It was late 2006, early 2007 (I am bad with dates and names) that I found myself in the young adults' section at our local chain bookstore (I also do not give free advertising to corporate America) looking for more Harry Potter paraphernalia. Yes, I hate to admit it, but I was a wee bit obsessed with Harry Potter at the time. So shoot me.
Anyway, I was looking at the books and out popped the title Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean. I picked it up and read the back cover before doing what I always do before purchasing a book, especially a hardcover book: I read the first chapter, a middle chapter, and then the end. After all, I have to make sure it's worthy of a purchase and not just the dust bin. I am Irish and thrifty, after all.
After the quick go-over I was elated to find it was absolutely bloody brilliant!
I called the mister over and said: "Check this out - how cool is this?"
You see, we both love pirates. We love to play pirate-based games, and even took a sail on a restored pirate sloop one year at our anniversary.
I also thought to meself: Wow! This is a bonus. Not only do I get pirates, but I get vampires as well. (See, I liked vampires before Anne Rice, and before the glittery wankers). Naturally, the book had to come home with me, and I have been hooked ever since.
Justin Somper does a remarkable job at sucking us into the story, and making us feel as though we are a part of it. His idea alone is brilliant in and of itself, but his writing makes it even more so. Personally, I have come to like the Vampirates universe more so than the Harry Potter universe.
Justin Somper is also a nice, reachable guy. I love that. Too often, people become "untouchable" or "pretentious" when they come into their own, but not Justin. I love his writing and I respect him. His books are a great, easy read that will leave you wanting to consume them all at once.
So do yourselves a favour after reading the interview, my freaky followers, go out or go online and buy Justin's books. Once you start you won't want to stop!
- Lili's Lair: When did you realise you had a talent for writing?
Justin Somper: I've pretty much always written stories - for as long as I can remember. I had a lot of support and encouragement from my parents and teachers. I remember one story in particular that I wrote in my first year of secondary school - "Joshua's Inheritance". It was a bit soapy but instead of my usual 5 pages, it was about 30 pages long. I think that's when I knew I might be a writer. I still have the story and its sequel - "A Family Full of Strangers". You've got me thinking - I might have to dig them out and read them.
Lili's Lair: Did you ever think that you would become a recognised author? Has this in any way changed your lifestyle?
Justin Somper: When I started writing books, my focus was 100% on the writing so actually achieving recognition has been an unexpected but pleasant side-effect. The good thing though is you can be appreciated as a writer without becoming "famous" as such. I don't crave that kind of fame at all. Has my lifestyle changed? Yes, somewhat. I'm certainly busier and I travel more. I certainly never thought I'd be jetting off to do author events overseas but later this year I'll be off to a book festival in Sweden and also my second tour of the USA.
Lili's Lair: Was it a conscious decision to write young adult fiction, or was it just the way it happened to turn out?
Justin Somper: When I had the idea for VAMPIRATES, I realised that I could write it for a number of different audiences but I thought that I'd most enjoy writing it for young adults and that they would get the most out of it.
Lili's Lair: What inspired you to create the Vampirates series?
Justin Somper:It all began with the word "Vampirates" dropping into my head, kind of like an apple. A real "Eureka!" moment. Simple as that. I knew immediately that in some way this was the big idea I'd been waiting for but I faced a problem as I knew very little about vampires and next to nothing about pirates!
Lili's Lair: Is there anything in particular you do to prepare yourself to write a book?
Justin Somper: For the first book, because of how the idea came to me (just through the word), I took about five years to research pirate history and vampire myth before getting started. These days, I draw up "chapter grids" on graph paper and lists of the key characters and where they might go within this story arc. I'm immersed in one of these grids at the moment so I'm spending a lot of time on the floor of my office with A2 sheets of graph paper, multi-coloured post-its and Sharpies.
Lili's Lair: Did you conduct any reasearch on your subject matter before you began writing?
Justin Somper: As I say, for DEMONS OF THE OCEAN, I did loads of research and really focused on how best to fuse together pirate history and vampire myth. The pirate research was especially valuable and gave me a of ideas for characters - especially Sidorio and Cheng Li. There isn't much of a gap between writing my books now - I tend to hand in one and get straight onto the next pretty much so I tend to research as I go. Thank goodness for wikipedia!
Lili's Lair: How many books in the series will there be?
Justin Somper: There will be six novels in this Vampirates story arc. I can't believe I'm already writing Book 6. In many ways, I feel I'm just getting to know my characters so I may take them beyond this sequence if the interest is there from my readers and publishers worldwide.
Lili's Lair: Is there a chance of a movie deal for the Vampirates series?
Justin Somper: Yes, I believe my agent is in talks with some movie producers right now.
Lili's Lair: Where would you like to see your writing career several years from now?
Justin Somper: The key thing for me will to still be writing, enjoying it and pushing myself. Like I say, I'd love to write more Vampirates books but I have several other ideas too. Earlier this week, one kind of came to me in a dream. Something very different from Vamps - funny (or so I hope). The great thing about being a writer is you can keep motoring as you get older. Look at PD James - a great writer and she turns 90 this year and is still writing at her peak. Awesome!
Lili's Lair: Are there any other series or singular books we should be on the lookout for in the near future?
Justin Somper: Yes but I'm not allowed to tell you about them yet. Sorry!
Lili's Lair: Please tell my readers where they can find more information on you and Vampirates?
Justin Somper: Best place to come is the official website - vampirates.co.uk. Join up as a VIP and come "ping my blog". I answer posts and queries there on a regular basis and really enjoying hearing what's on readers' minds. I also have a twitter feed (JustinSomper) and facebook page (Justin Somper - Vampirates).