Pirates, and thieves, and swashbucklers—oh my!
Under the penname J.M. Aucoin, Justin Aucoin '06 writes historical novels packed with swordplay and thievery. Last June, he published Honor Among Thieves, a book following Darion Delerue, a soldier turned rogue in 17th century France. He also wrote Jake Hawking and the Bounty Hunters, a collection of short stories about a pirate in the Caribbean.
“The first [story] I wrote was in middle school,” Aucoin, 32, said. “We were told to read ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ and to write a scene before the story ends.”
“The Most Dangerous Game” is a 1924 short story about a man trying to survive on an island as a hunter chases him down. Like Richard Connell’s iconic tale, Aucoin’s novels are filled with action and adventure. He cites Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood and Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers as inspirations for his own work.
“I always joke about how [Sabatini] took all the good lines and left none for us,” Aucoin said. “His writing is so rich and phrases are so good that it became my goal when it comes to descriptive writing.”
Michael Bailey, a friend of Aucoin’s, said they bonded over stage combat and are now supportive of each other’s writing. Bailey, a young adult novelist who is currently in the process of publishing a fantasy book series, said Aucoin’s writing is reflective of Sabatini and Dumas’s works.
“Although historical adventure is outside of my realm of interest, I happened to enjoy [Jake Hawking and the Bounty Hunters] a lot,” Bailey said. “It was a fun and easy read.”
At Emerson, Aucoin majored in journalism and worked as both the opinion and sports editor at the Beacon. He said his journey as a historical storyteller started in college, when a classmate suggested he should minor in fiction. He said he enjoyed seeing his classmates’ reactions when he brought his pirate sagas into professor Kevin Miller’s fiction class.
“[Miller] was very good about giving back feedback and asking our peers what [they] think about our stories, especially when they write complete different stories than we do.” Aucoin said. “That helps shape how I go about writing my own stories.”
Miller, an affiliated faculty member in the writing, literature, and publishing department, said he’s familiar with Aucoin’s interest in historical adventure tales. He said he remembers the swashbuckling stories that Aucoin brought into class and that everyone loved them.
“[Aucoin] is a guy that, as a young writer, knew his strength and pursued it,” Miller said. “He has a great persona and way of marketing his writing, and I think his credit should really be on himself.”
When he’s not penning pirate paperbacks, Aucoin produces graphics and videos for TechTarget, a technology media company based in Newton, Massachusetts.
Aucoin said he enjoys cosplaying and attending medieval renaissance festivals, which ties in with his interest in historical fiction. He said that aside from being able to pitch his books to potential readers, he gets to meet a lot of interesting personalities at these conventions.
“It’s good to do other hobbies that eventually lead back to my fiction writing career,” Aucoin said. “I get to meet people with different interests along the way.”
Aucoin describes his own writing style as fluid, flowing between fast-paced action scenes. He said he doesn’t target specific age groups.
“I write for myself,” Aucoin said, “and for people who enjoy old-school adventure stories and sword fights.”
As a part-time writer, Aucoin said there are several challenges with hiring editors and artists. His allowance for his two recent novels ranged between $200 and $500.
“Traditional writing deals with all of the business side of publishing a book, but self-publishing has to do all the things a writer does and everything else,” Aucoin said.
Aucoin’s books currently prints through CreateSpace, a self-publishing, print-on-demand company owned by Amazon. For the cover of the novels, Aucoin asked an artist friend to illustrate his vision.
Aucoin said that he appreciates having a group of people who encourage and support him, even when he is at his lowest. He said his fiancee, who helps him sew historical costumes, is good at giving her insight on his writing, and walking with his dog, Rex, allows him to overcome writer’s block.
“It is my goal to become a full-time writer,” Aucoin said. “It’s a long road and there’s not many overnight successes when it comes to writers, so people just need to learn how to not be discouraged by that.”