Lintang and the Pirate Queen ($21.14, Raincoast Books) by Tamara Moss is about a young girl who “dreams of escaping her island home and having adventures on the high seas. She gets her chance when she and her best friend, Bayani, face a deadly mythie and survive, attracting the attention of the infamous Captain Shafira. Lintang’s bravery earns her an invitation onto the ship of the pirate queen, who is on her way to hunt down a nest of vicious sirens.
“But they’ve barely left the island when Lintang discovers that Bayani has risked his life to stow away. Worse, he won’t tell her why. Lintang must choose whether to be loyal to Captain Shafira and continue with her adventures, or be loyal to her best friend and lose everything she’s ever wanted.”
Lintang goes on two more adventures in books published in Moss’ home country of Australia. Canadians readers, for now, have to settle on the first book, that was published in North America in October.
I read the book to my 11-year-old son and both of us really enjoyed it. Action, adventure and creatures that are more then they seem. We are looking forward to reading Book 2.
Q. What was the process of getting Lintang to North American readers?
A. My Australian publisher has the overseas rights to Lintang so I had nothing to do with it! Lucky me – the hardest thing I had to do was write the book and find my Australian publisher. Now other people deal with the rest.
Q. Will Lintang and The Forbidden Island and Lintang and the Brightest Star (great cover by the way) make its way here as well?
A. I think it depends how the first one sells in North America – so if you like it, please tell your friends and get the word out there!
Q. What did you like about writing Lintang? What do you think kids in the 10- to 12-year-old category will find exciting about Lintang?
A. Lintang is an adventurer, which answers both of those questions. She does the things I’m too afraid to do – I explore my fantasy world through her, fight monsters, rescue friends. I think that’s what kids will enjoy about her, too. We’re all living through Lintang?
Q. What makes Lintang different from other books out there?
I don’t know how many children’s books are out there about an female-dominant pirate crew, with a female protagonist who fights mythical creatures with her female mentor. The fact that they’re all women of colour should get a mention, too. I’m sure there are definitely some books that are similar, but I always want more!
Q. According to your website, you majored in Asian studies in university. Why were you interested in that field? What did you learn and how did you apply it to Lintang?
A. Honestly, I chose Japanese at uni so I could read my Sailor Moon manga. But through that, I discovered so much about other cultures, religions, rites and mythologies. I love that there’s so much out there. I also learned about globalization and Westernization, and I think anyone who reads the Lintang books will see those ideas coming through.
Q. How did the idea of Lintang come to be? What was the inspiration?
A. I had the story in my ideas notebook for years. I think I’d scrawled, Captain of ship fights mythical creatures with young apprentice, but it was only when I imagined the captain as a pirate queen and the apprentice as a young girl that I really got excited.
Q. How does Lintang grow from first to third book? What do subsequent books have that will keep readers hooked?
A. Lintang is hot-headed in the first book. Over time, she learns to think before acting. Captain Shafira teaches her patience, and to accept others as they are. Lintang also learns how to fight – with each book her skills with various weapons increase. In the second book, she travels to the forbidden island where Captain Shafira used to live. She learns about what happened there to force her captain into exile, and fights many new mythical creatures. In the third book, she hikes through forests and mountains in the islands of Kaneko Brown and discovers a godlike mythical creature that seems impossible to beat without an ultimate sacrifice.
Q. Why was it important to create a book about strong women and strong women of colour in particular?
A. When I was a kid, I didn’t have as many brown female characters to play during school games, or dress up as. My friends and I used to play Captain Planet, and my friends told me I had to be Gi because I was the only brown one.
Gi is a lovely character, but I’m Sri Lankan, not Korean. I didn’t identify with her. Now, if I had someone like Lintang to play, that would be a different story! So I wrote her for my child self. As for the crew and Captain Shafira – well, we have so many old white mentors in stories. I thought having a young woman of colour as Lintang’s idol would be a nice change.
You had a book tour with author Marissa Meyer in Vancouver in November and you thanked her in your acknowledgements in your book. How did you initially connect with Meyer? How did she help in the creation of Lintang?
A. Marissa and I met through Sailor Moon fanfiction about 17 years ago, long before we were published. She and I have been crit partners since then. Marissa has always been fabulous with her feedback, giving me an outsider’s perspective and ideas I hadn’t thought of. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without her!
Q. You are a teacher. What made you write for 10 to 12 year olds? What is it about this age group that you enjoy writing for?
A. I think these ages are perfect, because you can start to examine complex issues about the world in your books while retaining that sense of wonder. Kids are ready to follow you into a fantasy world, have their preconceived ideas challenged, and warmly embrace new notions of tolerance and goodness. That age group is 100 per cent fabulous.
Q. How did your students help in the creation of Lintang?
A. I read Lintang aloud to my class over a few terms while waiting to hear back from the publisher. I could see their reactions in real time! During moments when they seemed restless, I knew the scene needed more tension. I questioned them for understanding to see how much they comprehended. Their feedback was the most valuable, because they’re my target audience.
Q. What is your dream project? Will you write for other age groups?
A. I started writing in high school, so I’ve always been a YA writer by default. The YA market is hard to break into (as I discovered after 10 years of submitting with no luck), so I decided to try middle grade, which turned out to be the best decision. That first story I wrote in high school is actually my dream project, though. I always come back to it, rework it, send it out again. It’s been 18 years – hopefully one day I’ll get it published!
A copy of Lintang and the Pirate Queen was provided by Raincoast Books
for an honest review. The opinions are my own.