Captain Somper

Interview

Q. Why did you decide to combine vampires and pirates in one book?

The word “Vampirates” came to me in a bit of a “Eureka!” moment. I knew there was huge potential in fusing together the two worlds of vampires and pirates, but I was very conscious from the beginning of the expectations readers might bring to this. I want the story to live up to those expectations but I also want to take readers in a direction they wouldn’t necessarily expect. Although the world of the story is (largely) fantastical, I’m enjoying plundering and playing around with both pirate history and vampire myths. In developing the story, I found there were some interesting ways to connect pirates and vampires – one that I think is especially fertile is the idea of greed and appetite; how far you live by rules and discipline and how far you give in to your baser hungers. In the world of Vampirates – in both the pirate and vampire communities – there are characters who are very disciplined and others who are out of control – this is going to intensify.


Q: Are there aspects of the characters in the Vampirates books that are based on you?

Absolutely. As a writer, you put a lot of yourself into your characters. This happens both consciously and subconsciously so that you’re not always aware of it at the time of writing; only when you read it back, often much later. However, there are some instances where I have deliberately explored a facet of myself. A good example is Connor’s problem with heights. I suffer from vertigo myself and I thought it would be good if Connor shared this challenge with me. Of course, at the start of Blood Captain, Connor climbs up to the Crow’s Nest of The Diablo and it seems as if he’s conquered the issue. I’m afraid I’m not quite there yet!!!


Q: What is the best thing about being an author . . .

That’s easy! Firstly, the writing itself. I just hugely enjoy the process of writing. Even when it gets challenging, it’s a wonderful feeling being “in the zone” on a developing story. My other favourite thing is getting out and about and meeting fans of the books. I’ve got more events lined up than ever in 2008 and I’m really enjoying them. In 2007, I did my first foreign author events – in Australia. With Vampirates now published in 22 territories, I’m looking forward to meeting more readers around the globe.


Q: Is it true you can sword fight?

Well, on a decidedly basic level… yes. I had my own induction from the real-life Cutlass Cate. Like Connor, I got to try out a great variety of swords and they really do seem to have their own personality. These were stage swords so relatively blunt. Nevertheless, as you look along the sword to your “opponent”, it feels very real and I was able to draw on this in the moment where Connor realizes he’s holding an instrument of death in his hands. Because I write about sword fighting, there’s an expectation at large that I know how to do it (which is flattering!). Recently, I had a fencing lesson with some competition winners and a former Romanian national champion. It was exciting (if tiring!) and gave me the taste for more. If my writing schedule allows, I may do a course in the near future.


Q: What kind of person were you at school . . .

It’s all a bit hazy. More swot than rebel – I’ve become much more rebellious as an adult! English was always my favourite subject and I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to have a lot of encouragement regarding writing from my teachers, especially John Mole at St Albans School, and won the school creative writing competition three years’ running. If that sounds like bragging, bear in mind I was terrible at Physics and Chemistry, reduced to tears by Woodwork and not exactly the school’s leading sportsman.


Q: What could you not live without . . .

I guess you can live without most things if you put your mind to it – though I’d be mildly panicked to have my jeans, Asics trainers and hair product taken away. More fundamentally; my family, friends and my gorgeous puppy Bailey (a flat-coated retriever) who is lying at my feet as I write this. I also find it hard to think about living too far from nature – I need grass and trees nearby, although equally I need the buzz of the city – at least for now. I’m a bit too dependent on my laptop and phone – I reckon I could cope with paper and pens, but you’d have to let me off work in that case.


Q: What do you have on your desk . . .

Currently… my trusty laptop, my mobile, Palm organizer, three bottles of water (writing is a thirsty business), tissues (for when I write the emotional bits!), a yellow legal pad, pens, mug of tea (gone cold), wallet (ignore that please, burglars), stapler, two box files and a package to be sent to my editor.


Q: Who from the past would you most like to have met…

Predictably, writers – I feel, for instance, that Chaucer, Shakespeare and F Scott Fitzgerald could all teach me a thing or two. I would love to have met Roald Dahl too – I do a lot of PR and website work relating to him so I feel I know him very well when actually I don’t know him at all. He might not even like me!


Q: What did you want to be as a child . . .

1. Wimbledon champion – I drew a tennis net and Bjorn Borg lurking behind it, in chalk on our garage wall and spent hours hitting a squishy ball against it. Sadly, such conscientious practice did not yield the desired results.

2. A child actor. I had dreams of being discovered in the junior school production of Oliver and whisked off to stage school. This plan was derailed when, instead of getting the part of Oliver or the Artful Dodger, I was cast as old codger Mr Brownlow, whose dramatic highlight is having his handkerchief stolen. This blighted my stage career. The fact that I couldn’t sing may also have had something to do with it. (My granddad WAS a child actor – he ran away from home to act with Sir Henry Irving in “The Bells” – unfortunately, his family dragged him back! So I have a history of dramatic frustration to draw on.)

3. The fifth member of Abba. I’d have brought in some different costumes.

4. The fifth Ewing brother. (Yes, fifth. Don’t forget Ray.)

5. A writer. Yes, I really did!