Seth Hunter is the pseudonym of Paul Bryers pictured here aboard the square-rigger Earl of Pembroke off the coast of Cornwall while making the docudrama Nelson's Trafalgar for Channel Four. You can learn more about him and his work as a writer and filmmaker on www.paulbryers.com
Seth Hunter was born in 2006 in the London offices of Headline, an imprint of the Hachette publishing empire, shortly after I had been invited to write the first of the Nathan Peake series - The Time of Terror.
It was felt that as these novels were different from anything else I had ever written I should use a pseudonym.
I went along with this partly I guess because I wasn't sure they'd be any good and I reckoned that if the critics and the readers decided they weren't, I could bury Seth quietly at sea and move on and no-one, apart from a few friends and family, would be any the wiser.
I chose the name Seth partly in homage to Patrick O'Brian, master of nautical fiction. Other of his admirers will recall that Seth was a biblical prophet whose followers served aboard the frigate Surprise during its rebirth as a privateer in The Letter of Marque. But I also had in mind the character of Seth Starkadder - the handsome, oversexed hero of Cold Comfort Farm who has a passion for the movies. This was a joke - on myself - honestly - though I do have a passion for the movies.
Hunter was my my mother's maiden name.
I had an idea of what Seth Hunter was like. He was not exactly my alter ego, but when I was feeling pathetic in my real persona as Paul Bryers - if it is real - I would imagine how old Seth would handle things. He was the part of me that had sailed the oceans, worked as an investigative journalist, made undercover documentaries in Africa and South America and boxed a kangaroo in a travelling circus. He was not the person who panicked when his girlfriend jumped on his back in a swimming pool and held his head under water, or who wept watching movies like Life is Beautiful and Truly, Madly Deeply.
I have to say I was never been a very good sailor, but I had from an early age been a devoted reader of historical naval fiction. The first novel I ever read was Treasure Island. This was swiftly followed by Marryat's Midshipman Easy who is another unlikely naval hero. I spent most of the sixth form in the school library reading Hornblower. Later I read Alexander Kent and Dudley Pope among others. Then came Patrick O'Brian who for me and for so many other readers is simply the best. I’d read every one of the Aubriad - as the Aubrey-Maturin novels are called -and when the author died a few years back I read them again. But I never thought of writing nautical fiction myself until I was invited to do so by Martin Fletcher at Headline. So I think we should blame him for this.
However, I have since read that Patrick O'Brian invented himself as a sailor and that his main, if not only experience, of square riggers was seeing one once and falling in love with it. At least I had written and directed several television dramas and documentaries about sailing and the sea, and I’d written plays with a nautical theme, including The Floating Republic for BBC Radio 4 (about the great naval mutiny of 1797). In making Nelson's Trafalgar for Channel Four and Mary Bryant for TLC I’d used the facilities of Square Sail at Charlestown in Devon where there is an old harbour and three square-rigged sailing ships. So when I was asked to write the Nathan Peake series I hired one of them - with a crew of twelve and a couple of friends of mine who'd been in the Navy - and we practised manoeuvres off the coast of Cornwall. That is the sum total of my own experience of sailing square riggers. The rest comes from books.
I've had a great time writing these novels over the last few years. I bought a sailing boat - called Papagena - and I sailed in the English Channel and the Med - where three of the six novels are set. In other parts of the world, like The Gulf of Mexico, the Arabian Sea, the backwaters of Kerala and the Sea of Andaman, I hired boats, and usually crews because I'm still not a very confident sailor. I'm okay at reefing and hauling on sheets, I can even steer on the open sea, but I can't navigate to save my life, or anyone else's. Friends will tell you, usually without prompting, that I couldn't navigate my way round Sainsbury's. This is slightly unfair. I'm okay in Sainsbury's.