Friday, September 7, 2012

C.C. HUMPHREYS: HOW A KEY LOCATION CHANGED HIS STORY



My guest is actor, swordsman, and historical author, C.C. Humphreys. I'm delighted to have Chris visiting today. I've spent the last few weeks in Constantinople, caught up in the epic sweep of history (which I love) and the personal stories of the ordinary people who lived there or came there for battle. It's an amazing story, rich in historical details and full of the joys, heartbreaks, and victories of people caught up in the battle for Constantinople. 
Chris shares how a moment can change the course of a story.


I enjoy a good blogging. (My wife suggested I substitute ‘f’ for ‘b’ but I said we shouldn’t air our predilictions in public). What I enjoy most about a blog is the opportunity it gives to focus on an aspect of my life or my craft. (My wife suggested the phrase ‘pontificate about’ but again I declined).

            I have always been a wanderer, from a family of wanderers. Nowadays, I wander most for my work. I have to go where my novels are set. Research for me is not so much about getting the facts right, important though that is. A fact is dry unless it is put into the context of character and action. A fact needs to be used as a springboard for imagination. And the ‘facts’ I pick up in the place where my actions have happened usually give me the biggest bounce of all.

            This has never been more true than in my latest novel. Where would I have been without my two visits to Istanbul? The first was tacked onto my 2007 trip to Romania when I was researching my novel on the real Dracula: ‘Vlad: The Last Confession’ (Sourcebooks 2011). I was so close, why not see this fabled city? ‘Armageddon’ was not even glimmer in my mind then. I wandered about, visited all the key sites – Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque. I even went out to the Theodosian walls and, knowing something of the great siege of 1453, marvelled at the courage it would take to both assault and defend them. I smoked narghile, played backgammon in Pera alleys, drank raki. Left, sated.

            Inspiration is often not a lightning bolt but a thing of stealth. Istanbul had me and this idea crept up. I found myself reading ever more about the place until the moment came when I knew I had to tackle 1453. Once committed, I knew I had to return. I view  a place differently when I have a story in mind. Different senses operate more fully – especially the sixth one. I long ago discovered that there is a resonance in stone where extraordinary – often violent - acts have happened. Walls give off a special energy and I just have to sit still long enough near them to channel it.

St Maria of the Mongols, Istanbul
            
I prize imagination above most things - but imagination stimulated by the senses, grounded in geography and history… ah, there’s the ultimate! On my second visit to Istanbul I discovered a location for part of my story and the whole novel changed. I’d read about it, the tiny church of St Maria of the Mongols. It’s not on the tourist track, tucked away in the labrynthine streets of working class Fener. I found it eventually, thanks to my Turkish publishers – who, in a wonderful example of Humphreys’ serendipity were just publishing ‘Vlad’ the week I was there. (Doing a book signing in that city of words was truly one of the greatest buzzes of my life)

It is rarely open to the public. But 20 bucks to the caretaker got us in. I gasped when I saw this exquisite jewel box with its vaulted roof, its gilt and silver ikons, its teak altar screen. It had survived the sack that followed the Turkish conquest of 1453; spared by special order of Mehmet ‘fatih’: the conqueror. Why? No one knows. But it is into the gap between facts that the historical novelist leaps. I was free to speculate – and did. This glorious place became crucial to my characters’ very survival and, back at my desk on Salt Spring Island, I reshaped the novel around it.

How much is too much? How to strike the balance in an epic adventure between battle, sex and story?


 A PLACE CALLED ARMAGEDDON: CONSTANTINOPLE 1453
Available now



BUY: AMAZON, B&N, INDIEBOUND 
The year is 1453. The city of Constantinople is at the center of a clash of civilizations. For the Greeks, it's their home that has withstood attacks for centuries behind mighty walls. For the Turks, it's the prize they have spent centuries trying to win. 

Gregoras had vowed never to return to Constantinople, the cursed home that had betrayed and scarred not only his mind, but his face, for all to see. But now with 100,000 Muslim soldiers outside its walls, he can hear its desperate calls for his help, as it can only be held by men and mercenaries as skilled in battle as Gregoras, of which few remain.

His return home, though, will mean not only having to face the constant hum of arrow and cannon, but also Theon, twin brother...and betrayer. And with him his beloved Sofia, lost when Gregoras was cast from his home, now bound to Theon in marriage. But the rewards of victory would not only be the glories of the battle, but the redemption of his name and his soul. EXCERPT


From sword fights with pirates to explosions in tunnels and towers, secret rendezvous in the enemy camp, and the religious and moral dilemmas of war, Humphreys once again uses his dramatic flair and meticulous research to weave fiction into fact.

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys was born in Toronto, lived till he was seven in Los Angeles, then grew up in the UK. As C.C. Humphreys, Chris has written six historical fiction novels. Chris lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and young son.

11 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee, Chris. And thank you for the hours of pleasure of reading the story of Constantinople.

I wanted to toss Theon out the window...just sayin'. I wonder if anyone would have wanted to mend his broken leg.

Jo said...

Sounds like a good story, I will have to pick it up.

May not be commenting for a while Sia, off to NC this morning.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo--I really think you would enjoy this one. It puts you right there in the preparations for war and during the battle. The characters are great and their interlocking stories gives you an emotional attachment to the fate of Constantinople. And the city itself is a character. Amazing story!

Safe journeys for you and Matt. Enjoy your visit to North Carolina and all those lovely seafood restaurants! Hugs!

cchumphreys.com said...

Many thanks for this 'visit' - I'd forgotten you were using those photos!
Yes, Theon. Understand the feeling. But even he has his reasons...
All the best, Chris

~Sia McKye~ said...

Chris, I know he does, but still...

I chose this pic for the author shot because of the background, lol! See, I take liberties when I don't have the official photo. I love your expression in this one and, of course, the background.

Isis Rushdan said...

Thanks for introducing us to Chris, Sia!

The story sounds intriguing :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you were able to bribe your way inside!

James Rafferty said...

Great back story. I love visiting new places and then figuring out how to work them into fiction. Sounds like Istanbul insisted it needed to be a choice location and it's even better that you found that small church and were allowed to go inside.

J.L. Campbell said...

I'm envious. It must add so much to your story having visited the locale in which it is set. And your wife sounds like my kinda person. ;)

Kat Sheridan said...

It sounds fascinating! I was briefly in Istanbul many years ago, and it is indeed a city that has to be experienced to be believed. The book sounds great!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Wonderful he got to view the places in his book before he wrote it.