As the author of my best-selling techno-sea thriller Sea Fury, I am often asked if I’m bothered by others writing in the same genre. My answer is always, “Most certainly not!” In fact I encourage any young writer I meet to try his or hand at writing a techno-sea thriller. Writing a techno-sea thriller can be very valuable, rewarding, and, honestly, quite challenging experience. If I can offer only once piece of advice to young writers, that advice is simple: Authenticity is key. Readers will “sea” through any inaccuracy when it comes to sea-going. Assume that your readers have a full understanding of sea-going terms like “port,” “starboard,” “bow,” and “stern.” Be sure to know that your readers can spot a landlubber from a nautical mile. Your terms and facts must be as realistic and believable as your characters and situations.
Readers accept the thrills of my novels because of my commitment to authenticity. My second-best selling novel Sea Peril, tells the story of cocky young boat-driving hero, Lance Peril. After being kicked out of boat school for insubordination, Peril puts his computer hacking skills to work by helping the harbor police track illegal narcotic shipments. There he stumbles upon a sea-going conspiracy with worldwide implications. He knows he is the only one with the boat and computer knowledge necessary to stop it and sets out on adventure that includes many authentic kinds of boats—boats that sail, large boats with lots of those little round windows on the side, and even one of those boats that goes through swamps with the big kitchen fan on the back.
Authentic details can foster tense drama. For instance, crew members serve many different functions on a boat. These positions include the boat driver and the people the boat driver gives orders to. Sometimes there’s also a cook. Boat drivers are either noble and courageous or tyrannical and incompetent. The people who take the orders can sometimes resent the boat driver giving orders all the time. Cooks almost always have some surprising secret skill that saves the crew. In Sea Peril, a cook named Cooky helps Lance make a hang-glider and escape from the brig. (A brig is a boat jail! I like to think that even if a reader isn’t an expert on the lexicon of the sea, I provide enough context that he can figure out its meaning without having to look it up in a boat dictionary.)
Authenticity can create great, flavorful dialog. Take this excerpt where we find Lance and saucy Russian scientist Natasha Vulvanokov fleeing in a motor-boat. Natasha is driving a boat for the first time while Lance is fending off the Chinese Navy with a great big gun.
“Hard to port!” Lance shouted.
“Vaat?” Natasha asked excitedly.
“Port!” Lance repeated, “Hard to port!”
“Ees that right or left?” Natasha said, as a large wave splashed across her bosom.
Lastly, readers want to see that an author himself is authentic. If you look at the author photo on my books’ jackets, you will see me standing on the bow of a boat. I am wearing navy-style sunglasses and a jaunty boat hat. I’m not looking at the camera, I’m looking beyond as if I myself am about to embark on a grand boat-filled adventure. Seeing that photo, no one can deny that I have once stepped on a boat.
I encourage anyone interested in writing techno-sea thrillers to “dive right in.” I see myself in a direct lineage from Herman Melville. (“Call me Lawrence,” I like to say when I introduce myself!) So on behalf of Melville and I, we would like to invite you to be part of this fabulous genre. Ahoy!
Lawrence Von Haelstrom is a former bull roping champion and street magician. He is the author of his best selling novel, Sea Fury, his second best selling novel Sea Peril, and his least best selling Peril’s Fury.