Thursday, October 25, 2012

In the Spotlight #7

Today, author V.R Christensen is in the spotlight. Her novel Blind is available on US Amazon and UK Amazon.

About the Book
Tell us a bit about your novel.
Blind - a novella
Blind is a bit of an odd book. It’s historical fiction, but with a paranormal twist. Blind is about spiritual blindness, for a lack of a better term. It’s about prejudice and seeing beyond the physical. It is not a book about being blind, per se. It’s more about overcoming one’s obstacles and making the most of life, whether those obstacles are pride or physical impairment. It’s sort of a story about spiritual power, too, the power to understand. The power to heal wounds. The power to love.

What gave you the idea for your book? How long did it take you to write?
Unlike my full length novels, which have each taken me several years, Blind is the product of a short story that grew into something a little larger. What gave me the idea? As usual, I think it was a combination of things. I had been thinking a lot about the responsibility that we have as members of the human family to each other. I was thinking about how rampant prejudice and persecution seem to be. More so now than ever, though in different forms, of course. And sometimes not. I was thinking about love and kindness and charity, and what those mean to us, what they have meant historically, what they mean today and what, perhaps, they ought to mean. And I was thinking about self worth, and how we define ourselves. The story is meant to be allegorical. Fun, but thought provoking, too.

Which character was your favourite to create? Why?
As much as I love my main characters, I seem to have the most fun with my secondary characters. Charlie Mason, in Of Moths and Butterflies, is perhaps my favourite of all of them. Or Claire Montegue, perhaps. She was fun, and quite easy, to write for actually. In Blind, I think I’m rather fond of Zachary, the deaf, blind, but very wise, piano playing, semi-hero. It’s because of his goodness, I think. His patience in waiting for the good things in life to come to him, all the time striving to deserve them, but never feeling as though he is entitled to them. Knowing, when they come, to grab onto them, and being willing to take on the responsibility of that happiness (for happiness is a responsibility, particularly in the maintaining of it) when he is at last free to make it his own.

If you were asked to make a soundtrack for your novel, what songs would be on it?
This is a question, oddly, that I’ve given a lot of thought to. Of course, my writing being Historical, some haunting, brooding classical piece would be great. I’ve lately gotten into Vitamin String Quartet and the like. These are symphonic renderings of modern music, Nirvana, Dashboard Confessional, Fallout Boy, to name a few. If I were actually in the position to make a soundtrack, I’d beg Brandon Flowers (of Killers fame) to write something for me, or perhaps Panic! at the Disco. In the paperback version of Blind I’ve included a short Steampunk piece that was actually inspired by Brenden Urie of Panic! That would be really, really great.

If your book was turned into a movie, who would you choose to play the leading characters?
Blind is perhaps the first book I’ve written without a clear picture of who these people might be on the screen. I think I do tend to use real actors as a sort of crutch to help me define and draw out the details of my characters. This book, perhaps, didn’t require them. It being about blindness, and what is on the inside, I didn’t spend much time describing them. Also, Arthur and Zachary were inspired a bit by a photograph I found. I’ve certainly made a habit of casting my other books. Hugh Dancy (who I not so secretly adore) makes frequent appearances, as does Tom Hardy. He makes for such a great 

What’s your writing process like? Was there a part that was difficult to write?
I don’t deal well with death. I don’t enjoy unpleasantness, but I find I have to go to some very dark places when I write. Thank heaven for my editors, who rap my knuckles and send it back, and make me really plumb the depths of the darker parts of my own experience. I also find that there isn’t much that’s actually frightening these days. If you don’t delve into blood and gore and rape and the truly deviant sorts of evil, it’s hard to chill a reader’s blood. I find those sorts of things extremely hard to write.

Do you ever use real life experiences in your books?
Absolutely. My first novel, Of Moths and Butterflies, is really about my journey to recovery from sexual abuse. I know it’s not a book for everyone, but I did write it from the heart, and I think it resonates with certain types of people. It’s clear from the reviews who gets it and who does not. My current work in progress, Cry of the Peacock, due out early spring, is about the various forms of pride, what it means to be civilised, genteel, what it is to be a ‘gentleman’, or even a lady, for that matter. And what it is that binds us to people. Are such bonds encouraged, or rather inhibited by moral obligation? For Blind, however, I think I was dealing with a different kind of experience. Life is hard. We’re all bruised and battered and scarred. We can choose to live within ourselves, victims of circumstance. Or we can reach out, put our arms around each other, and do what we can to heal a small portion of the world. If enough had such courage, and such a sense of responsibility for their fellow men, what a different world this would be. Don’t you think?

About the author
What is a normal day for you? Take us through your usual routine.
I get up, between 5:30 and 6:30, get the kids up and off to school. I come home, have a little reading time, breakfast, and sit down at the computer. Fridays, if my schedule isn’t too harried, I try to work on short stories. That’s a goal I set this year, to write a short story each month. I work as efficiently as I can until the kids get home. In the afternoons I edit for other writers and do some more reading.

When you’re not writing, what else do you like to do?
I volunteer at the local animal shelter. I try to go biking a couple of times a week. I sew, plink around on the piano (I don’t play well), cook, read... Lots of things, really.

How do you balance real life (work, kids, getting prepared for the zombie apocalypse) with being an author?
It’s hard, really. For the first five or so years that I started doing this, I was basically working every moment I got, to the detriment of the house and everything else. I was homeschooling at the time, so I did keep that a priority. Eventually we made the choice to put the kids back in school, and at that point I really tried to keep my workdays within a certain allotted time. I still struggle, depending on what I have going on. If I’m writing something new, I’ll take every opportunity I can, but I spend a lot of time thinking, so I don’t necessarily have to be at the computer. When I’m editing, particularly when I’m finishing up the final edits on a book, or really heavy edits, I get sort of sucked in, so I’ll vacillate between working ten, twelve hour days, and working a couple of hours, and then stopping to think, for hours, or even days. But it’s always in my mind. I never stop thinking about it.

Tell us about the day you found out your book was going to be published. How did you react?
You know, I think it’s similar with most authors. You’re ecstatic when you find out your dream has come true. And then you realise how much work is still ahead of you and you settle down and get serious. Then the book is out, and it’s exciting. At first. And in those rare moments you can stand back and appreciate it. But it’s frightening, too. Because suddenly you’re exposed to the world. This thing that you’ve laboured and sweated, and cried and bled over, is out in the public view, and they can love or hate it, and say so in as many words as they like. And they do. I have many published friends who feel the same way. And then I have many unpublished friends who assume I’m still just reeling with glee, and if I’m not I’m ungrateful. It’s great, really. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m happy that I now have a justification to keep writing. But writing is hard work. And to be successful you have to keep at it. Of Moths and Butterflies is doing really well. It’s been pretty successful. But now I have to follow it up, and the hope is that the next book will always be better than the last. Which means I have to keep coming up with better and better ideas, and getting better as a writer. There’s a lot of pressure there.

Is there a certain book that has made a lasting impression on you?
Tess of the D’Urbervilles changed my life. I think it’s a huge contributor to what I write and why and how. I love Hardy’s writing, even if most of his books do not end quite happily. Certainly Tess doesn’t. But the way he makes us look at what we believe and think, even today, I think that’s really amazing, and very powerful. Other books that were influential are Pride and Prejudice, Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend and David Copperfield. War and Peace. Lorna Doone by Blackmoore. Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch by George Eliot. The Egoist, Diana of the Crossways and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, by George Meredith.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what five things would you want to have with you?
Can I take my husband and kids? And then the dog, maybe. That’s a hard question. I couldn’t be by myself. I’d want someone there to share the experience with, for bad or good. If we’re talking about things, though, then a book or two, music, a blanket, a pen and a pad of paper.

Going back to your high school years, what were they like? Do you think they shaped the person you are today?
I hated High School so much. I had good friends, still have them to this day, but I felt like the popularity contest--who’s wearing what, who plays what sports-- it was such a distraction from the whole purpose, which was to learn. Because I went to school with the same kids for the entirety of my pre-college education, I think I did take some life lessons on how not to treat people, on how to value myself as an individual. Those labels are applied early, and fighting against them is hard, and often futile. I think I was ready to claim my independence and to prove myself--and determined to do it--long before I was actually able to do it. But I think it also made me a person who aspires to be the best I can be and to give every worthwhile endeavour my all.

Bonus Questions
Favourite movie/TV show/food/season?
My favourite movie... That’s sort of hard. I love Andrew Davies’ production of Our Mutual Friend. His 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, of course. The Sixth Sense is probably one of the best movies ever. Oh. And Star Wars. I’m a total Star Wars fanatic.

As far as TV, I really only watch Project Runway. Aside from that, I’m totally addicted to the BBC adaptations of classic works. And Downton Abbey, of course. And have you seen the new Sherlock? Oh my word. It’s amazing. The writing is so utterly brilliant it’s actually spoiled me to be able to appreciate the Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes.

Favourite food? Pizza. Hands down. (And chicken. I love chicken.)

I love the autumn. I love the falling leaves and the smell of wood fires, and apples. It inspires me.

Who would you give the award to for best first kiss (in a movie)?
George Emerson in A Room with a View. Is there a kiss at the end of North and South, or do I just want there to be? So many of my favourite movies don’t have kissing at all. I don’t think there’s a kiss in Wives and Daughters and that’s one of the most romantic movies I can think of. Oh! The one in Our Mutual Friend, between Wrayburne and Lizzie. That one makes my knees weak.

Red or white wine?
I’m a teetotaller, me.

Worst fear?
The continuing decline of Western civilisation. Is that too heavy? How about, going hungry, then. Or being homeless. Having people hate me. I know that’s juvenile, but I hate contention. Publishing a book that only receives negative reviews. THAT would be bad!

Thank you, Ms. Christensen, for stopping by!

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