AroAce April | An interview with Katie Crabb…

Throughout April I’m celebrating aromantic and/or asexual writers and their work here on Jessticulates!

Today I’m chuffed to bits to bring you my chat with a writer I first came across on Twitter, and instantly hit that follow button when I discovered she’s not only an aroace writer, but an aroace writer of historical fiction and a huge history nerd. You all know by now how much I love history nerds.

Katie Crabb is the author of Sailing by Orion’s Star, the first book in the Constellation Trilogy, out this month! Read on for our chat about aroace identity, writing historical fiction, and, of course, pirate enthusiasm…

Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in AroAce April! Please introduce yourself:

Hi! I’m Katie, a librarian by day, and writer by night, and I live with my QPP in Washington, D.C. Until last year we also had a delightfully chubby cat named Spencer, who was always a big help with writing—he is much missed! I love musical theater, big cities, and drink way too much iced coffee.

Can you remember the first time you came across the terms asexual and aromantic, and how they made you feel?

I do remember! I first came across them, funnily enough, in Les Mis fandom back when the 2012 movie adaptation came out. Les Mis is one of my favorite things, and people were using the terms aromantic and asexual in conjunction with Enjolras, who is probably my most beloved fictional character. I was intrigued, because this was a character who had a huge amount of love in him but didn’t seem all that interested in romance or sex, and I related to that, and so I looked the terms up and definitely had an OH moment. It was like a relief. It made me feel like my dreams of finding a super close friend to live with who wouldn’t leave for a romantic partner feel less weird, and I could put words to my identity.

When did you first start writing historical fiction, and what was it that drew you to the genre?

I started writing historical fiction by dabbling in historical fandoms: Phantom of the Opera, Pirates of the Caribbean, Les Miserables, that kind of thing! I started writing that in my teens, and eventually started writing my own original historical work. I was extremely into historical things as a child—I grew up reading the Dear America books (and its spin-offs) and was also deeply into the American Girl series. My favorite shows and movies have always been period pieces too, so I eventually I wanted to write my own!

What do you love most about writing historical fiction, and what do you find most challenging?

I’ve always loved the adventure of a good period drama, and like reflecting on how the struggles and concerns of historical fiction can reflect our current reality. Histfic has as much potential for epic stories and grand struggles of the soul as epic fantasy, so I always want more people to get into it! The thing I think is most challenging is to really get into the heads of characters who might think extremely differently than myself as far as social and political issues. There have always been progressives in history, and I often write about them! But along with that comes writing people who would do things and think in ways I find reprehensible, but I have to get into their heads. Also, figuring out how long it takes to get places via things like a ship or a carriage. Much smaller concern but I swear it takes ages.

You’re a self-confessed pirate enthusiast, which Sailing by Orion’s Star is proof of! Why did you choose the golden age of piracy as your setting?

The golden age of piracy is SUCH a fascinating period! There was so much going on: mercantilsm (the pre-cursor to capitalism), colonialism, wars between major European countries, and the slave trade. The ocean and ships played a huge part in all of this, and resistance against all of these things led to rebellions on the sea and in port towns across the New World (and also in the Indian Ocean and the western coast of Africa). The unrest, which included both the rebellions of enslaved people and pirates fighting against the terrible pay and conditions aboard naval and merchant ships, is fascinating to look at. I picked the golden age of piracy because it was the intersection of so many different kinds of people: poor sailors, people of color (some of whom escaped slavery), former indentured servants, other kinds of laborers, queer people, and even women. Until more recent scholarship in the past twenty years or so, the historical narrative really went against pirates, but they were really out there creating a new culture that stood against the abuses a lot of them suffered, and it’s so compelling to write about that.

Authors such as Sarah Waters have blazed the trail for historical fiction that is unapologetically queer. How important do you think it is to see more historical fiction that includes aro and ace identities?

Bless Sarah Waters! I saw her give a talk once and she was amazing. And I think it’s super important to see more historical fiction that includes more aro and ace identities, because people with those identities existed just as other queer identities existed. I get the challenge of it—we don’t have the modern terminology to use in historical settings, but that is true of pretty much all queer identities (even if they might be easier to explain). I think including more aro and ace identities can lead to different types of histfic, as well, things that focus on found family and platonic relationships that I’d truly love to see more of in the genre.

Do you think historical fiction writers could be doing more to include aro and ace identities in their fiction?

Just from being in the book community, I’m seeing more writers including these identities in histfic, especially in the indie book world (so small press and self-pub) and I see a lot of writers aiming for trad pub also including them, so I honestly think it’s more an issue of publishing needing to expand their ideas of what can be included in this genre. On the writer side, I would like to see more adult fiction with aro and ace identities. I’m biased because I write adult, but rep like this tends to lean YA, and it doesn’t have to.

What’s one misconception about historical fiction you would like to change?

That it’s boring, because it isn’t! I think for people who aren’t into the genre they think it can be stuffy, but I think there’s so much adventure in histfic and so many periods and people to look at, and it’s exciting.

What are some of your favourite books with aro and/or ace rep?

Loveless by Alice Oseman is an absolute winner for me as far as an aro/ace character. I read it over Christmas this past year and felt incredibly seen. I’ve seen more ace rep in books recently but less so with characters who are aro and ace, and this book had it all, including wonderful platonic declarations of love!
My current read also has an ace main character, and I’m loving it so far! It’s The Murder Next Door, by Sarah Bell.

Finally, could you leave us with one of your favourite pirate facts you’ve come across in your research?

There are two that tie together, and really show how pirates were interested in taking care of each other and creating non-traditional family structures (speaking of queer identities!). The first is that pirates had an early form of disability insurance by doling out different payments to sailors who were injured—a certain amount for a lost finger, and more for a lost leg or arm or eye. Permanently injured men were also kept on the crew and given the same share as all the other men, but were put on lighter physical duty. The second is the concept of matelotage, which was a bit like a same-sex civil union where two pirates could inherit the other’s money and belongings if one died, and they also swore to protect each other in a battle. It was used platonically, but many historians also think it gave queer pirates the opportunity to live together in a way they couldn’t in society. Many pirate ships were really open to all kind of people, and it’s fascinating!

Thank you so much for taking part in AroAce April, Katie! If you’d like to learn more about Katie and her work, you can visit her website here.

In the 18th century West Indies, stories hold the ultimate power. Sailors spin yarns about pirates. Newspapers tell tales full of half-truths. Myths spread like whispered wildfire.

East India Company sailor Nicholas Jerome has no patience for pirates, determined to leave his father’s thieving past behind. After a convict and an enslaved woman escape his grasp with the aid of an aristocrat’s mysterious wife, he faces one last chance to save his career. Finding an unexpected home with a new crew, he gains a chosen younger brother in René Delacroix, the son of his wealthy captain and the grandson of Jamaica’s cruel governor.

But there’s a storm brewing in the Delacroix household. For René and his best friend Frantz, the Robin Hood tales about legendary pirate Ajani Danso and his famed female quartermaster are a lifeline amidst the governor’s abuse. Danso robs greedy merchants, frees slaves, and shelters queer sailors, inspiring the downtrodden across the New World.

When death and betrayal shatter the lives they knew, René and Jerome each face a choice: obey, or rebel.

A war for history’s favor begins, and as an uprising against colonialism erupts on the ocean, everyone must choose a story to believe in.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

5 thoughts on “AroAce April | An interview with Katie Crabb…

  1. Phoenix @ Books With Wings says:

    Hey! I’ve been meaning to leave a comment on your blog for a few days now but this is the first day I’ve gotten around to it. I LOVE the idea of aroace April as an aro-spec and ace blogger myself, and I’ve actually never heard of Katie Crabb before but her book sounds so interesting! Thank you so much for highlighting these awesome aroace authors, as there needs to be more aroace books and more hype for aroace books in this community!

    Liked by 1 person

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