C. C. Humphreys Interview

C. C. Humphreys is the author of six Historical Fiction novels, as well as of the Young Adult trilogy “The Runestone Saga” as Chris Humphreys. Chris very kindly agreed to an interview about him and his most recent Historical Fiction novel, “Vlad: The Last Confession".
Q. Did you always know you wanted to become an author, or did it just come about by chance?

A. Hard to say now I am so into it. I had dreams of it as a teen I think but then acting took over and occupied me for years. But there was a part of me that always yearned until I couldn’t hold it off anymore.

Q. What authors did you read growing up (or now) and who has most inspired you in your own work (if anyone)?

A. Rosemary Sutcillf was my heroine – and still is. I read one of hers the other week ‘The Shield Ring.’ Cried three times in the last twenty pages. Such restrained emotionality. Wonderful.
I also like Guy Gavriel Kay’s historical fantasy. ‘Tigana’ made me want to start writing – so I did, a few years after reading it.

Q. You also have an extensive history is both television and theatre acting – does this have any impact on your writing?

A. Definitely. People always say of my novels: Oh, I can see the film! I do have a cinematic take, I think, visually. Plus I love good characters in hectic action. I think I write characters that an actor would like to ‘play’. Plenty of contrast, good dialogue, action.

A bit about “Vlad” :

Q. What inspired you to write “Vlad“, and what was most difficult about it? You say yourself that it was the hardest book you’ve written.

A. I was inspired by getting drunk with my editor! We decided I needed to write about someone ‘known’ rather than keep making people up. He suggested Dracula and I was amzaed no one had done it, as historical fiction. I soon found out why – and here began the difficulties. It was just so dark! I didn’t want to write a horror story, nor one about a pyschopath. But once I started to delve and found out that most of the history was propaganda told by his enemies, and also discovered the horrific background he came from… well, the difficulty then was to find a story that was a balance. Not a whitewash or an excusal, but also not a hatchet job. When I found the way through it, it became probably my most satisfying work, partly because it was so hard.

Q. So what the was the most FUN thing about writing Vlad’s story?

A. Fun… was going there. Havng Poenari Castle to myself for five hours atop the mountain. Standing in the place of murder – the Princely Court, Targoviste – channeling. Its creepy… but such a buzz.

Q. I found your Vlad to be a very charismatic, very likeable character. When he’s being… less likeable, shall we say, I also found myself (with hesitation) forgiving his actions because I could almost understand why he did them. Was this kind of sympathetic evocation an intention on your part, or did it just come about? Do you even feel that way about your version of him? (It’s possible I’m slightly mad!)

A. More than possible, I’d say!
If understanding him makes him sympathetic, then it was my intention. I didn’t set out to forgive or justify, only place him in the context of his time and place and all the horror that he came from. But I did find I warmed to him, even his ruthlessness. I am sure I’d have hated the real guy but my Vlad… I did grow to admire his uncompromising qualities, and his self awareness. He never lied about what and who he was. And he had that dark sense of humour.

Q. You always say your books are between two people – yourself and the reader. Vlad is a particularly complex character, so have you ever heard interpretations of his motivations, etc. by readers, radically different from, or particularly surprising compared to, those you have yourself?

A. Not really. He does provoke some extreme reactions though. Or his actions do anyway.

Last bits about you:
Q. Do you have a favourite character/s, or any you’re particularly proud of out of all those you’ve written? Why?

A. I love Jack Absolute. He is all I could want to be – a swashbuckling thinker, with a blind spot when it comes to women. (Wait a minute… that is me!) Proud? I am proud of most of my characters. Some of them are very developed, like Vlad, others sketched but vibrant like, well, Anne Boleyn.

Q. You’ve written books for both adults and younger readers (your Runestone Saga). What do you like or dislike about writing for each audience? What different challenges and freedoms do you find within them?

A. Like or dislike? Almost nothing. I am a storyteller first and foremost. The type of stories I choose to tell might vary according to readership. But rarely the content.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re currently working on? What plans have you for future works? I do believe I’ve heard mentions of a unicorn…!

A. Just today I sent off the final edit of my new Teen book, ‘The Hunt of the Unicorn’ . My family crest is the unicorn so I decided to explore that. I am quite excited as it’s almost my first full fantasy book – a New York girl summmoned by a unicorn into the Land of the Fabulous Beast, where all our myths live. Its out in North America – and Spain – next year.
I am also about to deliver – for editing and reworking – my next adult historical, the follow up to Vlad. It’s another epic, about the siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453. There’s a few crossover characters – Mehmet, Hamza. Its different, bigger, more narrators. And at last I have a title that sums up its apocalyptic nature: ‘A Place Called Armageddon’. That will also be out next year. In fact 2011 will be a big one for me. Two new books out and ‘Vlad’ out finally in the USA. Perhaps I can slow down?… Nah!
Take care!

Find out more about Chris at his website.

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