Maria Kuzniar

The idea for your novel came to you in Spain, where you worked as an English teacher for several years. How did it come about?

I first got the idea for The Ship of Shadows when I was sitting in a hotel room in Marrakech. I’d already had the idea of writing a book about pirates for a few years but it wasn’t until I travelled to Morocco that I realised I wanted to set it there. Morocco was a visual feast of colours and textures that I wanted to write about at once!


I then realised that when I sat down to imagine what kind of pirates would be onboard my pirate ship that I kept having images of stereotypical male pirates pop into my head! This sent me into a bit of a feminist rant which ended with me deciding to write about an all-female pirate crew.


You like reading books yourself and have over 35,000 followers on your Instagram account. How many books did you read in 2020?

Ah, 2020 was a terrible reading year for me! I kept getting into reading slump after reading slump but in the end I managed to read 123 books, thanks to a couple of great reading months (June and November). Hopefully I’ll manage to read more this year! You can keep track of my reading adventures at @cosyreads on Instagram.


Do the characters have any similarities to the people around you?

Some aspects of Aleja and Frances’s personalities come from me but other than that, no. I like to dream up brand new characters so that I can imagine them without thinking of the people I know. For that same reason, I’d never name a main character after a friend or family member!


You described the pirates in great detail in your book. Did you visit many museums for your research or where did you gather all the knowledge from?

I mainly used the internet for my research. I also have travelled to most of the places that the Ship of Shadows sails to so I use a lot of my own experiences to write about them. For example, when I went to Marrakech, I visited ruins and museums and took loads of photos, which became my best resource for writing about the city.


What was your reaction when you found out that your book had been translated into German?

I was thrilled to bits! My grandmother was German and I visited her in Germany when I was younger – I just wish she was still around to see it but I know she would have been really proud of me.


How did your family react to your book?

They were very happy and incredibly supportive. I feel lucky that my family are always interested in what I’m writing and championing my books.


The second edition of the book (German edition) will be published in May 2021. Are you currently working on a third book of the series?

I would love to work on a third book but that currently depends on my publishers! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more adventures for Aleja and the pirates.


Do you prefer to write at night or during the day?

I always write during the day as I like to relax with my husband in the evenings and watch Netflix and cook a nice meal! I also take a few classes in the evenings every week so this schedule makes the most sense for me.


Where do you prefer to write?

At the moment, I’m living in a small apartment so I usually write just sitting on my sofa or sometimes I like to lay on my very big, very fluffy rug and write there, surrounded by all of my notebooks and pens and laptop!


What tips can you give to aspiring writers?

Read as much as you can. I learnt everything I know about writing from reading. Read the genre and age group you want to write the most and take note of what’s already out there and where your own book would fit in the market.


Do you have a favourite book? If so, what is it called and who is the author?

Yes, I absolutely adore Northern Lights by Philip Pullman! It’s recently been adapted into a TV series called His Dark Materials here in the UK and I really recommend that too.


What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

I love travelling, reading, and going to my ballet and ice-skating classes. I’m also a fan of cooking – but not baking, I like to make it up as I go along and you can’t really do that as much with baking!


Can you tell us a little bit about what will happen in the second book?

Book Two – titled Secrets of the Stars here in the UK – is more epic, more dangerous and more magical than the first book! I’m very excited about it. We see a lot more of the world, meet an adorable new character and learn more about the shadows.

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