Interview with C. C. Humphreys, author of Chasing the Wind
05 Jun 2018
What can you tell us about your new release, Chasing the Wind?
Well, I finally made it into the 20th Century! I’ve always been fascinated by flying – my dad was an RAF fighter pilot, Battle of Britain and all. And I wanted to delve into the era when he came of age, the 1930’s. Originally I was going to write a thriller about a male pilot, one of those ‘tarnished knights’ Raymond Chandler talks about. Then an editor friend suggested writing a female protagonist, I looked up Amelia Earhart – and I was lost! What a world, those daring women pilots lived in! Doing everything the men did, and more. My character Roxy Loewen was born soon after and, as with most of the characters, I wanted to test her with as much peril as possible – gun running, thievery, the Nazis… and of course, love with an unsuitable guy.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
From the moment I could speak I told stories. No screens when I was a kid, being a gamer meant making stuff up with your friends and playing them. I loved the ones with swords especially – almost the first photo that exists of me is dressed as Zorro when we lived in California. I became an actor so I could leap around with bladed weaponry – and did, for years. But I read like I played – historical fiction. Eventually, I knew I needed to start writing my own stories – and then I began to write the ones I wanted to read, that weren’t out there yet.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Wow! Only five? I would pull them from different decades of my life:
Under ten: The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
10-20: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
20-30: The Magus by John Fowles
30-40: Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson
40-today: So hard! A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I know this will sound strange, from a man largely raised in North London, UK… but Bruce Springsteen. Love at first hear, such a storyteller, so good at mining love and anger and confusion. Once I’d got the courage to speak to him I would finally just say: ‘How do you do it?’
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
My absolute favorite moments are those times during the first draft when everything just clicks and the characters start dictating to you. It’s really rare, happens maybe three times in a book. I start chortling and can’t type fast enough (I am a terrible typist!). Overall I like the second draft – I have a great pile of words to chip away at, refine, make better.
What is a typical day like for you?
When I am engaged in a new novel, I wake about 630AM, wolf a bowl of cereal, make a vat of coffee and head for my ‘hut’ (which is actually a cedar octagon in a forest and other writers hate me!). My cat, Dickon, comes with me, we settle in and write all day, with breaks for tea and toast.
What scene in Chasing the Wind was your favorite to write?
The one where Roxy, having been caught by Herman Göring casing his bedroom to steal a painting, is injected with truth serum. It was also a hallucinogenic, so when Roxy escapes through Göring’s Grimm Brothers’ themed Olympics party, she is hallucinating wildly. That was one I laughed when I wrote. When I re-read it I thought that if someone was to write a parody of C. C. Humphreys’ writing, this would be it! It’s just so…. me!
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
You know, I teach writing quite a lot now and what I emphasize is what I discovered – that writing is a process, a journey, not a destination. I feared to begin, because I knew my first stuff was not as good as my heroes’ final stuff. When I realized it was not meant to be, that the first draft is all about playing and telling yourself the story and never about good, I relaxed and wrote my first novel. And I realized this: writing is writing. It happens in the act of doing it, not when thinking about doing it. So that’s my motto: Writing is writing.
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