Tell the nice people a bit about your home town – Well, I currently reside in Kent, I've been living here for almost eight years now. I'm grateful for its natural beauty as I like to be able to look out of my window and see trees instead of tarmac. I'm also grateful for the friends I've made here, and the fact that I'm near Central London - one of my favourite places to visit for writing inspiration.
You’re still at school, have you be writing stories long? – I was always good at English, but I've only decided to take up writing seriously in recent years. I realised that most of the people I admired in life were writers, and so I decided to have a go myself!
Your lead character, Clarence is a refreshing change to the usual Victorian/Edwardian hero, what was your inspiration for him? – Firstly, thank you! I think Clarence is really a subconscious culmination of every literary character that I love rolled into one, he's effectively years' worth of reading made into one strange creature, haha. I think he is the kind of character who tries very hard to be like the people he admires, but he doesn't quite get there. In a way, I think he's a metaphor for my own fears about my writing; the constant questioning of “Why do I deserve to have a voice?” and “Why can't I be as good as all of my favourite novelists?”
Tell us a little more about him, who is he? – Clarence Oakes is a young gay Victorian/Edwardian portraitist, who would like to think himself far braver than he actually is. He gets muddled up in a lot of crime completely by mistake, but he's not exactly bumbling...he's more unwilling. He'd much rather stay home and paint, but poor Clarence hardly ever gets a moment's rest. He's effectively the opposite to Sherlock Holmes: he whines, he is squeamish and he just wants to stay in the warm!
If you had lived in Clarence’s era, who would you like to have been? – I think I would have loved to work with clothing -Victorian fashion is so iconic and beautiful. Apart from that, I think it'd be quite fun to have been a Clarence-type figure who inherits a lot of money and just runs around London, stumbling into adventures and falling in love with ruffians.
|The sexy geek, Ben Whishaw|
If Clarence’s stories ever made it to the big screen, who would be your ideal actor? And who would play his annoying friend, Edgar?: Clarence is quite a soppy/melodramatic young thing at times, so I'd need someone who could pull that off well. Maybe Ben Whishaw? (Known to most as “Q” in Skyfall, the latest Bond film.) His portrayal of Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead was quite Clarence-y in many aspects, I think. As for Edgar...hmm. I'd always thought it'd be fun to have someone tall play him - for him to basically be an elongated Labrador that never knows when to stop nudging and licking you. I think it'd be hilarious to have Lachlan Nieboer (Torchwood, Downton Abbey etc.) play him, but he might kill me for saying that!
Was it important for Clarence to be a gay character? Is that something you feel strongly about? – A lot of people ask me this question, and I'm never quite sure how best to answer it. I don't set out to write a story thinking: “This character is gay and this will be a gay story.” I don't really think of Clarence as some kind of gay pioneer, he's just a man who happens to be gay! His homosexuality isn't the focus of the story because it doesn't need to be. Certainly, his affections for Rupert (his “Watson”) sometimes drive him on, but I haven't written a romance novel, I've written a mystery novel. The romance (if Clarence staring at Rupert whilst Rupert looks on uncomfortably can really be called that) is simply a subplot, a character development thread that runs through all of the stories. Whether people like reading Clarence stories for the mystery or the romance doesn't especially bother me, as I'm mainly just terribly grateful that people are reading them, haha!
Have you read any of the stories which cast Oscar Wilde in the role of detective? – I have read Gyles Brandreth's series of novels which do just that, all of which are very good indeed! The first one (Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders) has him team up with Conan Doyle, so I was instantly hooked from the first few pages. The one thing I would like to see more of in these stories is some explicit explanation/discussion of Wilde's sexuality-the subject is skirted around a fair amount, and I feel that confronting it directly would make for an interesting read. The idea of Wilde as a detective is a brilliant concept, mixing macabre wit with gruesome crime is one of my favourite things to do in my writing, and Detective Wilde is just perfect for that. I'd love to give it a go myself one day.
What do you prefer, writing in present day or a previous era? – Why? I love history, so writing in a previous era is effectively just a nice free method of time travel for me! However, I also love making topical references/anecdotes in my writing, and it's annoying when I think of something decent to write, then I realise it doesn't make any sense for the time period! I like to mix and match, I think. At the moment I'm more focused on historical pieces, but I have some ideas for contemporary plotlines, so we'll see!
Do you do much background research for your settings? Is it important to get the historical context right, or do your stories fit any era? – Whilst I tend to focus on character-based stories, research and context is still desperately important, especially with historical pieces. No-one will believe in your characters if they do not believe in the world you have placed them in, so I think it's important to get that right.
Have you created any other characters in other stories? – Oh, yes! I always have a million ideas on the go at once, which is why I never manage to finish any of them very easily, haha! I find that's helpful though, because when I get frustrated with one idea, I can just move onto the next. Some people have to focus all of their attention one one idea until its complete, but I prefer to flit between texts to play around with different styles and voices.
What would be your ideal career? – I love writing, so that's what I'd ideally love to make money off the back of, as tough as that can be these days! Besides writing, I'm not really sure. I love people, I love talking to people...maybe something in social care? Therapy? I really don't have a clue, actually. I'll put that down to my adolescence as opposed to my disorganisation!
What are you working on just now in terms of writing? – Well, Clarence is plodding along nicely! Apart from him, I have several novels on the go. Finding the time to write is holding me back right now, so when I can get a spare moment, I can actually get working on some of them! I have a novel that is more fully-fleshed than Clarence right now, so that may end up appearing first. We'll see. Either way, I'll keep on writing!
Thank you, Cassie for your interview, best of luck for your first publication when it comes!