Art In Fiction

The Play's the Thing feat. C. C. Humphreys, author of Shakespeare's Rebel

April 06, 2021 Carol Cram Episode 23
Art In Fiction
The Play's the Thing feat. C. C. Humphreys, author of Shakespeare's Rebel
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In Episode 23, meet C. C. Humphreys, bestselling author of several novels listed on Art In Fiction, including Shakespeare's Rebel, Chasing the Wind, and Vlad: The Last Confession.


  • What is an adventure writer of historical fiction?
  • The genesis of Shakespeare's Rebel: "Hamlet and swords" 
  • Challenges of depicting real people such as Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Lord Essex, and Sir Robert Cecil
  • A reading from Shakespeare's Rebel
  • How research can be a "springboard for the imagination"
  • Art, aviation, and adventure in Chasing the Wind
  • Who was Vlad the Impaler (Vlad: The Last Confession) and was he misunderstood?
  • Find out about new adventures through the unicorn tapestries in the Tapestry Trilogy.
  • What is the one thing aspiring authors should do?
  • What's next for C. C. Humphreys

Press Play now & be sure to check out C. C. Humphreys's novels on Art In Fiction.

C. C. Humphreys's website:

Get a free audiobook from Audible

Music Credits

Intro: Paganology, performed by The Paul Plimley Trio; composed by Gregg Simpson
Ad:   Celtic Calypso, performed by Lunar Adventures; composed by Gregg Simpson.

Subscribe to Art In Fiction to find out about upcoming podcast episodes, blog posts, featured authors, and more.

This website contains affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Are you enjoying The Art In Fiction Podcast? Consider helping us keep the lights on so we can continue bringing you interviews with your favorite arts-inspired novelists. Just $3 buys us a coffee (and we really like coffee) at Ko-Fi. Just click this link:

Also, check out the Art In Fiction website at where you'll find over 1800 novels inspired by the arts in 10 categories: Architecture, Dance, Decorative Arts, Film, Literature, Music, Textile Arts, Theater, Visual Arts, and Other.

Thank you!

Carol Cram:

Hello and welcome to Season 2 of The Art In Fiction Podcast. I'm your host Carol Cram, a novelist and avid reader of books inspired by the arts.

This episode features C.C. Humphreys, author of three novels listed on Art In Fiction.

C. C. Humphreys, also known as Chris Humphreys, is an actor, author, and swordsman. He’s played Hamlet in Calgary, a gladiator in Tunisia, and a dead immortal on the series Highlander. Chris’s plays have been produced in Calgary, Vancouver, and London, and he has published 20 novels, most recently The Tapestry Trilogy, set around—and through—the fabulous medieval Unicorn Tapestries exhibited in New York's Cloisters museum. 

Welcome to The Art In Fiction Podcast. Chris.

Chris Humphreys:

It's delightful to be here, Carol. Thank you very much for having me.

Carol Cram:

I'm really excited to talk to you today. I'm a big fan of your novels. You've written so many, but today I want to talk about the three novels at the moment that are listed on Art In Fiction that are most directly related to the arts.

You've got Shakespeare's Rebel and Vlad: The Last Confession in the Literature category and Chasing the Wind in the Visual Arts category.

I've heard you describe yourself as an adventure writer of historical fiction. So, what does that mean?

Chris Humphreys:

I like to tell a good story. I think that's the first thing. I long ago gave up trying to define myself as an actor or a playwright or a fight choreographer or a novelist. I just really summed it up in ‘storyteller’. 

So I like to write what used to be called a ripping yarn. I used to say that that's where a lot of my early novels are. They start to get sort of deeper and perhaps a little darker and a bit more, you know, later on. But I like to keep people turning the pages. 

Carol Cram:

I want to start talking first off about Shakespeare's Rebel. Of course, I love it particularly because of the way you portrayed Shakespeare as a bit of a manic depressive. He was really relatable. But could you do a quick summary of Shakespeare's Rebel for us?

Chris Humphreys:

Sure. And it's interesting because it also began in an artistic way and that I was at an exhibition in Toronto called Dream and Desire, and it was all about 19th century great canvases, usually depicting Shakespeare's plays, and that's kind of where the inspiration came out of, that's when I was still casting around in my mind for, uh, you know, what was I going to write next? 

And I realized that what I really wanted to write was Hamlet and Swords, for God's sake. It was partly inspired by a very, very poor rendition. They had, they had tapes playing of various Shakespeare plays, you know, to go with the paintings and they had a terrible rendition of, "to be, or not to be" which I'm very surprised all about ever since I played Hamlet. So that's when I came up with Hamlet and Swords because my two great passions are Hamlet and sword fighting.

So I thought I'm going to write a book about William Shakespeare's fight choreographer. Of course, people say, Oh, was there one? And I went, well, I don't know, but I suspect there was someone who would have set the amazing fights because the fights would have had to be superb because this was, this was everything. This was TV, this was cinema, this was obviously theater, but this was the great form of entertainment. 

And in those days, of course, a goodly proportion of the audience would have known, you know, one end of the sword from another. So they wouldn't have stood for poor fight renditions. It would have been one of the big things. So I thought there could be a guy. 

And then I started thinking more about who that guy might be. I mean, I'm obviously, being an actor myself, I'm fascinated by actors. I come from a family of actors, you know, from theater. All my grandparents were actors, my dad was an actor and with the joys of theater and the cost of theater, and I thought I'd kind of make my main character not only a very good swordsman, not only an actor who basically discovered Will Shakespeare. He's a bit older than Will, and they are best friends, but also a drunk but a more, a binge drinking drunk. You know, he's one of those guys who doesn't drink much until he does. And then when he does, he really does. And that leads him into all sorts of problems, partly because he is also a fighting man. 

I then started researching the period that I find the most interesting, which is the whole period around the creation of Hamlet and having read great books like Stephen Greenblatt and James Shapiro's books, 1599 and Will of the World, to see how much Shakespeare was influenced by what was going on around him at the time politically, socially, theatrically in every possible way. He was a snuffler-up of the zeitgeist, really, and wanted to put things on the stage that his audience could relate to. 

I was very interested in the idea of theater as almost a communal experience to exorcise some of the things they weren't allowed to exorcise or even talk about in a highly controlled police state, which Elizabethan England was. So Shakespeare would do plays that would discuss things like the usurpation of the throne, the death of monarchs, the assassination of leaders, all which were pressing, pressing problems at the time, because the Spanish had been trying to kill Elizabeth I for years, but that wouldn't have got past the censor. They were heavily censored, these plays, but you know, he'd say, Oh, no, it's not today, sir, it's Julius Caesar. It's not today, sir, it's something that happened in Copenhagen 500 years ago. 

So that was fascinating to me as well. So even, as you said, at the beginning an adventure writer of historical fiction, even within the guise of a fast-paced tale, I really wanted to explore that whole thing. And again, the creation of the work of art that many people say changed everything, and that is the play Hamlet. I thought why Hamlet, then? And I began to look at the background, particularly the political background, and discovered the wonderful figure of the mad, bad, and dangerous-to-know Earl of Essex and decided to make John Lawley, my main character, Essex's sort of liege man, his former bodyguard, his former fight teacher when he couldn't get a job in the theater, or he'd been thrown out for drunkenness. 

You know, he'd go back and watch Essex's back. And unfortunately, Essex, who was obviously manic depressive or bipolar or whatever, I decided that this was the year having been cast from the Queen's good favor and usurped himself by Sir Robert Cecil, the hunchback toad as he was known, Essex decides to launch a rebellion and get rid of the Queen’s advisers. And of course, being Essex, he cocked it up entirely, but that was the climate in which Shakespeare was writing Hamlet

And his own life factors in as well, you say, I make him the melancholy, he's writing the melancholy Dane. I think the little evidence we have, we know so little, but you know, only a guy who understood about depression could write, "I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth." You feel that he had to have as well. And he'd lost his son only five years before. So the play itself, the play's the thing. And that was the huge inspiration for me writing the novel.

Carol Cram:

Yeah, you're right. I don't think Shakespeare could have written that without being kind of the way you portrayed him, which, which was fascinating. It must have been quite a challenge though, to come up with a way to portray Shakespeare.

Chris Humphreys:

Well, I know people said, you're putting words into his mouth and I said, well, he's done it to me for years. Right?

Carol Cram:

Of course. Nothing wrong with that. That's what writers do. And I love the politics as well. I mean, Essex is such a fantastic character. Of course, he existed, he and Cecil. 

So what are some of the challenges of depicting real people? Well, we just talked about Shakespeare, but also like Essex and the Queen who is great. I love the appearances of Elizabeth.

Chris Humphreys:

She's fab, I think, Elizabeth. I mean, she was obviously a total force of nature. And I think by the end, as I depict, starting to lose it, probably, you know, whether we're into a bit of dementia or not, I think there's indications that that was happening. But absolute genius, I mean, could converse fluently in Latin and Greek. 

My take on it, and of course it gets slightly harder the closer you get to present day history when people have memories of it. I'm writing a World War II novel right now, you know, Goering makes an appearance as he does, of course, in Chasing the Wind. But the further back you go, I suppose it gives you slightly more leeway each century you go back. 

My take on it is, and I know we're going to talk about Vlad Dracula as well and that was obviously someone who was hugely controversial and hugely influential on a lot of things, not just literature. But my take is that if I can sort of honor them in a way without revering them, if I can approach some sort of truth to them, then I can allow myself to depict them. 

I try not to bad mouth too many people in history. I work on the evidence. I am a closet historian. And obviously, while I'm probably out of the closet now, once I really, but I mean, I love history. And so I am scrupulous in my research. And then I make an educated guess. And of course, you know, the character then becomes a function of the plot. And so therefore you make guesses that help you further your plot, but then that's all a big writing thing. You understand that; you're a fiction writer yourself so you'll understand all that.

Carol Cram:

Oh yes, absolutely. I also really got a kick out of how you described the Globe Theater. It plays quite a big role in the, in the novel, of course, he's all over the place in it. I presume you've been to the Globe in London?

Chris Humphreys:

Yes. And I've time traveled many times to the original Globe. I actually do a one-man Shakespeare show called Shakespeare 1600, which is based on all the research I did. Because I thought this stuff is just too fascinating. So I don a ruff, then I bring out my backsword and buckler and I take people on a trip back to London in 1601 and try to give them the sights and the sounds and the sense and, uh, you know, and the touch of what life might have been a little like if they were going to an afternoon in the theater in Southwark to see a new play called, what's it called again? Oh yeah. Hamlet.

Carol Cram:

Don't you miss going to the theater?

Chris Humphreys:

You know, you and I are both fortunate that we can do something else creative, but for all my friends who are just not able to practice their craft and particularly the people I feel for are the young ones, you know, who are trying to. If I was told at 20, I've just trained, or 21, I've just trained for three years and I can't work. I don't know what I'd have done.

Carol Cram:

So you mentioned that you were going to do a reading and that you'd like to read from Shakespeare's Rebel.

Chris Humphreys:

Okay, then. The setup here is John Lawley, my main character, has finally worked his way back in with the Lord Chamberlain's Men. John's been not drinking and he's back in the company where his son also, because it's very much paralleling Hamlet. It's a father-and-son story, Shakespeare's Rebel, and his son Ned who's the child of his estranged relationship with the only woman he truly loves. Ned Lawley is now playing the young lady parts in the Lord Chamberlain's Men. 

So this is Chapter 14, it's called Cry Harry.

29th of August, 1599.

As the hum of sackbuts and tabors faded, the drums beat out one last martial rhythm before yielding to a single bugle. Two notes, high and low, alternated. It was a call to hunt. Indeed later, Burbage would cry “the games afoot” and compare his comrades to greyhounds in the slips. Well, if there was some gray around his muzzle and he had waited behind curtains like this uncountable times, John could still feel his heart quicken. 

Here I go, he thought and licked dry lips.

Gus Phillips strode out to some applause. “O for a muse of fire,” he declared, “that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”

Leashes were slipped. They were off. He took a deep breath. It had been a while. Two years. .. .almost to the day, he reckoned, since the punch that failed Will Kemp. But the clown was gone now, quitting the Chamberlain’s Men, even as they moved into their new premises, his antics, both offstage and on finally too much for his fellow players.

Before the curtain, the chorus was speaking of planting proud hooves; behind it, John considered the roles he’d inherited from flux-stricken Sam Gisburne, after his sobriety and modest behavior had impressed all. Not too taxing for a return after a fair absence—one Bishop, one traitor, and one French lord—together with his body in the fights on both sides. Since he had set these, he was confident he could remember them. His lines, though.

He licked his lips again–God’s teeth, it was becoming a habit!—and looked to see one coming towards him who must have sensed his concern and swooped, like a red kite falling on offal. “Do not worry, Father,” said Ned Lawley, all mock solemn. “The groundlings may forgive the memory of so old a man.” He grinned, “Just try not to trip over your skirts as you enter.”

John gripped the fingers held out to him and twisted them, eliciting a yelp. “Respect for the aged, boy,” he growled, then pulled his son into a brief clasp before moving past and joining the archbishop before the curtained entrance.

“Ready, John?” inquired the appropriately named Master Pope.

“As I'll ever be, Thom.”

“Then let us to it.”

The pipes wheezing the approximation of a Te Deum, John Lawley walked out for the first time onto the platform of the Globe. Once upon it, fears were dispelled by the familiarity of the situation. In truth, he had little enough to do and did it fine; free, for the most part, to stand at the back in an attitude of attention and study the house as he had not before. As an actor.

What a playhouse! The first that ever was built, under the players’ strict supervision, for themselves. Tiers of galleries rose before and around the platform, with noblemen or the richer of the gentry in boxes closest to the stage. Their inferiors, those who could or would not pay the extra penny for a seat, stood in the yard, their eyes level with the players’ feet. Yet these groundlings had as good a view as their betters, could as well take in the gorgeous surroundings. John had stood out there with them, been as dazzled, smiling as he thought of his friend Will, who was thought to possess the first penny he’d ever earned, parting with many to create this wonder. The pillars that supported the roof over the stage were beautifully faux-marbled, Corinthian-crowned in glittering gilt, while every gallery was fronted in polished wood and, on their lowest levels, had bronzed statues supporting the ones above. The purpose was to create wonder, to open the spectator’s mind to the possibilities of magic, then to focus his imagination on the plain wooden scaffold which, except for the odd statue, stool, or chest, rarely had anything upon it but men and boys, sumptuously clad, their clothes all the brighter for the simplicity of the setting. Everything was shaped to these ends: to transport the audience to higher realms and foreign lands, to send them out at play’s end, entranced and, especially, to make them eager to return and part with more coin on the morrow.

Yet all is mere gilding, John thought. For at bottom, what were they truly here for? Words. Ink once on the playwright’s pen, transformed to energy and thence delight through skilled men’s mouths. John had little doubt that the audience was being so transported, just as he had been from the first time he’d watched the players in an inn yard in Much Wenlock; finding himself not in Shropshire, but in Athens as both blind Oedipus and himself did weep.

There you go!

Carol Cram:

That's wonderful. Oh, I just love being taken back to the Globe. That was, that was a great selection of for this podcast, for sure.

It reminds me of when I went to the Globe and I saw The Tempest starring Vanessa Redgrave, that was quite something, it was quite a while ago. And I did the tour of course, and it's such a great place.

And I love that you actually had the quote there from Henry V, because The Muse of Fire is the name of my novel that has a lot to do with Shakespeare.

Thank you so much. That was just wonderful to be taken back to that part of the novel.


Time for a short break.

Audiobooks are my new favorite thing. I enjoy listening to them, whether I’m walking around the neighborhood, driving, or cooking, or just relaxing on the couch and staring into space. 

With my monthly subscription to Audible, I can choose from thousands of titles. Click the link in the show notes for a free audiobook from Audible that’s yours to keep and enjoy, regardless of whether you sign up for a subscription. 

And now back to the show.

Carol Cram:

So I want to talk also now about Chasing the Wind, which of course the arts tie-in for that one, also a rollicking good thriller, is the painting by Peter Bruegel— and I was curious why Bruegel?

Chris Humphreys:

Yeah, it's interesting. I mean obviously by way of complete contrast, because Chasing the Wind is a basically a sort of caper/film noir set in the thirties. So my heroine Roxie Loewen, she's a tough really kick-ass heroine pilot. Doesn't suffer fools gladly, makes the mistake of falling in love with an idealist, of all things. She's all about the money. 

And the idealist’s father is an art dealer in Berlin. Her idealist boyfriend Jocko is actually a German and a communist and Jocko says to her, Hey, you want to make some money? I'll take it for the cause, you take your half and do what you want. But if you fly to Madrid, there's the lost Bruegel is there. And I was looking for some sort of object in my research that could function as that, some piece of art, and then I came across the tale of what they say is the original Fall of Icarus, which is lost. 

I mean, I've been to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and seen the original Fall of Icarus. A lot of people will know it, of course. And then you'll probably put a link up on your website. I know that wonderful painting of a Flemish landscape with just, in the sort of mid-foreground, these legs disappearing into the water after Icarus, who, as you know, most of your listeners will know, flew too close to the sun on his waxen wings that his father had made him and plunged to his death. It's an extraordinary painting. The tale I picked up was that this was the time when artists were beginning to move from wood to canvas. And that there was an original panel that was painted with the original form of Icarus, which was actually bigger. That Bruegel then became the object that everyone could pursue. It's kind of like the Maltese Falcon and of course in its own right, it's a wonderful piece of art and then to be able to include that and then research all the ways of faking such a work of art. 

As I say, it's a caper, it's a heist novel, at least in part, as well as a flying novel and a love story and..

Carol Cram:

A pre-war story. And yet you've got a lot of elements in there. I also read somewhere or heard you say something about how research is the springboard for the imagination, which is a very good line. So can you talk a little bit about what you mean by that?

Chris Humphreys:

I came up with that line ages ago, mainly because that's how it hit me. With my first novel, The French Executioner, which I wrote, God help me, 20 years ago, I thought I needed to know everything about the book before I began. So I read all this stuff for, like, six years. It was just, you know, research can be procrastination as well. 

So then I realized when I started writing the book, I realized that 90% of what I'd read was, if not useless, then certainly not applicable. So from then on I've had a different system of research. I'll read for two, three months before I take on a subject, depending on the subject. And I will write down details that interest me, and then I'll usually write NB, a little note to myself. John Lawley could do this, or Roxy could end up on the Hindenburg, or this happened at the Berlin Olympics. And then the research, as I say, becomes a springboard because it's, it's not research as gilding, it's not research as information, though it's nice to get the details right. It's research as stimulus for character action. And that's why I call it the springboard. 

Carol Cram:

I find that myself with research. I used to think as well that you needed to know every single thing and that you had to be, you know, a PhD in history to write historical fiction. And I realized, no, you need to know the details, but you also just need to get that spark. And you never know where it's going to come from. 

I just had that happen to me the other day and it completely took the, the novel I'm working on in a different direction. I went, Whoa, didn't see that coming, but it's great. Yeah, of course. That's what's so much fun. 

So finally, let's talk a minute about Vlad: The Last Confession. That's the story based on the real Dracula.

Chris Humphreys:

My most controversial book in some ways and my most successful book. It’s been translated into 13 languages and sold close to half a million copies around the world. Yeah, it did really well. It's been optioned a couple of times. It's under option right now, but it's big. It's epic. You know, people need money to make it. That one nearly broke me, Vlad. He comes loaded with so much myth, both the vampire, of course, but also the real man, the Vlad the Impaler. 

And so my job, I felt, was to try to disentangle some of that and to write a portrait of a man in extremis. I didn't set out to exonerate him or whitewash him. I depict him and I, really late on in the writing process, I mean, sort of in the third, fourth draft or whatever, I wrote the little intro at the beginning of the book, which says, it's not up to me to judge him.

It's up to you. The reader. 

Well, people love Vlad, even though he, he is the Impaler, he does some unspeakable things. I paid homage to the Bram Stoker, which I love, setting the book in a sort of Gothic style. The story is told in a dungeon inside confessionals while monks scribble the tale of the three people who knew him best—his best friend who betrayed him, not much of a spoiler, really; the only woman he ever loved who he sacrificed, and his confessor.

It's a bit of a device, but I flashed back into Vlad himself because they are conjuring the tale. 

So of course it’s bloody but only in places. It’s much more a psychological thriller. His history was extraordinary. What he was up against and how he fell victim to history. The people he lost to and the people who betrayed him, mainly the Hungarians, needed him to look as bad as possible and so they made him look bad in his own lifetime. They turned him into a monster in his own lifetime. Not that he didn’t do some monstrous things, but everyone was doing monstrous things. So he became the subject of this new thing, the printing press, which had only been going in his lifetime. And once they got bored of printing Bibles and religious tracts, they started printing pamphlets. And what sells? Sex and violence. Who can give us that? Dracula! And so he was on these pamphlets. 

Carol Cram

So he was really the victim of bad press, it sounds like. 

Chris Humphreys:

Very much so. So obviously I've been inspired by Stoker and I got involved with some of the world experts on Stoker who are also fascinated by the real Vlad. Stoker himself knew almost nothing about the real Vlad.

The top professor, Elizabeth Miller—amazing woman—she’s the one who literally, when they found the Stoker papers in a box in a library in the University of Philadelphia. Some researcher said, Oh yeah, we've just found this old box. It has a few things in it. And there it was, scholarly gold dust. It was his journal while he was writing Dracula. And she said, you can see it in one of the pages he's written down because he'd originally called his protagonist, or is he the antagonist, I don't know, uh, Count Vampire. And then he read this little snippet written by the English consul who was traveling through the barbarian lands of Transylvania in the 1820s. And the consul wrote in a short paragraph, he said, these lands were once ruled by a bloodthirsty tyrant called Vlad Dracula, whose name in the local tongue means either the dragon or the devil's son. And as soon as Stoker read that, apparently, you can almost see his thought processes on the page where he crosses out Vampire and writes in Dracula.

Carol Cram:

Oh, isn't that wonderful? That's a springboard for the imagination. Yeah. Can you imagine being able to read that?!

I know you give a lot of workshops and you teach writing. So what's one piece of advice that all aspiring writers should know?

Chris Humphreys:

What I try to teach above everything, you know, I will go into technique. Of course, I would go into character development, dialogue. I will do all the things and research how to use it, all that stuff. But what I always talk about is that it's process. 

You've got to understand that writing is a process. What stops people writing is this idea that they have to be good. I removed the words good and bad from my vocabulary, certainly for the first draft and actually probably for all the drafts, because they're not useful. They just make you feel bad about yourself, but that is not good enough. Particularly in the first draft, it's very important to let the story tell you what it is, as opposed to trying to control everything. 

I came up with this ridiculous phrase. So I think I'm going to write a teaching manual on writing and call it writing is writing.

I remember saying that to an agent who's also a novelist at a big writing conference. He was going, what do you mean? And I said, listen, it's not thinking about writing, is it? You can think about writing before and you can do your research, you can gear yourself up. You can drink as much as you need to drink if that's the sort of writer you are. But what you actually do is, what happens is, you sit down and then you get in touch with stuff that isn't controllable, or it oscillates, one of my key words, oscillates, back and forth between what you can control and what you can't. And that’s writing. And that happens when you're writing. It doesn't happen when you're thinking about it.

Carol Cram:

And it's a magical process and you never know what's going to be coming in because of course you're creating something from nothing which is why it's challenging and fantastic at the same time. 

Good advice. Yeah. I often say that, too, to students is, don't be afraid to be bad, basically. Like just get it down. It took me a long time personally to realize that that I didn't have to have every sentence, you know, perfect prose at the beginning. Like, no, one's going to read it until you let them, you know.

Chris Humphreys:

My other advice is never show anyone your first draft.

Carol Cram:

We talked earlier about publishing because of course you have been a published author for a long time, a traditionally published author. And now as you say, you're going indie. So what's going on?

Chris Humphreys:

As you know, as a traditionally published author, it's wonderful when they do it really well, but publishers have the attention span of gnats. They publish too many books and so that they might give you lots of attention for a little bit, but then, you know, within a week they’ve moved on. And if your book hasn't for some reason taken off, I mean, some are slow burners of course, and can catch fire later. 

But people move on very fast. So books that I've labored on for a year, it seemed to get that gnat’s worth of attention for about a week. And then are gone. I realized that I thought, no, I want to have another kick at the can so I started getting the rights back to my backlist. And so I've managed to get quite a lot of those back and I’m gradually republishing them.

I wrote The Hunt of the Unicorn, a fantasy novel for Knopf way back in the day. And then, uh, a few years, later I wrote The Hunt of the Dragon for Doubleday. And then I got the rights to all those back. And I then I thought a trilogy would be nice, especially as those characters kept coming back. I only ever thought I'd write one book and suddenly there's two. And then I thought, it'd be nice to round off this story. So I then wrote a novel specially for my re-release what became the Tapestry Trilogy. Because again, like art, you know, that's very much inspired by the famous medieval unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in New York.

Carol Cram:

Yes. I've seen those. Those are wonderful. Yeah. I didn't know that. Oh, that's fantastic. I am looking forward to reading those. Fantasy is not a genre I read a lot of, but that doesn't mean I won't. 

Chris Humphreys:

No, indeed, and it wasn't really for me, though somehow I've become a sort of de facto fantasy writer now because I've got that trilogy. I'm also two-thirds of the way through a trilogy I'm writing which is high epic fantasy called Immortals Blood. The first book of which is called Smoke in the Glass, which is out now. 

Yeah. I've just recently delivered book three of that trilogy. But the Tapestry Trilogy is very close to my heart. It's a young woman protagonist called Alice Elaine, who actually is the descendant of the weaver. No one knows who wove those. No one knows where they were woven or who for. And people just know they were really expensive because they're full of gold and silver. It would have taken a team to make. And so there's a giant mystery at the heart of which I was able to then carve my own space in to tell my story, which is that she is summoned by the unicorn depicted—Moonspill—through the tapestries, like through the wardrobe in Narnia, to the land of the fabulous beast, where all our myths live. And so a modern Manhattan girl has to deal with a medieval tyrant and manticores and griffins and a unicorn and eventually a dragon. So they're fun. And she's, she's fun as well. She's a bit like Roxy, she's tough, learns to be tough.

Carol Cram:

Yes. And so that, that trilogy is out then.

Chris Humphreys:

That trilogy is out and available. I just published it on Amazon for the moment. Though there is an audiobook which you can get either through your normal sources or you can get it directly. If you go to my website, there's a link that takes you directly to Findaway Voices and you can download it under anything.

Carol Cram:

Oh, good. Well, I'm going to look out for those because, as I said, I've seen those tapestries. That museum is one of my favorites. 

So we'll finish up by just letting us know what you're actually working on now.

Chris Humphreys:

I’m writing a new book right now—the thriller is done— that's called One London Day and that'll be out in the next, sort of, three months. That's based very much on me in London and the experiences I had, not growing up exactly, but as an adult in London. It's a crime thriller. 

But the one I'm writing right now, I was working on it only this morning, is, at the moment, it's called Sonata at Midnight, and it's a World War II adventure-romance loosely based on my parents' story because my dad was an RAF fighter pilot and my mum was a spy. And so I have these two characters coming together and parting and coming together and parting during the war. They met in Scotland during the war, got married in London in ‘44. But my mum had been in the Norwegian resistance for several years and had had to get out when her cell got busted.

And my dad was a fighter pilot, Battle of Britain pilot, then North Africa. It's loosely based on them and that I've taken a young flyer and a young Norwegian and thrown them together. I'm fictionalizing a lot of it. In a way I feel all my novels are at least partly based on some truth that I have within me anyway. I can look at any of my pages that I write. I can look at that passage I read about the Globe, that's me in a theater. That's me looking around and going, ah, yeah.

Carol Cram:

There's elements of us in all the characters. Yeah. It's called Sonata at Midnight. Is there a music element? 

Chris Humphreys:

There is; she's a flautist, she’s a classical flautist and I'm, I'm not very versed in classical music, but I've got a friend now who lives on the Island, not far away, he's a classical cellist. And so I've been, I've been talking a lot and listening a lot and I'm doing that researcher springboard a lot with flute quartets and quintets and stuff. So it's, I'm listening to a lot of that stuff which I haven't before, which is great.

Carol Cram:

Oh, fantastic. Yes. Well, my second novel is about music so that's a huge part of my life is classical music. So I always love novels that have anything to do with music. That's why I started Art In Fiction because I thought, well, I like the arts and I like novels inspired by the arts. I wonder if anybody else does.

Chris Humphreys:

Oh, yes, they do. 

Carol Cram:

Apparently they do, which is great. 

Well, thank you so much, Chris, for sharing all of your wonderful information about your novels and the writing process. It's just been a great pleasure chatting with you.

Chris Humphreys:

It's been a pleasure to chat to you too, Carol. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Carol Cram:

I’ve been speaking with C. C. Humphreys, author of Shakespeare’s Rebel and Vlad: The Last Confession listed in the Literature category and Chasing the Wind and The Tapestry Trilogy listed in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction at

Please follow Art In Fiction on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to the Art In Fiction Podcast and give it a positive review or rating wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks so much for listening.

What is an adventure writer of historical fiction?
The challenge of portraying real-life characters
A reading from Shakespeare's Rebel
How research is "the springboard for the imagination"
Advice for writers
Chris's views on publishing
What Chis is working on now