Note: My answers may contain some spoilers for the book—please don’t read this if you haven’t finished the book!
Why did you pick the mutiny against Henry Hudson as the background for this book?
It was just lucky for me that that that mutiny was such a dramatic story and that Hudson’s teenaged son ended up being abandoned in the ice along with his father. (Though it obviously wasn’t so lucky for either Henry or John Hudson.)
How much is known about the real John Hudson?
Very little. We don’t even know when he was born—although that’s not so surprising when you consider that we don’t know his father’s actual birthdate, either. We do know that John is listed as ship’s boy on all four of his father’s known voyages, and the words used to refer to him at various points seem to indicate that he would have been about sixteen to eighteen at the time of the mutiny.
Why did you decide to have John Hudson missing for so much of the book?
Partly that was to show how much Second had messed up time. Partly that was to give Jonah and Katherine more complications to deal with. And partly that was to keep from having so many characters to keep track of!
Why did you focus on the Northwest Passage so much?
The reason for that probably dates back to when I was a fifth grader studying all the European explorers. It always seemed sad to me that so many explorers spent so much time looking for something that didn’t really exist. (Or, technically, didn’t exist in any useful way.) One of my favorite questions in thinking about writing fiction is “What if…?” So I wanted to give Second the same kind of obsession. I wanted him to wonder, “What if there was a Northwest Passage there for Henry Hudson to find? How would that alter the course of history?” Of course, I just play with those “what if’s” in fiction; Second wanted to actually play them out in real life.
Is there any way I could get more of a taste of what it’s like to sail on Henry Hudson’s ship?
Yes, and you wouldn’t even have to worry about taking sides in a mutiny! A replica of one of Hudson’s earlier ships, the Half Moon, sails on the Hudson River as a traveling museum. Click here to see replica page.