I have a treat today, in that not only am I cracking a new collection I adore, but the author, A.J. Fitzwater, agreed to send me little snippits about each tale and where they came from. So! Without further ado…
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper!
Okay. I need a moment here before I begin to remind you how much I freaking loved Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), wherein amongst the many wonderful pirate stories gathered, the final tale was about an anthropomorphized capybara pirate (no, really) and her ship of animal pirates, complete with awesome queer characters aplenty. It ended the collection on a note I’d never imagined: a squee for the adorable Cinrak the Dapper, capybara pirate. Fast-forward. I got an ARC of a collection of short stories about Cinrak and her crew and ahhh! So much squee.
Onward! The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper begins with “Young Cinrak,” where we meet the Capybara in question at her place of residence: an orphanage. She’s not yet adopted or apprenticed out (though all her other friends have been) and she’s wildly aware that all she wants in life is to be a freaking pirate. She has the salt in her, and despite the Orphanage matron’s best attempts to dress Cinrak up in more feminine and “appropriate” clothing, nothing is stopping Cinrak’s imagination or drive to get out onto the waves.
A trip to the market on the matron’s behalf offers an opportunity to connect with some pirates, and Cinrak takes it. Things don’t go quite as planned, but this is Cinrak (albeit a young, untried version of her) so you know she’s going to come out on top. And the journey begins with this story in such a way that the world-building Fitzwater undertakes comes out in tiny drips and little turns of phrase, both of which make it all feel seamless and natural. (Also, the notion of a pirate union is kind of awesome.)
From the author:
While this is the first Cinrak story in chronological order, it was the second to last story I wrote. I settled on the chronological setting early, but found it unsatisfying trying to weave bites of Cinrak’s back story into other stories; it would drag the pace down. So I lifted all these world and character building ideas and put them in one place, and of course it made a fitting rosetta stone for the rest of the tails.
I was initially worried that the very straight-forward narrative wouldn’t be an effective start, but feedback showed me I’d build a young Cinrak as charming, intelligent, and fun, and the Big Idea of the story held tight. I wanted to show Cinrak yearning for a family and different horizons, but not from tragic or traumatic origins. I tried to build a society where family was a community experience – whether orphanage, at court, in apprenticeship, or on a pirate ship – so Cinrak could subjectively come to terms with the passing of her biological parents.