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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

*** Immortal War Blog Tour: Interview with Justin Somper (author of the Vampirates series)

Today we are joined by Justin Somper, author of the brilliant Vampirates series. Justin has been visiting a number of blogs on his Immortal War blog tour, and we are his penultimate stop on the tour. 

Hi Justin. Thanks for stopping by The Book Zone to answer some questions for us. Firstly, now that the Vampirates saga has come to an end, how would you describe the series to someone discovering it for the first time?

I’m always having to do this at school events so, here goes… 500 years into the future, the oceans have risen and there’s a new golden age of piracy. If you want to make something of yourself in this world, you have to be a pirate – the Pirate Federation controls the oceans and even has a special school, the Pirate Academy. The oceans are teeming with pirate ships and at least one rather special pirate ship. Teenage twins Connor and Grace Tempest are shipwrecked off the coast of Eastern Australia and almost drown. He’s rescued by a passing pirate ship; she’s rescued – if that’s the right word – by a ship of Vampirates. Neither Connor nor Grace’s life will ever be the same again. Howzat?

When you wrote Demons of the Ocean did you ever envisage that it would become a popular series of six books?

I guess I knew from the moment I got the idea for Vampirates that it had the potential to run to a sequence of books. My initial UK contract was for four books so I knew even when I was writing DEMONS that there would some big story arcs. Just before DEMONS was published, I was signed up for Books 5 & 6 too, which was quite strange but nice. It was good knowing from that point how many books I was likely have to play with in order to tell the story and develop the characters.

Do you have a favourite book from the Vampirates series?

That’s a tough one to answer. I have tried to push myself so that each of the books eclipses the one before. I’m still a bit too close to IMMORTAL WAR to know if I’ve achieved that this time and, in any case, it’s a slightly different book because it does draw together a lot of threads. But there are certainly things in IMMORTAL WAR which I’m proud of and which I don’t think I’d have managed to pull off proficiently until now. If it isn’t IMWA, then it would be EMPIRE OF NIGHT. Having Connor and Grace stay with Sidorio and Lola offered up a lot of fun opportunities.

How about a favourite scene?

This is probably the scene in BLOOD CAPTAIN in which Stukeley returns to Ma Kettle’s Tavern. I like its intensity and the way it captures Stukeley’s conflict about what he’s become. Another definite favourite would be a scene very close to the end of IMMORTAL WAR involving Lola, Sidorio and a lot of blood. I shouldn’t say more than that but it really makes me smile!

How do you feel about finishing off the series and saying goodbye to your characters? Was it an emotional time for you? Is it hard to walk away from the series?

It is emotional. I’m writing these answers on publication day itself and I woke up feeling strangely emotional today. IMMORTAL WAR was a tough book to write because it was about saying goodbye. I think it has a certain elegiac quality and there are lots of references to clocks and time ticking away. Yes, I’m sad to be leaving these characters behind, though I’m not ruling out going back to them at some point in the future. I think that there are plenty of fresh stories waiting to be told. But at the same time, I’ve been working on these books for the past eight or nine years, which is a big chunk of time in itself. I think it’s important to create something completely fresh and frankly to show people that there is more to me as a writer than pirates and vampires.

The first Vampirates book was published in 2005. Have you changed as an author over the past six years?

Yes, I think I have. I feel like my writing has matured a lot and, as I say, with each book I feel I’ve been able to pull off things that I wouldn’t have managed in the previous one. This is 90% good but it means that I sometimes wish I could go back into DEMONS or TIDE OF TERROR and rework things a bit – a Director’s Cut if you like! I think I’ve found a certain style and also a tone I’m comfortable with. I suspect the books aged up slightly around BLOOD CAPTAIN and certainly from BLACK HEART on. This was not intentional – just about me finding my voice I think.

What has been your personal high point over the past six years of Vampirates?

The things I’ve loved most have been the writing itself and getting out and meeting readers, in this country and overseas. I particularly remember attending the Texas Librarians’ Conference in Houston and having a school librarian tell me how much her kids enjoyed the books. That gave me an amazing sense of how far, in every sense, the books have travelled. Equally, working with a bunch of Gifted and Talented kids at a school in Devon who helped me with a scene in EMPIRE OF NIGHT was really fun and satisfying. Just last week, I was talking to a mum who said that my books had started her son reading – that’s a huge privilege to hear. And I can still remember the first event I did where the kids had read the book and suddenly I realised it didn’t just exist in my head any more but now the story and characters were out there for sharing with others. That was, and always is, a magical feeling.

I read a while ago about your plans to write Crossing Stories, the Vampirates “spin-off” book. Is this still going to happen?

Well I’m still under contract so I would think so! Seriously, I know how much my hardcore readers want to know Lorcan’s crossing story and others too and I am equally excited about writing this down. I have some fresh ideas about this so watch this space!

Do you have time to read many other books written for children and Young Adults? Any current favourites or authors we should be looking out for in 2011?

I’m not as well read as I should be. When I’m writing, I don’t like to read other comparable fiction. Well, it’s not so much that I don’t like to but my mind can’t seem to process it. So I have rather a lot of catching up to do whenever I finish a book. So I think you’re better placed to advise me than vice-versa.

If you could pose one question to any writer, living or deceased, who would the writer be and what question would you ask?

I’d like to chat to Shakespeare and find out more about his process! Did he know just how good everything he wrote was and how easily did it come to him?

If you were to host a dinner party for any three people (alive or from the past), who would those three people be?

Hmm, you said some of the questions would be fiendish and I think we’ve now reached that juncture… I’m going to plump for three of my favourite writers. F Scott Fitzgerald, Tim Winton and PD James. I imagine Fitzgerald would be quite a character. I have a feeling I’d get on with Tim Winton, whose book CLOUDSTREET is a huge favourite of mine. And PD James is just a complete idol of mine. I love the fact that she is ninety and at the height of her writing powers. That’s one of the most appealing sides of our profession.

And if you were allowed to invite a few fictional characters as well?

I’m going to be completely selfish and have a selection of VAMPIRATES characters, please. Sometimes it does feel like I’ve been living in close proximity with them anyhow.

What would you rather be, a vampire or a pirate and why?

A pirate, because I think – on the whole – it makes for a simpler and happier existence.

What next for Justin Somper? Anything in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Sure – if I kill you! Only joking. I am working on a new idea but it’s too early to talk about or even know if it’s going to work out. But I’m excited about being back at the beginning of something and thinking up new settings and characters. No pirates or vampires in the next thing though. I think I can safely promise you that.

Thank you for your time Justin. Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of The Book Zone?

Just that I hope you enjoy the books and if you have any further questions, come and chat on my blog at vampirates.co.uk or on twitter (@JustinSomper). Thanks for being part of this blog tour and for the valuable exposure you give to books for young people and boys especially.

~~~

Huge thanks to Justin for taking the time to answer my questions. If you enjoyed reading his answers why not head on over to I Want To Read That tomorrow for the final stop off on Justin's tour.



1 comment:

  1. Everyone getting fingered now and not just COLORADO...
    JEB BUSH is long gone on that FERSHIPP with no return.
    CO- ROC to ACE gave the logbooks on GEOLOGIE - AEGEAN and that's our
    " GIFT".
    Thanks Guy.
    And not only that,Nevada now says it's all about SCHAR on that " JOLLY RODGER "!
    Oh yeah..TEA PARTY just lost their biggest " hit".
    Know what else?
    KERR..your MASTESPANKER 69.
    Ok..don't want to get too smug or give the entire " plot" away..but know who the "legs" were?
    SENATORS OVERSEAS!
    I can't stop but this is it ..I swear...guess who owned HYDRA with
    " KNEECOCKS"?
    The QUEEN!!!!!!!
    Jesus.
    See you all in the movie :
    " KANSAS KINGS".

    ReplyDelete