Inspiration is a fickle beast. If pursued, it will elude you like a rodent living in the walls of your home. You can set traps for it. You can load them up with cheese and peanut butter and even glue but all your efforts to capture the little devil may go unfulfilled because it is when you least expect it that inspiration will actually appear. It creeps up. It inches closer. It may grip your heart like vice. And once it does, lodging itself in your brain, inspiration begins to fire off sparks. Depending on your medium, these flashes take many forms but for me, as a writer, inspiration is scenes and character histories and sometimes even whole plots. These ideas will bubble to the surface and intriguing connections will be made. My writing blossoms like the first precious shoots on the forsythia bush in springtime. And soon enough, the whole tree is engulfed in brilliant yellow flowers.
So it happened when I first read the story of the whale ship Essex as told by Nathaniel Philbrick in his novel IN THE HEART OF THE SEA. Like many others, I was captivated by the tale of Owen Chase and the crew of the Essex. The real people portrayed on the pages were Nantucketers like me. They were survivors who endured unimaginable suffering and returned home to live their lives and walk the very same streets I tread today.
It was while reading Philbrick’s work that the idea that is a centerpiece of the plot of EVER NEAR was born. I don’t remember the exact moment it came to me. I wish I had written it down, in fact, but at some point in the Spring of 2011, I decided to blend the Chase idea together with the step-family plot I had been toying with and voila, I had a fantastic premise for my book.
It’s hard to put your finger on what makes the story of the ESSEX and Owen Chase so compelling. At one point in his book, Philbrick describes Chase as having the intangible qualities of a truly gifted leader. Although only the first mate of the Essex, Chase overshadowed his Captain and became the star of the tragic story. In my book EVER NEAR, I portray a tangent from Chase’s personal life back home that was equally fascinating. The families left behind by the whalers of the 19th century had true life dramas of their own and I sought to capture that in my novel of contemporary young love and the supernatural on Nantucket Island.
Now, a movie is being made about the Owen Chase story. The story of the whale ship Essex and the saga of Owen Chase is just that impressive, enough so that a movie studio invested millions and employed the likes of Ron Howard to direct and Chris Hemsworth to star.
The movie is being filmed now and I for one am eagerly anticipating its release in March 2015. In the meantime, you can check out my book, EVER NEAR, here for a unique take on a part of the story that is rarely told, and also Philbrick’s novel IN THE HEART OF THE SEA for a suspenseful, non-fiction read.
Melissa MacVicar lives on Nantucket Island where she writes novels and teaches writing to seventh graders. She loves eating sweets, Downton Abbey, fantasy football, and wearing comfy pants. She loves to get messages from her readers so don't be shy!