Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Writer's View: C.C. Humphreys

I always hoped that I would have a little hut for writing - a converted toolshed at the bottom of an overgrown English garden, cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, but still a place I could pull the door shut upon me and call my own. When we moved back to Vancouver from London in 2006 I got a basement, not a bad compromise. Not the ideal though. (It was low roofed and I am tall and kept hitting my head).

Then we farm sat for a friend on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. We fell in love with the island and I uttered the fateful phrase: well, we could just look at one place. We talked to the realtor for five minutes and she said, ‘Oh, I think I have the place for you.’ The house was lovely, big and open plan and set in a forest. Then she showed us the hut.

A cedar octagon, it had been built by an artist for an artist. Huge picture frame windows gave onto a forest of Douglas Firs and maples. There was stained glass in little windows, copper flashing at the top of the walls, beams across the ceiling, rough hewn cupboards. All cedar, with an iron stove to one side, and a little door beside the big one for the passing in of logs.

It was love at first sight.

My wife calls it my boy cave. I have placed or hung textiles I’ve collected from around the world – a Berber carpet, a Peruvian rug, a Sumatran prayer shawl, a Javanese batique sarong I used to sleep under in South East Asia. Weapons are scattered about, swords and knives and the Biblical slingshot I am quite talented with. After 30 years in a toolbox in storage, my collection of 25mm Napoleonic soldiers, hand painted by the fanatical 14 year old I was, are finally drawn up on a ledge, ready for Waterloo. I got the man who created the interior to return and build me a large bookshelf in keeping with the hut. It now holds one of each of my novels – to remind me on dark days that I have done it before and probably will again –plus all the research for my current projects. Spaced among the books are other touchstones from my life – an extraordinary clam shell I snorkelled up in Southern Spain when I was nineteen. A pencil drawing of a favourite writing place – a 250 year old quarryman’s cottage in Shropshire, UK. A photo of a beach in Koh Samui where I spent an epic Christmas in 1989. (I partied like it was ten years later!) Against another wall is my Gohonzon, my Buddhist altar, for my daily chanting.

I first saw the hut crammed with the previous owner’s stuff. When we took possession it was empty – and huge! I thought I might have to hide in a corner to approximate the feeling of the garret. Then I slapped myself… and my desk went right into the centre of the octagonal room, where all the power of the shape is focused.

It is a wonderful space for thinking and creating. My new commute is 20 paces, with a big mug of coffee in hand. There is no internet connection, thank god. No phone line. A deer will pass and pose in a window frame. My cat, Dickon, will visit for a while sit for a bit, never stay to bug me.

Many writers hate me, which is fine. I’m in my hut so I can’t hear them moan.

About the Author:
Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer, and novelist. He has acted all over the world and appeared on stages ranging from London’s West End to Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox. As C.C. Humphreys, Chris has written six historical fiction novels. The first, The French Executioner, told the tale of the man who killed Anne Boleyn and was runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers 2002. Its sequel, Blood Ties, was a bestseller in Canada. Having played Jack Absolute, he stole the character and has written three books on this “007 of the 1770s”—Jack Absolute, The Blooding of Jack Absolute, and Absolute Honour—short listed for the 2007 Evergreen Prize by the Ontario Library Association. He is also the author of Vlad: The Last Confession(Sourcebooks, 2011). For more information, visit www.cchumphreys.com.



You know how the siege of Constantinople ends. It’s written in the history books.

But what was the human toll? What are the stories of the people involved? How did they experience this epic battle that tore apart cultures, religions, and families?

That is what you will discover in author C.C. Humphreys’ new novel A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 (ISBN 9781402272493; SEPTEMBER 2012; $25.99; Fiction; Hardcover).

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.

Humphreys features a wide cast of characters from both sides of the rampart in A Place Called Armageddon. At the center are Gregoras and Theon. Twin brothers from Constantinople. One an exiled mercenary who has vowed never to return. The other a rising diplomatic star hiding a secret of betrayal. A woman who has captured one’s heart, but is married to the other as a trophy. Two brothers fighting for glory and redemption.

A Place Called Armageddon also imagines what the battle meant for two real-life historical figures—Emperor Constantine and Mehmet, sultan of the Turks. Both men fighting for the gods they believe in. Both sides tasting victory and defeat before the final showdown. Among those fighting is engineer John Grant, a Scotsman brought to Constantinople to recover the formula for Greek fire, and Achmed, a Turkish farmer lured into service by the promise of the spoils of war. Lurking in the shadows is Leilah, a sorceress who plays a dangerous game with both sides.

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.

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