– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Bloodstock’ blogtour, organised by Random Things Tour.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
In his office you will find Rod typing, flanked by two enormous dogs, and surrounded by the ephemera he has collected on his travels.
“I always read. Since I can remember. First Asterix, then Willard Price, then Conan Doyle, then everything else. I’ve had a paperback jammed into my back pocket most days of my life. I remember wanting to write a book when I was about 12 and wanting to put everything into it.
I’ve read every kind of book, but the ones I love most are stories of adventure, so that’s what I write. I’ve put thousands of hours into learning to do it well. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve developed my own voice and my own style. I spend so much time with Si, my main character, that he seems as real to me as anyone I know. In some cases, more so. I’m happiest and most productive when travelling about in my battered old truck with a canoe on top and a dog in the back.”
Rod Humphris is the winner of N. N. Light Best Fiction Award, 2016.
After what feels like a lifetime of mayhem, Simon Ellice returns to the Hampshire village where he grew up. He enjoys the solace and tranquility of rural life, working on a farm and getting to know the lively locals, but suddenly Si walks right into a deadly mystery. Old friends are going missing and then turning up dead. Someone from the City is spreading their evil tentacles and Si dives into London’s underworld to uncover a conspiracy of poisoning, murder and pagan ritual that threatens those closest to him. Written with Humphris’ razor-sharp style, this is Simon Ellice’s darkest and most challenging adventure yet, touching on themes of sacrifice and objectification, that threaten the very foundations of our civilised world.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
How did I become an author? I became an author because I read a book. Well, I read hundreds and hundreds of books. Hang on – before that, I was read to. We were one of those families where our parents read us a chapter of a book last thing before bed. And the house was full of books. Okay, that happens to lots of people and they don’t become authors, so why me?
What is a book? Looking back to my boyhood, and thinking about what a book is to me now, it’s the same thing; a present pleasure and an opening of the world to me. I loved reading because it was fun, and having all those ways of being, thinking, living, loving brought into my head has been an essential part of my experience of being human and alive. Does it sound as if books are important to me? They are, and they have been since I can remember being me.
I think it’s quite natural to want to do something you value so highly. But also, I have the right kind of brain. My brain likes words. I have good verbal reasoning. You can give me a dense paragraph of legalese and I can read it and tell you what it says. Perhaps, even what it means. The sense, I mean, not necessarily specific terms. The same is not true for numbers, or shapes or sounds or lots of other things in the world; but my brain is comfortable with words.
And if I have any musical sense, it works in words. The rhythm of them, the beat, the assonance, resonance and dissonance. I really love words, really. And they all feel related to me. Give me any word, whether I know it or not, and it will set off a whole chain of associated sounds and roots and similarities in my head. Words have worlds of meanings that lie under their ‘meaning’. And somehow those meanings connect down into my emotional centre. Books, words move me easily. Reading Jane Eyre when I was a boy, really did make me cry.
And another thing: writing a book is really hard. That’s very attractive. However well I do it, I feel that I’m only just at the beginning. Each new book is a challenge to be more present, more engaged, more committed. To work harder to do better. What I actually achieve – that’s for others to say – but I get up and go at it like it really matters, and to me it does. That is very good for me; energising.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
Many books are engraved on my brain. The first I remember was Parlicoot Finds a Playmate, by Alex McLeod. I loved Asterix too. Then Willard Price’s Adventure series – proper reading. Alister Maclean, what a great writer. HMS Ulysses, what a wonderful book. And, because no one suggested that any particular book was or wasn’t for me, I read Vanity Fair and The Way of All Flesh and Ivanhoe, all kinds of things. If I didn’t know a word, I would guess and carry on reading anyway. Sometimes I would look them up later, but often my guesses were close enough, or got better. Occasionally I get tripped up now by words that I decided what they meant when I was a child, and I still do. Same for pronunciations. Now I know taciturn is tassiturn, but it used to be tackiturn for me and it stuck for years. Who really cares anyway?
Now I read less and less as my head isn’t big enough. When I’ve got whatever book I’m currently writing loaded into it, there’s not enough space for another book. I read odd things that don’t compete. I’ve tried to read The Master and Margarita a couple of times and I think it’s great, but it takes up too much space. The voice is too strong. At the moment, I’m reading the Ramayana, a retelling by Nalgit Nagra. The energy and freedom of his writing is superb. I’m really, really enjoying it.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Hemingway is an obvious choice, but he’s written a lot on writing. I find that when I’m learning from someone about how to do something, it’s often not what they say, but how they are, that is most helpful. I’m a great believer that either we choose lines of work because of who we are, or that the work itself shapes us. Or both. Either way, may I please join Robert Louis Stevenson and Modestine (the donkey) walking through the Cevennes? Drinking brandy and eating cold meat, sleeping under canvas and getting lost in byways. I just want to be with him and absorb what he is/was/has. How he moves and speaks. Not just what he says, but what he doesn’t say.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
Ah, well there could be a lot of easy answers to that. Right now, I’d like to have tea with Jean Francois Dedome, Dominus of St Benarres. He’s ex-foreign legion a quasi-monk, and one of the few men Si is physically frightened of. A man of great certainty, great faith, and great innocence.
But the truthful answer, of course, is Si himself. I’m worried the world might implode though. Or I might. He’s so much me-and-not-me at once. I would genuinely be scared of meeting him. I don’t know what I would find out about myself. Or perhaps if we met, he might vanish and that would be absolutely terrible. Or, as he’s a lot stronger than me, I might vanish. But, also I would be desperate to meet him. I am in love with him; that’s the truth. I know he’s a man, and fictional, and a shit in many ways. Oh dear.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Not really. I do staring into space quite a bit. And when my brain starts to hurt, I get up and walk about. Usually with the dogs. That almost always helps. And when I’m really stuck, I walk about saying out loud to myself what’s happening, who’s who and what’s supposed to be going on. That helps too, though I try not to do it when there are other people within earshot. I try to stop when it’s good, not when it’s bad. But sometimes that can’t be avoided. When I’m really working hard, often I dream about the characters, and that helps.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
I’ve had a couple of people read some of my work and say, ‘I thought you were quite a nice person until I read that’. It seems to be an occupational hazard. Ideas usually come to me from the feeling of places in the beginning.
Bloodstock came from the feeling of being in a clearing in a wood not far from me. The essential magicness of the place, especially in the summer. I lay on the grass there reading Robert Graves’s White Goddess and the place became filled with thoughts and images of women with knowledge and certainties bourne of centuries of secret power. (yes, I meant bourne as in rising water, not born)
Intention, the book I’m working on now, comes from the feeling of standing in the chapel of Loarre Castle in Northern Spain. A beautiful, austere space with alabaster windows, a simple altar, no pews. And trapdoors for quick escape in case of attack. Christian knights would pray there in the 11th century before going out to die on the plains below. I stood there and had feelings about praying there with my brothers before going out to die, and there was the feeling that is central to the book.
And, if you’re interesting, I will collect you. Writers are a species of vulture. We file away phrases and connections and emotions and ways of moving and everything, and then those things leak into whatever we write, whether we intend it, or not.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Plot? There is no such thing as plot, only character! Well, sort of. If all is going well, I know where I start, and I know where I end and then I set off. As the characters develop, they direct the journey in between. And the endpoint informs who they are. In reality, it’s usually a big mess for a lot of the time and I just have to live with the mess until it stops being a mess.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
If you can’t write great stuff, write shit. The shit gets better, and anyway, it’s not always easy to tell one from the other until later. But write, just write. Doing it teaches you to do it. All the things about how to do it are interesting and useful in a way, but also completely useless. You have to write exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. It might be good, or it might not, but nothing else will do.
What are your futureplans as an author?
I’m going to move to the south of France and live in a villa like Somerset Maugham, and then I’ll really be living like a writer. Or I might buy Polly (Si’s yacht; she’s real, her name is Velacarina) and spend every day writing under an awning on deck before swimming ashore for supper in a beautiful beachfront bar. Actually, I just want to stay in my room and finish this damn bloody book before I get much older, and have done with it. And then, of course what will happen is I will start another one and that will drive me mad too. A plan? That would imply that I’m in charge; I’m clearly not.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Rod Humphris.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!