Interview with Captive Press author V.R. Christensen
The word that encompasses V.R Christensen’s fiction is not hard to find: quality. This is not a writer in a hurry, trying to score readers by the dozens on page one with a quick, gruesome murder and some cheap stunts. Here is quality, layer of layer of quality, in the prose, in the slow building of a magnificent, complicated plot, in the disturbed psychological characters. Here is also a great reader at work, someone who has absorbed the very best from the founders of the modern novel: 19th century giants such as George Elliot and Charles Dickens.
For me Of Moths and Butterflies, situated in Victorian England, was a true gem to discover, almost a homecoming. Like V.R., I return to my 19th century heroes time and time again – did my dissertation on George Elliot once upon a time - so yes, folks, go and discover Of Moths and Butterflies, immerse yourself in exquisite prose and the type of gradual, delightful story-telling that’s a rare thing to be found nowaways. Allow yourself to stop time.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
Mmmm. Food! I like all kinds of things, really. I love Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian. I love sushi. Pizza is probably my very favourite, but I like a lot of things. I’m a fairly good cook. My husband and I sort of compete for best chef in the house roll. There are things I make better than him and things he makes better than me. There’s a bit of a competitive spirit there, for sure.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I love to bicycle and where I am now there are a lot of bicycle trails, so I hope to pick that up again soon. I grew up with horses and I sometimes think I’d like to go back to jumping and dressage, but that’s a huge commitment and we just move too often
to make it possible. I do love volleyball, and it’s the only competitive sport I’m really good at.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
I love to travel! Mainly Europe, and particularly England. I go there as often as I can, to see friends, to do research, to soak up the atmosphere. I’ve been an Anglophile as
long as I can remember.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
No. I’m fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my kids. They are school age now, though, so I find my time pretty much consumed with writing and publishing, and with my historic preservation projects.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
I was really worried at first. I didn’t tell anyone for a long time. Not until I had agents
considering my first novel. Occasionally I run into the non-supportive family member or friend, but I’ve learned by experience that that kind of discouragement comes directly from their own insecurities, so I give it little credence.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I’m an extreme introvert .I need my friends, but I don’t make a lot of time for just casual associations. I’d rather have a night in than a night out. Unless it’s around
food. Then I’m ready to go out. I do get obsessed at times with my work, though, and so I’m trying to set firmer rules for the time I spend at the computer each day. I think I definitely have some hermitic tendencies. I do not, however, consider my introversion a weakness. I think it allows me to reflect more deeply about life and my interaction with others. It translates into my work, too, as I have an inherent ability to understand people and what makes them tick.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
Um…wow. That’s tough. I have really good instincts about people, and I think that’s really been a protection to me. I’m also a good and trustworthy friend. I bend over backwards to maintain my friendships. In the same vein, there are times when I try a
little too hard to please and become a bit of a door mat, but I think my ability understand and empathise with people is a real gift and I’m grateful for it.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I like to live in very old houses. That seems to be key to maintaining a sense of atmosphere, as all my work is historical in setting. I like dark colours and wood and lots of books around me, like a gentleman’s library of the Victorian tradition. I also live at the convergence of several mountain ranges, so the foliage here is breathtaking, particularly in the autumn. There are times when I need to get away, where it’s quiet and still, and where the colours and nature can inspire me.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
I don’t believe in crutches, so I try not to have any. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink coffee or tea. I do have the temptation to snack but since I shorted out my last computer with a glass of water last spring, I try to keep those temptations at bay now. I do sometimes use images, cut outs from magazines, etc, to help me focus on my project. I suppose that’s a bit of a crutch, but I don’t make a habit of it.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
Historical Fiction of the late Victorian era. How did that develop? Well…there’s a lot to it, I think. My education is in Interior Design and I’ve always been fascinated by historic art, architecture and culture. I had earned some college credits before going to university, so while I was there, I was able to substitute all of my English requirements with upper level literature and art history courses. I love literature, always have. And the more of it I read, the more I realised it was the literature of the Victorian era that inspired me, and the social reforms that were enacted as a result of the books written by Eliot and Hardy and Dickens and the like. On the one hand,
so much has changed; that world is hardly recognisable today, at least by any
observable means. On the other hand, human nature is just the same. We all have
the same needs and desires, the limitations have just altered in form, but the barriers are still there, even if we place them there for ourselves. And so I began
to mentally draw those parallels and contrasts, to place my own concerns in a historical context. It came quite naturally to me, and the ideas began to come.
Can you tell us some background information about your book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
As with many authors, my first book published is not the first book I wrote. I had finished the one and thought that one of its themes, that of arranged marriage, might be looked at from another perspective. I was also listening to a lot of Royksopp at the time, and the song 49% inspired the
question, “If you’re not happy, what can you do to change that?” I wondered what it would be like to be forced to marry someone you might have been able to love had it come about by more natural and congenial means. The story also offered me the opportunity to examine some emotional and psychological issues in my own life. It was a difficult story to write and has taken the better part of seven years. I’m happy with it now. I think it tells the story I want to tell. As for the first, well… It still needs some work, but I hope to have it
out in the spring. Of Moths and Butterflies is available now at Amazon in hardcover and Kindle form, and on Barnes & Noble in hardcover and Nook. It’s also available
in other e-book formats via Smashwords. There will be a paperback edition in February.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I have to do something creative every day. I find I get really edgy if I’m not working on something, even if it’s editing. I don’t have a word limit, really. I do tend to make mental schedules for editing projects, but when I’m writing fresh material, it’s all sort of frenzied and fast paced. So I just do what I can and try to give myself credit for what makes it down on paper. I do a lot of plotting while driving, or while lying awake at night, so that when I’m at the computer, the words are already there.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I think I’m most inspired by the writings of Dickens and George Meredith. Possibly George Eliot, as well. They had such a positive influence on their audiences. They proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. Besides which they were superb storytellers, they knew how to use language to move and motivate and inspire. I find that inspiring in itself.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Well, I hope I’m done moving, for one thing. I hope I’m in an old house that I love and which inspires me. I hope I’m happy. And I hope I’m still able to write books that people want to read.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, V.R!!
Links to V.R.’s book in the text.