring.

Yeah, lots about like plagues and rats, and the Iberian Union — that was one that ended up with like, maybe a line still in the book. And periods was a really fun one that ended up not being super ingrained in it, ‘cause it turns out they did not have great period care at the time.

KE: Shocking!

BC: I know! But you know, obviously, you know, they're not super well fed. They're not getting a huge amount of period. So, I ended up not being a big enough plot to put in. But I yeah, mostly gross medical stuff, it turns out, is what I wanted to put in and didn't really get to.

KE: Yeah, that was one of my other questions — she was getting pretty beat up, so you had to do a lot of research on the medical bit.

BC: Yeah, I did. I did. I think I'm generally quite into medical stuff. I spend a lot of time in hospital, so I know a lot of medical stuff from the perspective of a disabled person. And I just, I've gotten over the years just really into gross medical facts. So, learning the sorts of things people could potentially survive and how to treat them ended up being one of my favorite things. Just looking up, you know, could you reasonably survive getting shot? And where could you reasonably survive getting shot with an old type of powder-and-ball type pistol — which, you know, did a lot of damage.

KE: Yeah. Yeah, lots of amputations.

BC: Oh, yeah. Lot of amputations. Being like, how many amputations can I get away with? The answer is actually: significantly more than you would think.

KE: Yeah, those peg legs, they were important!

BC: Yeah, I mean, it feels like they got the technology down and then kind of went with it. But no, I think peg legs are really fascinating. Lot of stuff about peg legs that couldn't make it into it as well. But there is at least one peg leg that made it through.

KE: Yeah. Thank goodness for whiskey. Or rum. So how do did you know when — How do I ask this question? So, you followed her somewhat historically. But then, how did you know when you were done with the novel? Like how many mutinies was enough?

BC: I honestly think I wanted to do like, the most important stages in this part. So what was her life like before she became a pirate? What was it like as a pirate? And what was it like when she was a captain? So I think when I felt that she had actually come into being a captain and was doing maybe not a great job, but kind of, you know, had gotten to that point...that felt like the end, at least, of this story for her. I wanted her to be the captain that, you know, you maybe want from the legends that people would talk about and for the rest of her story to maybe be left to interpretation. I wanted to get her to the point where she herself actually felt like a captain.

KE: That's great. And were you able to go to some of those islands, I know, you don't like water, but did you fly to some of the islands to research?

BC: No, so I actually don't. I haven't traveled like a huge amount. I went on my first proper holiday after I got my book deal with Atria. I think it's something I definitely plan to do, because obviously, my family is from Jamaica and Panama. And I'd love to be able to actually go and kind of be like, "Oh, hey, this is where I'm from." I just haven't actually had the chance just yet, but probably will go now.

KE: And do you know an Alberto, do you have an Alberto in your life? An important person? Friend?

BC: I always, I think Alberto is one my favorite characters, but I think he — oh, no, it's gonna make him such a big head — He's probably closest to my partner. Just that sort of protective, loving nature, very selfless. (Don't let him hear this, otherwise I'm never going to hear the end of it.) But yeah, I think that's probably who he is closest to. He definitely looks after me and takes me places and makes sure I don't fall apart.

KE: That's awesome. We all need somebody like that.

BC: We do.

KE: So do you have a ritual when you write, like certain music, or…?

BC: I am the most chaotic writer, and every time I tell someone how I write, they are disgusted. My initial is wonderful: I read like a chapter or so of a book. You're like, that sets you up. It's perfect. And then I turn on the TV, and I write while watching TV. Which people tend to hate. And I put on a long running TV show that I don't have to pay attention to — Gray’s Anatomy, The Office, something like that. And I just write while there's constant sound all of the time. Dogs running around. And it's just it — I’m like, sat on a sofa, it's not as good as probably the nice, cleanly place that you would expect writers to be doing stuff. But no, I do. I watch TV while writing.

KE: Well, apparently it's working for you, so I wouldn't change it at all.

Okay. So, this is what I call Kelly's Lightning Round. Just a couple of questions. So: scones or crumpets?

BC: Oooh, ooh, ooh. Crumpets.

KE: Tea, or coffee?

BC: Oh, I don't drink either.

KE: That's cool!

BC: Hot chocolate!

KE: Hot chocolate, great! Beer or wine?

BC: I don't drink. I'm so boring. I'm so sorry. I'll have a Sprite whenever I go out, so.

KE: Sprite! That's perfect! Okay, so is there anything else you want us to know about your book? Let it out now for the United States to hear.

BC: Yes, I just kind of hope that people can enjoy it and find themselves in characters like Jacquotte and her friends. I think it was just very important for me to write a woman who was angry and fueled by rage and vengeance, surrounded by very soft men who love and support her. Just because I feel that that's not often how things are allowed to be.

And I just, it is — we’ve got sword fights. We've got romance, you know, high seas adventures. And I just yeah, I loved writing it, and I had the best time even reading the finished version that I couldn't even believe I wrote. So I'm just really hopeful that other people will love her kind of like I do, and put up with all of her faults.

KE: Oh, I don't know how many faults she's got. She's a strong woman. I like that. And for right now, with everything, everything going on, it's really important to read a book about a strong woman, and also to have those men that are supportive and lovely. And we need to remember them as well.

BC: Yeah.

KE: It was full-on an awesome book.

BC: Thank you. That's what I was aiming for.

KE: You did great. Well, I've enjoyed our time, and I'm so excited to be pushing this book into everybody's hands as soon as it hits the store. I'm just deeply touched that you wrote this book. So, thank you.

BC: I'm so glad that you liked it, and you know, honor it because that means the world to me.

KE: Well, have a wonderful evening.

BC: Thank you. Have a great morning.

KE: I will! Thanks!

The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye by Briony Cameron (Atria Books, 9781668051023, Hardcover Historical Fiction, $28.99) On Sale: 6/4/2024

Find out more about the author at

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