The Big Idea: Vance Briceland

Writing careers are funny things — they very often go off in directions you don’t expect. Vance Briceland is a perfect example; on the way to a career of YA fantasy writing, Briceland was unexpectedly sidetracked — in a not-bad-at-all-actually way — and found his writing career moving away from his original goal. How did he find his way back to fantasy, and to his new book The Buccaneer’s Apprentice? Well, there’s a tale for you, and here’s Briceland to tell it.


My career as a writer has been wayward. To say the least.

I entered the publishing business ass-backwards. Years ago I had dreams of writing young adult fantasy. My agent was shopping around a manuscript of mine called The Glass Maker’s Daughter when an editor called and told my agent that while she really liked my adventure tale with a setting based on Renaissance Italy, she was really looking to acquire books with a more contemporary theme. That weren’t fantasy. That might involve, you know, boys and girls kissing ‘n’ stuff.

I knew an opportunity when I saw one. After a few days I shot back a proposal that had nothing to do with the glass makers of my imaginary and magical country of Cassaforte, and a lot to do with the ups and downs of love lives in Manhattan. The editor loved the idea, and it was thus that I began my career writing chick lit, both for teens and adults.

Oh, I had a grand time, don’t get me wrong. I wrote with such exuberance that one reviewer called me “the fresh voice of the modern single woman.” Here’s the point at which I need to point out that while my modernity is debatable, I’m neither single nor a woman. Nope, I’m a very-much-partnered, middle-aged guy who wrote over a dozen chick lit novels in as many female voices. And after several years, what I wanted to do was finally to write a book with a male perspective.

I got my chance after the good folk of the young adult imprint, Flux, bought The Glass Maker’s Daughter and published it last year. Finally I was back to writing fantasy–my favorite genre. Flux also bought the book’s two sequels. My Big Idea was that the first sequel, my fifteenth novel, would have a male protagonist. Finally! And it would be about guy stuff! Guy stuff like . . . pirates!

I’d grown up reading my dad’s Horatio Hornblower books and had loved Treasure Island as a kid, so as a writer, crafting a tale of nautical derring-do seemed like an adventure. Though I threw myself into my research, I also knew right off that I wasn’t going to write a traditional tale of buried doubloons and skullduggery. I’d spent too many novels masquerading as something I was not, to write something so undiluted.

And that’s how The Buccaneer’s Apprentice was born. It’s the tale of a young man pretending to be something he is not. Nick Dattore is an apprentice with a cursed history–all of his wretched masters have died gruesomely. The first good master he’s ever had is the proprietor of what has to be the worst theatrical troupe the country of Cassaforte has ever seen. When pirates overtake the ship upon which the troupe is sailing to its first international engagement, they kill the crew, and kidnap all the actors.

Nick’s forced to move from the wings to the spotlight, utilize all the acting and stagecraft skills he’s picked up over the previous few months, and assume the role of a lifetime: the sneering, cold, and calculated Drake, a notorious privateer. It’s as the Drake that Nic attempts to overtake the same pirates who slaughtered his crew, to rescue the acting troupe and to foil a military armada planning to take Cassaforte hostage.

The Buccaneer’s Apprentice is not a traditional tale of piracy. I’m proud to have Nick as my first male protagonist, because at heart, the novel is about how we discover what we’re capable of when we’re forced to step outside our comfort zones. Nick’s approach to his own precarious position is not too far removed from my own, when my scruffy self was suddenly thrown into a world of shopping, cocktails, and strappy sandals.

We both dug deep, drew upon our own experiences, and proceeded to bluff our way through–and pretty convincingly, I might add!


The Buccaneer’s Apprentice: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit Vance Bricelan’d LiveJournal.

16 Comments on “The Big Idea: Vance Briceland”

  1. I like the cover art. It may be a nice bit of painting, or a photo that’s been worked on. The over all composition is nice to. Although I might increase the font size of the title.

  2. I’m fascinated with the chick lit background. I’ve read enough recently that I might have read one or two. (And my googlefu is lacking because I couldn’t find what they might be.)

    So what were the books?

    And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing, can you make any chick lit recommendations? ::wink, wink, nudge, nudge::

  3. Wow. Outstanding. And Vance, we’re practically neighbors. I live in Oxford, north of you. I’ll be doing a book signing at the B&N in Royal Oak on April 24th. You should swing by and say hi. (Or this Saturday in the Borders in Beverly Hills).

  4. Sounds like a fantastic adventure novel; I’ll definitely pick it up. It’s inspiring to see someone who wrote in a less comfortable genre when the market wanted it, and then got back to their favourite!

  5. “I am not the Dread Pirate Drake. My name is Nic.”

    Seriously, it sounds like an awesome novel, and one that I will recommend to my own kids so that I may swipe it from them when they’re done.

  6. Oooh, what a joy to see the name of someone I’ve been following via LiveJournal since before his first novel sold featured here. Vance is a lovely man, and it’s good to see his work get a wider audience.

    Heather, you’d want to check for YA novels under Naomi Nash or for an adult chick-lit work he did, the title was Calendar Girl (pseud escapes me).

  7. Great hook!! You got me. I love YA novels and these certainly sound like ones I’d love. The Naomi Nash books also look like a lot of fun and I’ll check them out.

  8. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m going to do an omnibus reply to keep from being spammy.

    Gray Area, the cover art is part of an original painting by the awesome Blake Morrow.

    Heather, I wrote adult chick lit as Naomi Neale, and for young adults as Naomi Nash. I don’t mind sharing at all. Those books were a blast to write!

    Mark, I’m going to try to hit the Beverly Hills Borders tomorrow to give you a hearty hello! Nice to meet a neighbor.

    Govoria–I’d say the only reason it was uncomfortable was because I didn’t know a darned thing about kitten heels. Now I am a haunted man who knows too much.

    Sihaya, isn’t that the best perk of having kids?The book-sniping and the whole inflicting-your-in-your-old-age-on-them thing?

    Blue Raven–hellloooooo!

  9. Ooh, lightbulb just clicked with the Naomi Nash name, I read Chloe Queen of Denial due to the Katie MacAlister tie in. New book looks great. Congratulations.

  10. I find myself more interested in the “dude writing chick-lit with a female name” side of things, I must confess (although: yay on your new book). Obviously (?) book tours were not possible (or did they use a stunt double). Were your author bios accurate except for the not-being-a-woman part?

  11. The Buccaneer’s Apprentice sounds great. It’s good to see a new YA fantasy novel with a boy hero, because of late most YA fantasy has been focussed on girls.

    Besides, I looked up your Naomi Neale books on Amazon and one of them, I went to Vassar for this? sounds right up my alley.

  12. Michelle, writing a novel that interconnected with Katie’s was one of the most difficult things I ever attempted. It required coordination of a sort that solo novels never need. I love the results, though, and the way the two novels’ covers fit together to make a complete picture. Katie and I have been friends for over a decade, so it helped that we could scream at each other with impunity.

    AlanM, fear not. I get asked those questions more than any other. I never employed a stunt double at book signings. I simply showed up and signed. No, I did not wear a hat or dress. Most people were delighted to see me. As for the author bio, I believe it simply used a ‘she’ instead of a ‘he.’ My real name appeared on every copyright page, and many libraries cross-referenced my name in their catalogs, so my identity was not exactly a closely-guarded secret.

    Cora, thanks for that. I think readers of fantasy are seeking experiences beyond the realm of the normal. Also I believe in the fantastical scenario that girls will read about boys, and even that boys will read about girls!

  13. Gotta love the chick lit background. Not that I read much of it, but it must have been very interesting to write twelve books in that genre before getting back to fantasy.

    I will definitely be checking this book out next time I hit the bookstore.

  14. Nick’s Miles is forced to move from the wings to the spotlight, utilize all the acting and stagecraft skills he’s picked up over the previous few months, and assume the role of a lifetime: the sneering, cold, and calculated Drake Admiral Naismith, a notorious privateer mercenary commander. It’s as Naismith that Miles attempts to overtake the same piratesmercenaries who slaughtered his crew captured his ship, to rescue the acting troupe his crew and to foil a military armada planning to take Cassaforte hostage blockade the nation of Felice.


  15. When I read The Glass Markers Daughter, it
    automatically became one of my favorite books.
    It was the perfect mixture of magic,
    Renaissances, history, romance, tantrums, etc.
    When I got my hands on The Buccaneer’s
    Apprentice, I couldn’t stop reading it. After
    finishing it, I thought, zing, Vance has done it again. It became another favorite of mine. It’s
    just great. And I love that you show the young
    couples in both stories show romance but its not
    heavy on the intimacy and so on. Cassaforte is a place I would love to visit, with its rich culture and such that is displayed well in the books. Those books are the books I’ve been waiting for all my life, I can’t think of a single flaw. Though the death of King Alessandro was quite sad. I’m rooting on a third book. (Fingers Crossed) May the Gods of Muro and Lena
    watch over you.